Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Colorado Rockies biggest secret, and more on the Sunday Lineups

Matt Belisle is the most un-sung member of the Rockies.
Sunday's game was a great one for the Colorado Rockies.

That statement is one that doesn't come very often. Usually, Sundays are the day when fans plan on going to the mountains, getting the boat out, going shopping, taking a drive, seeing family, or doing anything besides wasting three hours watching a lackluster baseball game.

The reason for that is because since the 2011 season, the Rockies have been awful on Sundays. After Sunday's victory, the Rockies have won just seven of their past 28 Sunday games.

Well, this Sunday was one of the games that was worth watching for Rockies fans. With a lineup that featured the majority of normal starters for the Rockies, the club came out and won 4-1, giving them their first road series win of the season.

Michael Cuddyer again proved to be a phenomenal pickup. He gave the Rockies a two-run double in the 8th inning that put Colorado ahead 3-1. He has made Dan O'Dowd look like an absolute genius for overpaying to put him in purple pinstripes.

As good as Cuddyer's double was, the real hero is one that doesn't get the credit he deserves far too often.

A former starter, Matt Belisle has become a force out of the bullpen for the Rockies. On Sunday, he proved how valuable he is.

After Cuddyer gave the Rockies the lead, lefty reliever Rex Brothers threatened to give it right back to the Brewers. Struggling with location, Brothers walked Ricky Weeks, then gave up a single to Carlos Gomez. Suddenly, the Rockies were staring at the reigning MVP, Ryan Braun, up to bat representing the go-ahead run with two on and no one out.

Jim Tracy called upon Belisle to work out of the jam. That proved to be a good decision. Belisle got Braun to pop out to first base. After Braun came the dangerous Aramis Ramirez, who Belisle got to line out to right field. Following Ramirez came Corey Hart, dangerous in his own regard and the hottest hitter on the Brewers in the early going. However, Belisle made quick work of Hart, getting a called third strike, allowing the Rockies to hold onto the two run lead.

The inning took Belisle only 11 pitches, eight of which were strikes. The box score will show just a simple "hold" for Belisle, but the win belongs to him, and to Tracy for quickly turning to him when Brothers got into trouble.

In 6-2/3 innings for the Rockies in 2012, Belisle has been close to perfect. He has given up zero earned runs and only one hit. That follows up a year in which he posted a 3.25 ERA in route to 10 wins out of relief.

There is no doubt that Belisle brings stability in the middle of the bullpen that pays huge dividends for the Rockies.

As for the win, it seems slightly ironic that the day Jim Tracy chose to not rest the majority of the regulars is the day that the Rockies won.

An interesting article was written by Troy Renck in the Denver Post on Sunday. Renck dives into the issue that many fans have with the routinely decimated starting lineups Tracy runs out on most Sundays.

The manager, as well as Dan O'Dowd, bring insight into the decision. They both defend the fact that an older team needs rest often in order to stay fresh. O'Dowd brings up the rigors of playing in altitude as another reason.

All of their logic makes sense. It explains their thinking. However, most fans are not arguing that there should be eight starters and they should play every single day no matter what. The argument that most fans seem to have is that it doesn't seem to bode well for the team to have everyone take the same day off.

Of course, playing in day games after night games is tough for an older player. However, wouldn't it make some sense to let a player or two rest in a night game, then have them play the following day?

Does it make sense to empty the bench all at once and give away a game?

The other issue with the bench-emptying practice is that it comes regardless of how the team is playing. Baseball is such a mental game. The players are creatures of habit. They need to know their roles in order to thrive. If a guy is on a hot streak, don't mess with him. If someone is tearing the cover off the ball, sit him when he cools down. The idea of sitting a guy on Sunday whether he went 8-for-his last-10 or 0-for his last-10 is baffling. Ride the hot streak. If the team isn't hitting, that is the time to mix-and-match, but don't mess around with things when they are going well.

If Todd Helton is hitting, keep him in the lineup. If that means that he has to take two or even three days off in a row later in the season, so be it. Messing with a hot streak, however, is the worst thing to do.

Baseball is about getting into a rhythm and that is only possible with a consistent role, both for guys in the starting lineup and on the bench.

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  1. I so agree with Todd Helton needing to start when he's hitting well. Too, I was surprised that he did not at least pinch hit yesterday, or come in to play defense in the 8th and 9th.

    I'm glad we are starting to hit better, though Tulo and Cargo are both still struggling. I'm happy the Rockies are 8-7 at about the 1/10th mark, but am still skeptical of Jim Tracy's ability to do more, or sustain this.

  2. Anna-
    Thanks for the comment as always. That whole "starting to hit better" thing didn't really work out did it? I think this is about a .500 team. They have the talent to be better than that, but I think they will be managed back to .500.

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