Monday, April 16, 2012

Colorado Rockies need an ace, not an innings-eater

Jeremy Guthrie battled through 7 rough innings on Monday.
It is still early. There is no reason to panic.

However, after 10 baseball games in the 2012 season, it seems as if the Colorado Rockies might think a little higher of themselves than they should be.

In the midst of an offseason dedicated to rebuilding the clubhouse culture, the Rockies acquired right-handed pitcher Jeremy Guthrie from the Baltimore Orioles. Guthrie was the ace of a struggling Baltimore staff over the past three seasons. While he led the league in losses in 2011, playing in the A.L. East may have skewed those numbers. He has long been viewed as a quality starter, despite poor records.

The Rockies sold Guthrie to the fans as an "innings-eater," a guy who would give the team seven innings every time he went out to the mound and make sure the bullpen was well rested. He has pitched over 200 innings in each of the past three seasons.

Isn't an "innings-eater" someone who should be occupying the fifth spot in the rotation rather than the No. 1 spot? An "innings-eater" is a guy who will win a few games here and there, but his job is mainly to be dependable enough to go out and give a decent start and give the team a chance to win in between the more dominant starters who can be depended on to win games.

Rockies fans may remember a true "innings-eater" named Josh Fogg. The former Rockie perfectly defines a guy who is good enough to give his team a chance to win, but not nearly good enough to be considered an ace.

Make no mistake, Guthrie is a talented pitcher. He knows what he is doing on the mound. The only problem is that an ace of a staff needs to be more than an "innings-eater." Someone who is the ace of a staff is a guy who needs to make enough pitches to get out of innings when he gives up hits and either possesses the ability to strike batters out, or get double play balls on a regular basis.

Through three starts, although a small sample size, it seems as if Guthrie might not be a fit as the ace of the staff. So far, he profiles more like Aaron Cook than someone who can lead a team to a playoff run in September. Cook had his dominant days, but generally gave up a bunch of hits and later in his career it was a flip of the coin whether or not he could get that much-needed out.

To Guthrie's credit, he managed to keep his pitch count low enough to get through seven innings. The bullpen was in desperate need for a night in which they weren't required to pick up five or six innings. The reality is though, Guthrie must find a way to get ground balls, especially pitching half of his games at Coors Field, where the home runs will hurt a pitcher less than the huge gaps that a double's hitter salivates at the thought of.

It would be nice to mention something positive for the Rockies on Monday night, but it would take hours to mine a few solid details out of a game in which the club looked lethargic and were dominated by Cory Luebke, a good young pitcher, but someone that the club will have to regularly beat if they expect to be taken seriously in the pitching-rich National League West.

Guthrie certainly wasn't great, but it would have taken quite the performance for him to beat the Padres anyway. The offense scored one run. They looked confused at the plate, and the lack of energy was eerily similar to 2011.

The reality for the Rockies is that if they want anyone to believe that they have a chance to contend, they must win games against bad teams. They cannot lose series to teams like the Astros and the Padres. Of course, even good teams lose a few series here and there to bad teams, but for the most part, when a good team runs into a bad team, it is very evident who is superior. They play all around better baseball and find ways to get the job done.

If the Rockies can't find a way to do that soon, they will be be trying to play catch-up all season long, something that this team doesn't seem built to do.

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  1. Unless the Rockies fire Tracy and O'Dowd, they are going to likely lose 90+ games this year.
    We have in Tracy the second worst manager in baseball, next to Bobby Valentine.

    Tracy does not inspire the Rockies whatsoever, and takes Sundays off. He makes bad lineup calls most days, and lets players loaf with very mild injuries. Strep throat? Vomited too hard? Really??

    O'Dowd has no idea how to put together a pitching staff, or a catcher to go with them. Mediocre pitching cannot win without a great catcher to get them to over achieve. 1995? Girardi. 2007 and 2009? Torrealba.

    Either sign and keep some quality non broken down pitchers (no neagles or saberhagens, thanks), or sign a catcher to at least help our AAA.5 staff to do their best.

    Hmm... isn't Terry Francona unemployed? How about we break out the check book, say 60 million for five years for Francona. Is that too much money? Picture Coors Field with 25,000 or less every night, the radio and tv ratings down again.

    This may well be Todd Helton's swan song, I hope we can get a manager in the next month or so to get him a last chance at the playoffs.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Anna-
      Thanks for the comment. I definitely think that this is a transition season, but I don't think it might be as bleak as you are thinking.

      The problem with signing "quality, non-broken down pitchers" is that there really aren't a ton out there...and the few that are out there are getting huge contracts like CJ Wilson got in Anaheim...that is where the Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton debacles came from.

      The catchers are fine. Ramon Hernandez is a good player and will serve Wilin Rosario well. I'm not concerned with that.

      I do, however, agree with you on Tracy. He can't motivate this team and I don't see him being the guy they need to lead them to the promised land. It's time for a change. Thanks for the comment.

    3. If the Mets are not competitive around the trading deadline, they will likely be willing to deal RA Dickey, and maybe even Santana, who could be a bargain if he shows he is healthy.

      Catchers wise, Ramon Hernandez can hit, but can he call good games for the pitchers? Even if so, having a quality back up catcher who calls a good game would be great, and maybe one can be picked up.

      None of the above matters though if we are buried by July, which we may well be with Tracy.

      Since late September, 2010, Tracy is 30 games under .500 as a manager. That is pure fact, there's no way to spin it. Tracy lost the Rockies then during that 10 game losing streak, and has never gotten the team back.

  2. You don't win a lot of games when you score one run. I'm going to beat this horse all year, but when a team gets hot you leave it alone. This team was hot on Saturday and then everyone got the day off Sunday. Why does this team score 17 and then 0 and then 9 and then 1. It's because there is no consistency. Now they will take a couple of days to find their groove again before Tracy kills it again on Sunday. The safest bet in sports is now the Rockies losing on Sunday. Quit your jobs and bet that every week.

    Tracy must have caught O'Dowd cheating on his wife and threatened to go public if he ever fired him. I can't think of any other reason to keep him around.

    1. So agreed, as I posted above, Tracy is 30 games below .500 since September 2010.

      The Rockies have zero excuse for hitting poorly at home more than once in a great while, even with the humidor. Coors Field is spacious enough that even without the home runs of the Blake Street Bomber days; there should be lots of bloop singles, and doubles in the gaps.