Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Can the Colorado Rockies get back to being respectable?

It's time to get the youth some experience in 2012.
The Memorial Day doubleheader sweep of the Houston Astros by the Colorado Rockies gave the few remaining believers hope.

In reality, however, this team has dug itself such a huge hole that the dream of climbing out of it and back into contention is extremely unrealistic. Crazy things happen sometimes, but just because it has happened to the Rockies twice in recent history doesn't mean it will happen again.

The reason why this team won't climb all the way back into the race is simple. They don't have the starting pitching to make a run. The postseason runs in 2007 and 2009 came courtesy of phenomenal pitching. In '07 Ubaldo Jimenez, Manny Corpas and Franklin Morales were baptized by fire, probably in too much of a whirlwind to realize what they were doing at the big league level.

In '09, Jeff Francis was in the midst of a career season, one in which he would never see again. Jorge De La Rosa put the issues that nearly sabotaged his career aside and pitched with confidence. Jason Marquis anchored the rotation in the early going while the team struggled to pick up wins.

This 2012 team simply doesn't have that type of ability. Make no mistake, the talent is just as prevalent. Juan Nicasio, Jhoulys Chacin, and Drew Pomeranz all possess the physical abilities to get the job done. However, for all of them to take the next step and be able to pitch the Rockies back into contention is about as likely as the Rockies offense scoring 10 runs in San Francisco.

So if this year's team doesn't possess the ability to crawl back into the race, what should their new goals be?

As difficult as it might sound for a Rockies fan, the reality is, the goal for this team should be to get back to .500 baseball. Currently they sit at 19-29 through 48 games. So to get to 81-81 by the time the season ends, the Rockies have to go 62-52 the rest of the way. That doesn't sound like too difficult of a proposition, does it?

Winning 62 of the next 114 games might not sound like an amazing feat, but it actually might be slightly more difficult than it sounds. The Rockies face a treacherous stretch in their schedule in the middle of June. Starting on June 15th, Colorado embarks on a road trip that takes them from Detroit, through Philadelphia, and then finishing up in Arlington against the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers.  The nine-game trip could easily make June look like a mirror image of May.

Considering the way the Rockies play on the road, that road trip could decide whether this team's focus is getting back to .500, or simply finding a way to avoid losing 100 games. Avoiding a devastating road trip in the middle of June is paramount to this team being respectable come September.

The other aspect that has been missing over the past three seasons is the Rockies being dominant at their home park. Coors Field used to be one of the biggest advantages in baseball. Teams feared coming to the Mile High City to play in a ballpark where the tall tales suggested that infield bloopers turned into three run homers. Those myths have quickly gone away, and suddenly the only pitchers who can't pitch at Coors Field are wearing purple pinstripes. Opponents seem to have no problem.

The Rockies currently sit at a pathetic 11-14 at home. They must be better than that. Look up in the standings a few spots and the difference is easy to see. The Los Angeles Dodgers are 21-7 at home, a .750 clip. Playing at a high level at home gives some breathing room when the team hits the road. Instead, the pressure is on to win on the road.

Another focus the Rockies must have is to find the right time to promote their young prospects. Nolan Arenado is the most commonly thrown out name. However, currently injured Tim Wheeler is another guy who probably will make his debut, as well as Double-A pitcher Edwar Cabrera.

Cabrera is 5-4 in Tulsa, sporting a 3.13 ERA. He has struck out 52 batters in 63-1/3 innings while giving up just 16 walks. In 10 starts he has struggled with the long-ball, giving up 11 home runs, but at some point, it is probably worth seeing what he can do at the big league level.

It is time to go with youth. It is time to see what the kids can do. Of course, there is no reason to rush prospects to the big league level, both starting their arbitration clock as well as stunting their growth, but the focus needs to be on the future, and if that means making 2013 less of a shock to some of the prospects who are anticipating being on the roster, than 2012 should be used for that purpose.

As sad as it might be for the optimistic Rockies fans, there has to be a new set of goals for the 2012 team. Those goals do not entail anything to do with playing in the postseason.

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