|Coors Field has become an excuse for the Rockies.|
Sunday, as the Colorado Rockies were swept at home by the Los Angeles Angels in a 10-8 affair, the park seems to be playing much like it did in the late 90's.
Watching young pitchers crumble on the mound at 20th & Blake has become such a routine for Rockies fans that it seems like part of the game. A pitcher can be dominant out on the road, looking like a future ace, then come home to what should be a place of comfort, and gets absolutely blown out of the water.
The confidence is gone, the strike-throwing goes out the window and the football score is underway. It happens all the time.
Pitching at altitude, in a hitter's park is tough, there is no doubt about that. However, the Rockies are making it even more difficult with the way they approach the park.
Listen to Jim Tracy talk about his young pitching staff. Listen to Dan O'Dowd talk about building a team. Listen to anyone in the front office talk about Coors Field. The overwhelming impression that the Rockies leave is that Coors Field is like pitching on the moon, even the best pitcher is doomed to fail there.
Tracy will praise a starter one minute, then immediately caveat that praise with a warning that the young pitcher's next start is at Coors Field. O'Dowd constantly talks about having to build a team that has interchangeable parts because the long-term damage that is done by pitching at altitude is unlike anywhere else.
Well, it seems that attitude has permeated the pitcher's confidence and mindset at 20th & Blake. Young and old pitchers alike throw away the game plan and pitch like they are trying to keep the ball in the ballpark instead of pitching to get outs. They nibble at the strike zone, they overthrow their breaking pitches, and they pitch like they are scared to death.
Is Coors Field a difficult place to pitch? Absolutely. The park poses issues that aren't seen in any other of the 29 parks around baseball. However, it's not impossible to pitch there. Opposing pitchers have proven that in 2012.
The Rockies can develop all of the young pitching talent that they want to, but if they continue to drill into every pitchers mind that it is impossible to pitch well at the park that they are going to be making half of their
starts in, the team will never win.
Take a look at Christian Friedrich. The kid looks like an absolute stud on the road. His focus looks like he has zero intention of giving up a hit, let alone a run. He pitches with confidence, throwing all of his pitches for strikes consistently. Then, he goes home. At Coors Field the demeanor isn't the same. He pitches scared and looks like he belongs back in Double-A.
Is Coors Field really that much more difficult of a place to pitch than all of the other parks? It doesn't allow the most home runs anymore. In fact, it doesn't even come close to that. There are generally five parks that yield more home runs than Coors Field, including the home park of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, two guys who weren't afraid of a park when they signed with the Phillies.
The solution to the Coors Field pitching issues is for the Rockies to ignore it. They need to act as if pitching in the big leagues is difficult whether it is at Petco Park in San Diego or Coors Field. They need to not have a looming shadow over a pitchers head that they are going to be unable to get on a role because eventually their ERA will get shelled at Coors.
If the Rockies pretend like Coors Field isn't that big of a deal, or acknowledge that it is a hitter's park, but no worse than Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field or any other great place to hit in the league, the hype will die down. It will become just another park instead of the place where pitcher's careers go to die.
It is one thing if the national media continues to talk about it, but when the organization itself is hyping it up as a terrible place to pitch, suddenly the fragile confidence of a young pitcher is that much more insecure.
The careers of Friedrich, Alex White, Drew Pomeranz, Juan Nicasio and any other Rockies pitcher that they have hopes of developing are hanging in the balance. It is difficult enough to pitch in the big leagues, but when the organization that you are pitching for continues to whisper in your ear that your home park is impossible to master, it becomes impossible.
It is time for the Rockies to quit using Coors Field as an excuse for their young pitching. It is hurting the development of their young starters trying to prove themselves.
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