Saturday, June 23, 2012

Colorado Rockies offense pours on runs, Outman bumps Tracy

Outman was one out away from getting the win.
The Colorado Rockies offense showed how good they are on Saturday. The team picked up their second interleague win of the year, beating the Rangers 11-7.

As the team continues to struggle, there will probably be several big numbers put up by the offense. The Rockies offense is good enough to contend, the starting pitching, however, is so miserable that the teams may overlook how tough the lineup is.

The Rockies hit very well. Every starter got at least one hit. Dexter Fowler hit his 11th home run of the season, Wil Nieves notched his first home run as a Rockie and the team looked like they were hitting on all cylinders offensively for the first time since the 8-run 10th inning in Detroit eight days ago.

In addition to the offense, the story came in the 5th inning. With the new four-man rotation, with pitch counts limited to 75, the Rockies ran into their first dilemma. After plating 11 runs in the first five innings, Outman walked back to the mound with a 10-run lead and three outs to qualify for the win.

Already at 68 pitches, Outman's day was going to be over soon. He had to get through the 5th in order to qualify for the win in the lopsided game. Most likely with his pitch count in the back of his mind, Outman struggled. After getting two outs, Outman allowed singles from Adrian Beltre and Michael Young, scoring two runs. Suddenly, the lefties pitch count was at 93 and Jim Tracy was headed out of the dugout to get him.

Clearly frustrated, Outman slammed his glove, yelled a word that would designate the game 'R' rated, handed the ball to Tracy, then, much to anyone watching's surprise, bumped Tracy on his way off the mound. As upset as Outman was, there is very little doubt that the bump was unintentional.

Adam Ottavino strolled to the mound and on the first pitch gave up a three run homer to Nelson Cruz, making Outman's final line worse, and making Tracy's decision look silly as well.

The Rockies recovered and won the game, thanks in large part to great work from the bullpen. However, the move was another ridiculous one from Tracy in a season full of ridiculous moves.

Many believe that he did the right thing by allowing Outman a chance to win the game, and the lefty blew it. That defense makes sense. Dig deeper, however, and think about the situation. Outman was already beyond the 75-pitch mark, saving his arm for his next start was already done. He had only given up two runs in the inning, it wasn't as if he had absolutely blown up. He was one pitch away from walking into the dugout with a three-run outing in a game where his offense had scored 11.

It wasn't like Outman had labored his way through the game. He had pitched well enough for the win. Of course, the argument is that personal statistics shouldn't matter, and maybe they shouldn't, but tell that to the guy who is trying to earn a living in the game. Tell that to the agent of a guy who worked his tail off, filling up the strike zone and only walking one batter.

As Purple Row's Andrew Fisher wisely pointed out, wins don't necessarily determine a pitcher's contract. He is right, many times it doesn't, and he gave great examples of times when it didn't matter. However, just like a hitter doesn't want to get pulled with a chance to win a game, or help their statistics, a pitcher wants to walk away with a win.

The fact is, the situation is simply weird. It doesn't make sense. It has no reasonable logic to back it up. In a normal situation, Outman would have pitched into the 6th inning, even if he has given up four or five runs in the 5th inning. Instead, Tracy has developed a quasi system that makes for awkward situations.

Outman has some fault of his own in the situation. He has to make pitches to get out of the inning and pick up the win. That is on him. He knew the situation. However, if Tracy hasn't lost his clubhouse, moves like Saturday's will quickly help him lose the team. When players start questioning their manager's decisions, it never makes for a good situation, and usually spells the end of that manager's tenure.

The pitcher's have to pitch better, but punishing them with very little chance to win any game that they pitch in is not a great way to convince them to start throwing strikes. It's not like the pitchers are going out and not trying to throw strikes. It's not like they have ulterior motives and are trying not to pitch well, punitive decisions aren't going to help young pitchers learn how to pitch, it is going to make them lose their confidence and lose faith in their leader.

The player's deserve some of the blame for this mess, but they can't be the sole guilty party. When Tracy, Dan O'Dowd and some of the coaches start acknowledging their questionable decisions, it might make it easier to feel like they have taken enough personal responsibility to start making decisions based on learning from their previous mistakes. Instead, the front office and coaching staff has kept their head in the sand, believing that they have done everything possible to win baseball games.

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