Sunday, July 8, 2012

Colorado Rockies finish first half the way the way they should have played all year

If Jeremy Guthrie had been even decent, the season would be better.
If this Jeremy Guthrie would have shown up at the beginning, the Colorado Rockies might be in a different position.

The embattled right-hander went six strong innings, giving up just two runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked only one. The lone mistake Guthrie made was driven by Ian Desmond over the wall for a two-run homer.

The performance was what Dan O'Dowd had expected when he traded Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom for the veteran "innings-eater." He thought he was going to get a guy who would pitch to contact, give up a few hits, but find ways to get outs and keep his team in the game long enough for the offense to throw a punch.

On Sunday, Guthrie gave his offense a chance to win, and the offense took advantage. The decisive blow came off of Eric Young, Jr.'s bat. He launched a pinch-hit home run to lead off the 8th inning, helping propel the Rockies to a comeback 4-3 victory over the best team in the National League.

After Young homered, the Rockies scored in ways that they generally only see when they are on defense. Two wild pitches helped Colorado score their final two runs, giving them a one-run lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

As the Rockies head into the All-Star break, it is hard not to think back on the first three months of a lost season and think about what might have been had the Rockies pitching materialized the way they thought it would. As bad as this team has been, the pieces were in place for them to at least be decent.

If Jhoulys Chacin wouldn't have hidden his injury in spring training, if Guthrie would have been anywhere near the innings-eater that the Rockies had expected, even simply being a .500 pitcher. If the Rockies had allowed Drew Pomeranz to pitch the way that he is capable of pitching without trying to tinker with his delivery in the minor leagues for so long, and if Juan Nicasio had stayed healthy enough to simply be decent, the Rockies season would have been a different story.

As bad as this team has been, the reality is, the offense has been good besides a few lapses that almost every team endures throughout a season, and the bullpen, despite having to pitch as many innings as they have been asked to pitch, has been one of the best in baseball.

The starting pitching and the defense has been the biggest issue for the Rockies. So big that a very good offense, one better than what the Rockies had in 2009 when they went to the playoffs, simply cannot overcome.

Of course, there are quite a few "if's" in making the Rockies a decent team. Those are four guys who needed a different fate for this club to succeed. The way to overcome those "if's" is to be prepared for them not to all happen. Dan O'Dowd, who has even admitted not getting enough pitching depth, needed to bring in additional arms that could have helped the big league roster. Instead of signing a couple of proven veteran arms, he signed Jamie Moyer, a 49-year-old coming back from Tommy John surgery. Beyond Moyer, he traded possibly the team's best pitcher in Jason Hammel for Guthrie, who had been nothing more than pedestrian in Baltimore for the past four seasons.

There was no way to foresee Chacin or Nicasio's injury. However, if the Rockies had been prepared to deal with injury, even with simply a serviceable arm or two, this team might not be in the position that they are in. They might not be quite good enough to be competing, but they might be hovering somewhere around .500, a mark that most fans probably wouldn't be too disappointed with.

For now, the Rockies head into the All-Star break with a chance to reflect on what has gone wrong, and for some, to prepare to get shipped off to a team that has a chance to play in the postseason.

Watching their team be sellers at the trade deadline isn't fun for Rockies fans, but it should be exciting to see what returns the club can get from the talent that won't be around after the 2012 campaign anyway.

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