Saturday, September 15, 2012

Colorado Rockies slowly admitting that pitching experiment isn't working

The Rockies are going back to a 5-man rotation.
With a chance to win a series in San Diego on Saturday night, the Colorado Rockies couldn't get the job done, dropping the nearly meaningless game 4-3. Drew Pomeranz continues his search for economical pitching, going just three innings and delivering 67 total pitches.

The news for most of the Rockies 2012 season hasn't been the action that takes place on the field, it has been the news that has been made off the field.

On Friday, the Rockies announced that they will go back to a traditional 5-man rotation in 2013. Instead of the plan that was talked about late in August, which was to have four pitchers in the rotation, and four piggyback bullpen pitchers. It would allow the Rockies to stay with their 75-pitch limit and continue down the path of a theory that hasn't been effective.

The move still puts the starting pitchers on a pitch count, but Bill Geivett told Troy Renck of the Denver Post that the limit will be somewhere between 90 and 100 pitches depending on the pitcher and the situation.

Essentially what that means is that the Rockies are admitting that their theory isn't working. 90-100 pitches in a 5-man rotation is essentially what Clint Hurdle managed with for the first seven years of his tenure. It was rare that a starter would even finish the inning that he was in once he had hit the 100-pitch mark.


The good news for Rockies fans is that the misery of being a bad team, coupled with the disaster that is the front office is coming to an end. Fans might not get what they want -- changes starting from the top all the way down -- but they will at least get back to some semblance of normalcy going into 2013.

It was interesting to watch the ebbs and flows of fan and media reaction to the Rockies pitching theory. Early on, the majority of those watching agreed that the move was ridiculous, and reeked of desperation. However, as the conversation turned to the Broncos, the mood shifted. Some believed that the move was actually a good one. Maybe it wasn't the right move, but Dan O'Dowd was praised by some media members for being willing to try something different.

The issue, however, wasn't that fans wanted traditional baseball played at Coors Field, the issue was that it was the front office desperately reaching for any excuse to cover up their failings.

It was easy to forget that O'Dowd openly admitted to season ticket holders in June that he failed to bring in pitching talent in the early offseason because he was tired from the stress of the 2011 season. He needed time off and essentially fell asleep at the wheel. What that meant is that while other teams were getting better, O'Dowd was trying to re-cooperate from a tough mental year.

When the guys that he did end up bringing in, Jeremy Guthrie, Jamie Moyer, Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman proved to be busts, the general manager didn't say anything about the talent simply not being as good as it had been in the past, he blamed Coors Field for playing differently.

What was easy to forget is that when the Rockies went to the playoffs, they were getting phenomenal performances from pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez, Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel. Those guys all regressed in the future for the Rockies, but no one that the Rockies brought in came anywhere close to resembling those pitchers when they led the Rockies to the postseason.

Coors Field wasn't changing, the talent on the mound was n't nearly as good as it had been.

With minimal improvement from the pitching staff two months into the theory being played out, O'Dowd and the Rockies were successful in convincing many fans and media members that it was working. Many believed that Coors Field was causing huge injuries and that the pitch count seemed to work. However, they were also quick to forget that less than a week into the theory being put into practice, Bob Apodaca, the man in charge of all of the pitchers regressions, had quit.

Simply removing Apodaca, a pitching coach who clearly struggled with young talent, was a huge benefit to the Rockies. That fact was quickly forgotten about when looking at the Rockies pitching numbers. Instead, the critics have given credit to the theory for the success.

No one is saying that the Rockies should play traditional baseball and never try anything different. However, changes are going to be more highly scrutinized when the nature of the changes stems from the excuses that the front office has been making for well over a year.

If O'Dowd would have come out and said that he failed to bring in the talent to win and that he was going to try out this theory because he felt it would fit the talent that the club ended up with it might be a different story. Instead, O'Dowd explains the decision on the basis of Coors Field changing. Beyond that, he went to beyond just saying that Coors Field was playing differently, and claiming that the altitude was in fact, hurting pitchers arms.

The reason that the theory wasn't adopted by those who follow the team is that it has become so apparent that the Rockies want to look in all of the deep dark corners for the answers instead of looking at the obvious answers which are staring right back at them. More realistically, the Rockies didn't want to admit that the people that had become their close friends were the problem.

The Rockies show their stubbornness even in saying that they are abandoning the theory. Instead of saying they are going back to a traditional formula, they try to make a 5-man, 100-pitch model seem like a simple adjustment to their theory instead of saying what it is, an abandonment of their theory that didn't work.

Regardless, the news is good news for Rockies fans because the theory is over. The team isn't going to put their fans through another season of suffering through an ill-advised theory, they will be back to normal. Hopefully this time with better talent.

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