Saturday, April 20, 2013

Attitude change goes a long way for the Colorado Rockies

Jorge De La Rosa looks like he is back.
Many people in baseball believe that a manager is the most overrated position in baseball. Tell that to the Colorado Rockies and be prepared to be laughed at.

The Rockies, winners of eight straight and dominating at home, have made a complete 180 degree turn in attitude from 2012 to 2013.

On Saturday the Rockies held on, fingernails missing, to a 4-3 victory. Every run ended up mattering as closer Rafael Betancourt made things scary before wiggling off the hook with the bases loaded and one out in the 9th to record his seventh save of the season.

Those who watched the entire 2012 Rockies season knew one thing, the team played selfishly. They didn't move runners over in key situations, they didn't hit the ball on the ground when they could score a run, they would swing for the fences when the should have looked for a pitch to simply put in play.

Saturday night the Rockies showed how far removed from that 2012 club they currently are. The proof of that came in the bottom of the 3rd inning. With no one out, runners at second and third base, Carlos Gonzalez stepped to the plate. He quickly hit a ground ball to 2nd base, which scored Eric Young, Jr. from third base. Following Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki stepped to the plate and, instead of looking for a pitch to drive, he took a 2-0 pitch and got the bat on the ball, lifting a fly ball to left field, scoring Dexter Fowler on the sacrifice fly.

A year ago, the idea would have been for those two guys to go up and try to pad the stats. They would have been trying to hit the ball into the cheap seats and take a trot around the bases. Home runs are great, but all too often big swings lead to strike outs, which doesn't help the team. On Saturday, the two runs that the big hitters plated made the difference for the Rockies.

The offense did it's job in a tight game to get the win, but enough cannot be said about Jorge De La Rosa. The lefty looks like the free agent pickup that so many Rockies fans were clamoring for all off-season. De La Rosa went six shutout innings, giving up only two hits and two walks. He struck out four. Despite using 27 pitches to get through the first inning, he needed only 82 pitches to make it through his six innings.

De La Rosa was the wild card in a rotation that was the butt of many jokes coming into spring training. Sure, he had a very good 2009 season, but was sidelined by injuries in 2010 and Tommy John surgery killed the majority of his 2011 and 2012 seasons. His velocity used to be in the mid-90's, he is now only in the low-90's.

With the time and injuries, many discounted the impact that he could make on this club. Despite a drop in velocity, De La Rosa still has a commanding curveball and changeup. He kept the Diamondbacks off-balance all night long.

If Jhoulys Chacin's injury proves to be less serious than it currently looks, the Rockies one-two punch of Chacin and De La Rosa makes them worth respecting. It gives them a solid front-of-the-rotation that is more than capable of keeping the offense in enough games to pick up a significant number of wins.

There is no denying that this Rockies team is different than a year ago. They are playing with a swagger that is impressive. Of course, it is still early. Baseball will be played all summer long and there are plenty of scenarios that can play out. However, this Rockies team looks significantly better than anyone predicted. Most were hoping for a team that was respectable. That team has already arrived. The goal now is to have a team that can prove this start isn't a fluke.

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1 comment:

  1. I know it is early and some might not be believers but this is not a fluke at this point. This team is not winning by luck they are simply playing with tough grit and a will to win. I have no reason not to think this team won't be playing baseball in mid October. They may not have the best talent in the majors but it is awfully good and as the arms in the starting rotation keep getting confidence they are gonna build off each other and are developing a competitive attitude against one another. I am beginning to think the missing piece was simply addition by subtraction. Remove Bob Apodaca and we are contenders.