Saturday, July 20, 2013

Colorado Rockies offense forgets to bring bats back from All-Star Break

The Rockies blew another phenomenal outing from Jorge De La Rosa.
The Colorado Rockies embarked on a critical 10-game home stand against three of the worst teams in the National League. Sitting 4-1/2 games out of first place, the Rockies need to make up ground in the National League West when they can.

On Friday night, they picked up right where they left off. They got another phenomenal pitching performance from Jorge De La Rosa. The lefty has been a true star for the Rockies in 2013. What he has brought to the team has proven even his biggest doubters incorrect.

The six inning performance was another outing that was good enough to pick up the win and add on additional runs. De La Rosa gave the Rockies six innings, he gave up one run on five hits. He struck out four and walked three. He dealt with traffic in the third and sixth innings, but wiggled his way out of both jams.

Unfortunately for the Rockies, their abstract pitching theory came back to bite them once again. With the game tied at one, De La Rosa walked back to the dugout with 97 pitches thrown and was done for the night.

Immediately following De La Rosa's departure, Edgmer Escalona allowed the Cubs their second run of the night, which proved to be the game winner. In the top of the 9th, Rex Brothers allowed a run, which ended up proving costly, as the Rockies had a runner at third base in the bottom half of the 9th with one out.

To knock down any theory, limited data can be pulled that favors an opposite viewpoint. However, the Rockies front office has to be aware of the costly effects of their theory. On Friday night, even with De La Rosa leading off the bottom half of the 6th inning, the club needed more of him on the mound. Why take a guy out of the game who is pitching well? The lefty was throwing strikes, getting ground ball outs, and giving his team a chance to win.

Escalona has been very good for the Rockies, however, taking a starter out and going with a reliever is always taking a chance. There is no guarantee that Escalona was going to have his good stuff. After recording two quick outs, the reliever walked a batter, then allowed a run-scoring double to Anthony Rizzo, which cost the Rockies the game.

Hindsight is 20/20. De La Rosa could have faltered in the 7th and given up more than the one run. No one will ever know. However, what was clear was that the Rockies ace, the highest paid player on the roster, the guy who has proven to get out of jams more than he gives into them, was throwing well. He was getting outs. Would it have hurt the Rockies or De La Rosa to go one more inning?

The Rockies theory has some validity when applied in the proper situation. They claim that the 100-pitch limit is in place to prevent major arm injuries. They claim they have data that suggests that when a pitcher throws more than 100 pitches per appearance at Coors Field, that he routinely suffers arm injuries. That is fine, every team has to take care of their players. The solution, however, is to limit the young pitchers. Why, with concern for injury, would the Rockies limit a guy like De La Rosa. It is easy to forget that this game is a business. If the Rockies view this team as a business, which they clearly do, De La Rosa could be a free agent at season's end. If he gets hurt in 2014, it might be with another team.

That sounds heartless, but shouldn't the objective be to get as much out of him as they can? Shouldn't the Rockies be pushing the veteran arms further, knowing that the younger arms are more of a long-term investment?

Rockies fans can complain about the Rockies internal pitching theories all they want. At some point, it doesn't matter when the offense is scoring one run per game. In their past 11 games, the Rockies have scored just 20 runs. Scoring less than two runs per game isn't going to cut it.

On Friday night they continued the trend of getting beat up by bad pitchers. The lucky man on the mound for the Cubs is more known for his football prowess, catching passes at Notre Dame when Brady Quinn was a Heisman Candidate. Jeff Samardzija, owner of a 6-9 record, looked like he belonged on the mound in New York on Tuesday night. In 7-1/3 innings, he gave up just four hits and one run.

Bad pitchers sometimes look like aces. It happens. The Rockies, however, have become the team that bad pitchers get well against. The approach at the plate is terrible. The lineup, top to bottom, is swinging at bad pitches out of the strike zone. They are swinging at pitches in every count. Frankly, the Rockies look terrible at the plate.

If the Rockies want to make a run, they have to figure out how to score runs. They must play well during this home stand. If they don't, they are pretenders. On Friday night, they didn't do anything to make their doubters believe.

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