Friday, July 5, 2013

Colorado Rockies won't win division because of undisciplined play

Tyler Colvin is making fans miss Eric Young, Jr.
With a chance to make a statement to the leaders of a division that is very winnable, the Colorado Rockies took advantage and made that statement loud and clear.

The statement, however, wasn't what Rockies fans were hoping it would be. The Rockies made it clear on Friday night that they aren't very good, and they have no intention of getting better.

As difficult as it might be to hear, this team, the way they are currently playing, is showing that they have no business in a division race. They don't play good baseball. It is one thing to get owned by a Cy Young candidate like Clayton Kershaw. It's even explainable when a top prospect like Tyler Skaggs comes up and dominates a lineup missing Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

The issue isn't getting dominated by a pitcher, the issue is batters taking terrible at bats, failing to move runners over, outfielders taking bad routes to baseballs, and a catcher who had made significant progress in April with his defense, but has suddenly reverted back to bad mechanics, and a manager whose level of accountability is so high that he can't make a move on his own.

What do all of those things come together to spell? Laziness.

This is a Rockies team that is missing three of their top batters in Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Fowler. However, that doesn't excuse the play that they have gotten from the guys filling in.

The best example came in the 8th inning. Nolan Arenado stepped to the plate leading off the inning and ripped a single to center field. Tyler Colvin came to the plate with a chance to give the Rockies some momentum. Tyler Skaggs was deep into the game and was tiring. If Colvin could get on, the Rockies could put a number on the board and at least make themselves believe they had a chance to win.

With a 2-0 count, the .159 hitter took a hack at a fastball that was six inches off of the plate, fouling it off. Instead of a 3-0 count, Colvin allowed Skaggs back into the count. Skaggs countered with another ball, moving the count to 3-1. On the fifth pitch of the at-bat, Colvin swung at another pitch out of the zone, hitting a tailor-made double play ball to Didi Gregorious at shortstop. It ended any chance the Rockies had of doing damage.

The mark of a good hitter is a guy who can work the strike zone and force the pitcher to throw strikes. It is a hard enough game for a pitcher, so when a batter helps them out, it makes things significantly easier. In a 5-0 game, even if Colvin hits a home run, the Rockies are still three runs down. At that point, they need base runners, they need to work counts, and they need to chip away. Swinging at 2-0 pitches, then 3-1 pitches is the product of undisciplined baseball.

If Colvin's at-bat wasn't bad enough, watch a replay of Paul Goldschmidt's double in the bottom of the 5th inning that allowed Aaron Hill to score. Goldschmidt drilled a line drive to center field that almost certainly had some knuckle to hit. However, it was a ball that most Major League centerfielders drop back on and grab. It only would have been more fitting if Chase Field had played circus music. Colvin turned to his left, then to his right, then back to his left, then watched the ball sail over his head.

The scoring for the Diamondbacks started in the 1st inning. Jorge De La Rosa gave up a triple to leadoff hitter A.J. Pollack, De La Rosa came back to strike out Aaron Hill, and needed two more big outs to get out of the jam. He got them with a ground ball to third base and a line out to shortstop.

The only problem was that before getting Goldschmidt to ground out to third base, he threw a wild pitch, allowing Pollack to trot home. Well, the boxscore shows a wild pitch, anyway. The reality is, the wild pitch should have quotes around it, as the slider in the dirt skipped past Wilin Rosario, who has reverted back to his 2012 form behind the plate. As has been typical in recent days, Rosario turned his glove over in an attempt to backhand the ball. Catchers should never backhand a ball. A good catcher, even a decent catcher, rolls over and blocks the ball, digging his glove into the dirt and angling his chest protector to allow the ball to bounce off of him and stay in front of the plate. Rosario's backhand action has cost the Rockies four runs in the past three games.

For the moves on the field that cost the Rockies the game, a decision was made before the game that quickly brought back nightmares of 2012. After Carlos Gonzalez had exited the game early on Thursday with a sore back, he was left on the bench Friday night. That move wouldn't have been questioned if Rockies manager Walt Weiss hadn't opened his mouth.

Weiss acknowledged that Gonzalez wasn't in the lineup not because of the fact that his back was hurt and needed a day to recover, but instead because the Rockies have 10 games in 10 days before the All-Star Break and he could use a day off.

A day off? Against the team leading the division and a chance to gain ground? If the Rockies were to sweep the series, they would be alone in first place in the National League West. If they take two-of-three, they leave for San Diego just 1-1/2 games out of first place. If Tulowitzki and Fowler weren't already down, the move might be acceptable, but with Gonzalez shouldering much of the load, leaving him on the bench when his back was feeling fine was a message to the team that the game didn't matter. They took it to heart.

This road trip, one in which the Rockies play 10 games against divisional opponents, will be one that tells the story of who the 2013 Colorado Rockies are. Good teams rise to challenges. Good teams find ways to win games on the road when they need to be won. Good teams play clean baseball. Good teams might not win every game, but they don't make habits of giving away at-bats. They don't swing at 2-0 pitches out of the zone when they are down by five runs in the 8th inning.

The Rockies need to not be content with a good start. They need to decide if they are going to be a team that takes one step forward after a 98-loss season, or if they are going to be a team that takes a giant leap into a team looking to be a contender.

If game one of the 10 game road trip tells a story, it's that the Rockies won't be surprising anyone before the All-Star Break.

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  1. Sadly, I agree, was like the Iggy news in the afternoon set the mood for my "exciting" night home alone with bourbon and baseball. Are not smart, passionate or entertaining.

  2. David, in your opinion, how much "interference" with Walt Weiss's job is coming from O'Dowd and Geivett??

  3. I agree...most of this team takes a very poor approach to the often has me wondering what is Dante doing to improve these guys as most of the young players have taken a step backwards this year (Rosario, Rutledge, Colvin and Pacheco)

  4. And in comparison how many AZ hitters got hits or walks after being down 0-2? How can you have a roster with only one right handed hitting outfielder?

  5. Hello, Mr. Martin.
    How about an article about potential buyers for the Rock franchise? Removing the Monfort influence would be a positive step. Is there a consortium of x-athletes that could put together a deal to move the Monforts out?

  6. I agree completely that the front office needs to back off the game day decision making. This 100 pitch limit for the pitchers is inane to say the least. Protecting your investment is one thing but the guys they have pitching can hardly be called investments. These guys should be allowed to go as deep into a game as they can, damn the pitch count. They need to figure out how to get themselves out of trouble. The front office also bungled in handling EY Jr. The sole reason they had to let him go was they kept calling him up and demoting him to AAA - sometimes for no reason at all. IMO they needed to develop EY Jr at the big league level or trade him. Incompetence throughout the organization is the reason for the current state of affairs for the Rockies. If the business model is to develop players through the minor league system, why are the players they call up not ready to perform? Why are guys not able to have professional at bats and not chase pitches? Why are guys not able to throw strikes and get ahead of hitters? There is no winning attitude in the entire organization. There are plenty of excuses, however. The altitude and Coors field factor needs to die - quickly. The Rockies, historically, have a winning record at home. Their road record is atrocious. There is no altitude on the road so why is the pitching staff not able to execute on the road? Every pitcher should be excited for road trips. Their are losers running the team. The team, in turn, becomes losers because of the culture that is in place. Big changes need to happen for championship baseball in Colorado.