Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A little progress shouldn't be enough for the Colorado Rockies

Is the 2013 season a success or failure for the Colorado Rockies?
With April enthusiasm tempered and reality building a strong foundation, the average Colorado Rockies fan must ask what kind of progress is enough to be satisfied with a 2013 season that looks like it will be better than 2012.

When describing the 2013 season, it is easy to use the words "disappointing," or " rough." Every time those words pop up, however, the question must be asked, is the Rockies season really all that disappointing? Has it been rough?

The Rockies lost 98 games in 2012. That is rough. Is it still a rough season when the team the very next season has a chance to equal the win total with a whole month left to play? There has been no "Road to 100," there has been no concern about being the worst team in baseball. That alone means that there has been progress.

The debate has begun among Rockies fans as to what is acceptable for the 2013 campaign. Many believe that this team has still underachieved. The holes in the farm system have been exposed with a lack of ability to bring up quality players who are Major League ready, or even close to it. On the other hand, the more patient fans are quick to remind everyone that it was no secret that the pitching staff lacked depth and the team was a work in progress.

So who is right? The Rockies are definitely better than the 2012 version. It certainly can't be argued that they play harder, and as the end of the season nears, this team hasn't rolled over the same way that they did a year ago. That may be a testament to Walt Weiss, but it also might be a sign of improvement.

Those who preach patience are missing the point. They aren't seeing the overarching issues that are still plaguing this team. There are issues on the field that are still evident, but there are other issues trickling down to from the front office that make their way onto the field that are causing the majority of the issues.

The Rockies put up a fight on Tuesday night in a loss to the Giants at Coors Field. However, they still struggled with something that has been a severe issue all season long. Their approach at the plate is terrible. When runners are on base, the approach at the plate doesn't change. Their swings are still big. Instead of trying to move runners over, the Rockies simply swing.

Those issues may be a product of bad coaching, but they also might be a product of players not listening to their coaches. Whatever the reason, the issue remains.

Another reason the Rockies approach at the plate might be so bad is one that hasn't been mentioned much. This Rockies team has a different lineup every single night. When a guy is hitting second one night, eighth the next, and on the bench for two nights after that, it is difficult to get into a rhythm. The pitches that a batter sees are different when the three-hole hitter is in the on-deck circle. They change as well when the pitcher is waiting to make an out right behind the eight-hole.

It also doesn't bode well when the guy hitting both in front and in back of a hitter are different on a consistent basis. It might sound weird, but a consistent lineup brings cohesion and almost becomes a single force, rather than just eight different guys with a bat. If a batter knows that the guy behind him is going to take a good at-bat, he is more likely to take pitches and be willing to take a walk, or slap a single the other way instead of swinging big and trying to be the hero. When a lineup has consistency, it breeds better at-bats.

Of course in baseball no team is going to have the same lineup day-in and day-out. There are injuries, guys need days off, catchers can't play everyday, so it makes that difficult. However, a team should be able to name who starts where and a guy should be the "starter" even if he takes an occasional day off. It should also mean that even though a guy gets four at-bats one day, he is still a "pinch-hitter."

The issue with the lineup changes clearly comes from up above. As Dan O'Dowd made public in 2012, without even cracking a smile or showing a hint of embarrassment, he proposed that the altitude that the Rockies play at suggests that a player shouldn't get more than 140 starts per season. That means that everyone who is a regular starter will be out of the lineup a minimum of 22 times per year. Cal Ripken must be shaking his head at this Rockies front office.

With expectations low for the Rockies pitching staff, the majority of the wins were supposed to come from a robust lineup that was as good as anyone in the National League. No one predicted that the opposite would be true. While there is a large gap from the first three starters to the last two, the reality is, the Rockies starting pitchers have done their job. The offense has failed.

Would a consistent lineup have changed the approach that the Rockies take at the plate? Any answer to that question would be pure speculation. However, it couldn't hurt. Having players know their rolls and having a consistent lineup would give each player a role. Once they know their roles they can improve upon that role, instead of guessing what position or where in the lineup they will be the next day.

The lineup changes are just one example of front office meddling. Regardless of areas of improvement, no matter how far down the road the Rockies have come since a brutal 2012, it almost doesn't seem to matter. The issues that led to them losing 98 games are the same issues that are in place today.

Even if the Rockies win 15 more games than they did in 2012, the issues surrounding the team overshadow what the overall record says. The micromanagement and the unchecked theories that the Rockies employ are going to be the damning factor in a team that has enough talent to be respectable.

When push comes to shove, the Rockies are still in need of changes, regardless of where they finish the 2013 season.

Follow me on Twitter @RockiesReview.  Like me on Facebook, search "Rockies Review"

1 comment:

  1. I think that the fans have grown to be apathetic about the same old song and dance. Where's that guy that had been claiming that the Rockies would make it to the postseason in 2013?