|The Jeff Manship has sailed.|
Despite trailing only the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals for the most runs in the National League, the Rockies offense is a huge disappointment.
When the Rockies score runs, they come in bunches, as seen a week ago when the team scored 14 runs against the Padres in a rain-delayed affair. Often times, the Rockies will score seven or eight runs in a game, then watch the bats go cold for four or five days, then return to score another large number of runs.
In the end, the average number of runs and the total number of runs look very good on paper, but the reality is, many of those runs are hollow, scored after the game has been decided, padding a large lead.
Average the number out (548 runs) and the Rockies are averaging 4.35 runs per game. That is enough to win plenty of baseball games, especially when the performances of the first three guys in the rotation is factored in. There is no way the Rockies should be 10 games under .500 with that number.
So if the Rockies offense is scoring more runs than all but two other teams in the National League, and the top three guys in the rotation are doing their job, why are the Rockies in such a bad spot in the rotation.
The main reason is because this team either refuses to change their approach, or simply doesn't have the discipline to take the game plan discussed before the first pitch and execute it during the game. Instead of figuring out how a pitcher might attack their lineup, or each individual hitter, the Rockies go up to the plate and simply hack away. They try to pull pitches on the outer half of the plate, and get behind in counts, causing them to see more breaking balls and pitches out of the zone.
But that doesn't make sense. How could they be scoring all of these runs while having a bad approach at the plate? The answer is simple. The go-out-and-swing-at-everything approach works every fifth or sixth day. When a starting pitcher misses his spots, he gets lit up. When a starting pitcher believes that he can blow his pitch past the batter, despite the batter being able to hit that pitch, the Rockies score runs, and plenty of them.
However, when a pitcher follows the scouting report, stays away from the inside half of the plate, and throws plenty of breaking balls, the Rockies find themselves out of the game in a hurry. That is when a pitcher is sitting at 80 pitches through six innings and cruising.
That approach at the plate is the right formula to score plenty of runs one day a week, then starve the rest of the time.
When the Rockies go out and score seven or eight runs, it is clear that they have the talent to win games. They are often times their own worst enemy, bailing pitchers out of jams by swinging at bad pitches that they should know are coming.
Monday night was a prime example of the problem. Phillies starter Ethan Martin picked up his second big league win by following the game plan. He pitched 6-1/3 innings, giving up only two runs on four hits. Both of the runs came after six shutout innings.
When the Rockies don't change their approach at the plate, they put their starting pitcher in a tough spot. Six innings of no runs means the Rockies starter has to be nearly perfect, or he will lose the game. Then consider the fact that the offense is free-swinging and it means that 12 or 13 pitches is all the time the Rockies starter has to catch his breath on the bench. It doesn't usually bode well.
Monday night it may not have mattered, however, as the Rockies trotted out Jeff Manship for his third start of the season. After three innings, the Phillies had figured out the right-hander. He gave up four runs in the 4th inning, then another run in the 5th before his day was finished. It isn't Manship's fault, he simply isn't good enough to be a starting pitcher at the big league level, he was just the guy who was available when the Rockies needed an arm.
The Rockies are playing out the string, but it is important for some of their younger players to refine their abilities and learn how to play the game the right way at the big league level. The most important lesson the young hitters can learn is to work at-bats. They need to learn to foul pitches off and go the other way on balls off of the plate. If they can use the final six weeks to improve, it could mean a far better 2014.
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