|Juan Nicasio didn't have a great outing on Sunday for the Rockies.|
The Colorado Rockies are skidding their way into August, and are headed in the wrong direction in the standings. After another day of barely drawing blood against their opponent, the Rockies limped into New York City with a 5-1 beating from the playoff-bound Pittsburgh Pirates.
Juan Nicasio stumbled for the second straight outing after giving the Rockies signs of hope in his previous two starts. He barely made it through four innings, giving up four runs on six hits in 4-1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out four. Again, the opponent has figured out that Nicasio's secondary pitches aren't good enough to get them out with, so they can foul them off until they get a fastball. That drives up his pitch count, and ultimately his ERA as well.
Regardless of Nicasio's performance, the Rockies were once again on the wrong side of an opposing pitchers best game of the season. This time AJ Burnett can send a thank you card to Coors Field after the Rockies tip their caps to him.
Reality is cold and hard. It isn't always easy to deal with. However, with the truth in Rockies fans faces for the better half of two weeks, it is time to move forward. With this team not going to the postseason, what needs to happen for fans of the purple and black to say that it was a team that was headed in the right direction?
Looking back realistically, was a team that lost 98 games a year ago really going to find it's way to the playoffs? In all honesty, this was a team that has the talent to do it and the division has been ripe for that to happen. However, rarely is a team going to not only go from worst-to-first in a single offseason, let alone 98-loss bad to very good without changing anything besides the manager.
For the Rockies to head into the offseason with their chins held high, not many things have to happen. They don't even have to win a bunch of baseball games.
First, and most importantly, they have to show up for every game. In recent years the Rockies have become far too comfortable with taking games off. The playoff runs in 2007 and 2009 seem to have taught them that the early and mid parts of the season act more like a preseason. In reality, the 2007 run should have taught them that every single game, every single inning, counts.
Over the years, the Rockies have phoned games in. They have shown up to the park, but they have gone through the motions. That is an outsiders perspective, but it is an opinion that is shared by many. Postgame remarks seem to indicate that when guys get tired, or come home from a long road trip, a night on the bench is more important than a team win.
The next thing the Rockies must do is start taking better at-bats. It is certainly easy to sit on the couch and critique the guy standing at the plate trying to hit a 98-MPH fastball, but the Rockies are notorious for taking terrible at-bats. Guys don't look to hit the ball the other way. They become pull happy, and suddenly the opposition takes notice and feeds pitches on the outer half of the plate, waiting for the weak ground ball or the easy strikeout.
The final thing that the Rockies need to do to deem this season a step in the right direction is to continue getting good pitching from their top three starters. Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and, of all people, Tyler Chatwood have been far better than just good. They have all been extremely good. De La Rosa proved the doubters wrong, frankly, something he has made a habit of in his time with the Rockies, Chacin is starting to reach his potential, and Chatwood has emerged as a raw talent into a truly good pitcher, a guy any team would love to have.
Those three guys have rattled off good start after good start. They, not the offense, are the reason the Rockies were in the mix in the early going. They have propelled this team from being very bad, to at least being respectable at this point in the year.
Beyond those points, the Rockies need to continue seeing improvement from their third baseman of the future. Nolan Arenado has shown that his glove is as good as anyone in the league already. He has also shown flashes of why everyone is excited about his bat as well. His propensity to deliver in clutch situations has been a nice surprise from a rookie. If he can become more consistent at the plate, he could be an All-Star in short order.
The Rockies aren't going to the playoffs, but honestly, on March 31st, very few people actually thought they would be there. After an exciting, but unrealistic stretch early on, the Rockies made believers out of the masses. Now they have sunk back to the level that they should probably be at, and should be judged from that position.
The big thing for the Rockies is improvement and accountability. This team needs to play fundamental baseball and take ownership of their actions. They need to strive for success in every facet of the game and not quit playing because of one reason or another. The Rockies can take those steps. The last two months of the season will show whether or not they are going to.
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