Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jordan Lyles continues turning heads with another dominant outing for the Colorado Rockies

Jordan Lyles has been impressive for the Rockies so far.
When the Colorado Rockies dealt Dexter Fowler to the Houston Astros, the majority of Rockies fans scrambled to to find out who Jordan Lyles and Brandon Barnes were.

Nothing on that website could have introduced fans to Lyles the way that he has so far in the 2014 campaign. After three strong starts to begin the season, Lyles was impressive again in his second outing at Coors Field as a Rockie. In route to picking up his third win of the season, Lyles pitched seven innings of near shutout baseball. The only run that crossed the plate came on a Boone Logan throwing error after Lyles had departed. He surrendered just five hits and walked one.

Keep in mind, Lyles wasn't on the Opening Day roster. He was called to the big leagues on the second day of the season when it became apparent that Tyler Chatwood's hamstring strain would require a stint on the disabled list. The Rockies wanted to get him more seasoning in the minor leagues before he made himself a part of the permanent roster. Apparently if you want something, you have to go out and get it.

Lyles went from fill-in, to God-send for the Rockies. With Chatwood originally on the shelf, along with Jhoulys Chacin, the club needed someone who could carry the weight of the staff, especially with the perceived lack of depth that the starting rotation has dealt with. Very few would have predicted Lyles strong April. He has filled in beautifully and continues to give the Rockies reason for hope.

The offense for the Rockies wasn't as dominant as it was on Friday night, but with Lyles performance they didn't need to score double digits to log a victory. The big blow to the Phillies came when Justin Morneau launched a mistake pitch from Kyle Kendrick into the right field seats, above the out-of-town scoreboard. The two-run shot gave the Rockies a 3-0 lead at the time, and that would be enough.

Something must be addressed with a Rockies club that has perennially struggled with pitching, particularly from the starters. The Rockies have spent the past few years trying to emphasize the importance of the ground ball to their pitchers. They work on it in spring training religiously and nearly every time the front office talks to the media about pitching at Coors Field, they reiterate the need to keep the ball on the ground.

On the surface, pitching to contact probably isn't what a pitcher wants to hear, especially when they play at Coors Field. The first instinct is probably to pitch away from contact so that the environment can't have the effect that everyone seems to claim that it does. The first thought for a pitcher would be to go for the strike out, that way no one can hit a home run.

Instead, the Rockies have drilled their pitchers with this philosophy, and frankly, it is time to give them credit. Jhoulys Chacin has experienced a ton of success using his sinker to induce ground balls, and it is paying off with some of the younger pitchers as well.

On Friday night, Tyler Chatwood gave up just one out through the air. He recorded 14 outs on the ground, with only one in the air. He also struck out seven. On Saturday, Lyles got 13 outs on the ground and only two through the air.

The philosophy is the reason why the Rockies can still hang on to win baseball games at Coors Field when they only plate three runs.

Lyles is a surprise that the Rockies need. If they have any hope of turning their disappointments from the previous four seasons into a year of contention, they need someone like Lyles to step up. This is a team that is relying on every single thing to go exactly the right way for them to succeed. If something goes wrong, their season could tailspin and end up much like the past few seasons have.

However, if the Rockies get contributions from guys like Lyles and others that exceed what they could have expected, they could suddenly find themselves in a spot where they could make a run. To suggest that are good enough to win the division might be a stretch, but they could be good enough to be in the conversation as the season begins winding down.

Talking about the playoffs in April is one thing that teams should avoid. The Rockies are a team that needs to focus on finding ways to get better and finding ways to continue winning baseball games. If they look up in July and they are still in contention, it might be time to start thinking that they could actually make a run. Until then, it is time to improve and prove that they are worthy of not being laughed at.

Jordan Lyles is certainly helping in that cause early on.

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  1. Dave, while on the surface in the beginning this may look like a good trade for the Rockies. However when we traded Fowler that also means we lost the brilliant insight from the woman who tweets and does text messaging in Denver traffic. You just can't replace what her opinions meant in the Mile High City. There is no trade that was worth giving up Mrs. A. Fowler. She will forever be missed and can't be replaced.

  2. They are playing well at Coors Field now but will this team perform as well on the road? They need to prove that they can do that this year.