Thursday, May 1, 2014

Even with a loss to end the month, Colorado Rockies have been impressive

Rex Brothers' struggles continued on Wednesday.
April was good to the Colorado Rockies.

Despite the final pitch of the month being a Miguel Montero walk-off home run to send the Rockies home with a loss, the month overall was very good to the club. What looked like a sweep ended in disappointment. The Rockies blew a four-run lead and, for the fourth time in a row, missed a chance to sweep a series.

The bullpen showed it's holes on Wednesday night, as Rex Brothers' struggles continued. His inability to put back-to-back good outings together is starting to become troubling. His velocity is down, and because of that, he seems to be aiming his pitches. Tommy Kahnle, who has been excellent all through spring training and in his time with the big league club, gave up the game winner to Montero.

The struggles of Brothers and Matt Belisle cannot be ignored. The Rockies have no options in the minors that could provide depth, so they are going to have to rely on those two guys to figure it out. Brothers shows flashes of being the pitcher that was nearly an All-Star a year ago, but Belisle, frankly, looks done.

Going into the six-game road trip, there isn't a fan who wouldn't be thrilled with a 4-2 trip. Both locations, Los Angeles and Arizona, have been terribly difficult places for the Rockies to play, so for them to come home at 4-2 is a huge accomplishment. However, in a baseball season, there is no such thing as a moral victory. A team that is serious about contending for the playoffs has to win baseball games that are winnable. It doesn't matter what the history in a location has been, they can't let teams off the hook when they have a victory in hand.

The Rockies are 8-9 on the road so far in 2014. Compared to how they have played over the past years on the road, 8-9 feels like 16-1. They don't seem intimidated. They don't seem like they are pressing at the plate. They look comfortable. If they are able to establish themselves as a team that can win on the road, that will remove much of the pressure from them when they play at Coors Field. They won't feel like they have to win every single home game in order to get their heads above water.

Beyond the issues with the bullpen, the Rockies also must continue getting better at the little things. They have to find a way to play better fundamental baseball. Despite being the hero on Tuesday night, Drew Stubbs became the goat on Wednesday.

After a leadoff double in the 10th inning from Corey Dickerson, the Rockies were looking like they might be able to put up a run and steal another game in the desert. With no one out and a runner at second base, Charlie Blackmon came to the plate and put down a good sacrifice bunt, moving Dickerson to third base with one out.

The Rockies had two chance to either hit a fly ball or get a base hit to score the run. Essentially, Stubbs needed to get the ball in play. With a drawn in infield, he would be able to score a run unless he hit it hard right at someone. The worst thing he could do was strikeout. After three pitches he was on his way back to the dugout.

No team, even the team that wins the World Series, is going to have a perfect record when it comes to moving runners over and getting them in. However, the Rockies lack of fundamentals has been very clear over the past month. They are a much improved team from a year ago, but they need to take the next step and get to the point where hitting a sacrifice fly is so easy that they don't have to think about it.

The Rockies and their fans will certainly take a 16-13 first month of the season. That is a very good way to show that they aren't the same team that lost 88 games a year ago. However, they still have work to do. They still have holes to fill and they need to continue to push to get better. This team is talented. If they do the little things right, they might just surprise some people. However, they can't be content with simply being a better team than a year ago. They must push themselves to continue getting better.

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  1. Man, just when I think that they are going to be good, they revert to "same old Rockies mode. Wasted another good start by Jordan Lyles and this notion that all is needed is six innings from a starter is a design for failure. The bullpen is already starting to wear down. Another disturbing note from last night's game was that the offense shut down after the third inning. I've seen better at-bats at an eight year-old Teeball game! What gives? The Rox kick ass on this road trip and then shut it down a third of the way through their last game against the worst team in the National League?? I'll bet that somewhere down the road they'll wish they'd played nine full innings last night! What if they miss a Wild card spot by one game?

  2. There are a number of hits and misses for the first month...namely Blackmon, Lyles, Morneau, Tulo and Barnes for the hits.

    The misses are more glaring considering the number of games they have given away already. Most of the issues stem from the bullpen as both Belisle, Brothers and Bettis just look terrible. Rex alone has blown 3 games in a month.
    The Stubbs pickup has not looked good at 4 million and then add on Belisle at 4.5 and Lopez at another 2...Toss in Anderson at 8 million and you have almost 20 million of salary not performing.

    The sad part is that Walt elected to send down Lyles to AAA to start the season and if not for the Chatwood injury he would not have been seen.

  3. You rip on Matt. Frankly he came in and walked the first batter. Tulo then came in a must have threaten Matt's first 3 born children if he didn't throw strikes. After that meeting Matt tossed 10 or 11 pitches and struck out the side. Whatever Tulo said to Matt needs to be repeated each time the struggling reliever takes the mound!

  4. I suspect their improved hitting on the road is a credit to Blake Doyle. It seems like everybody is swinging at the first pitch or two trying to eliminate falling behind in counts. The only downside is that it helps opposing pitchers go deep into the game. But better offense more than compensate for it. Back home at Coors Field, they seem to work the pitchers a lot more. Blake Doyle's theory (swinging early) might solve the horrible home/road split riddle. I need to wait and see how that plays out over the entire season, not just April.

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