|Franklin Morales isn't the solution for the Rockies rotation.|
It is easy to complain about a fifth starter. Every team in baseball would like to improve the back end of their starting rotation. There is a reason a guy is a fifth starter. He isn't good enough to be in the top half of the rotation. However, Morales presents more of a problem than the typical fifth starter.
Forced into the role because of injuries to Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood, Morales isn't entirely to blame. He is a miscast long reliever who is being asked to get the job done as a starter. That isn't who he is. On Tuesday night, Morales was a disaster, pitching five innings, giving up four runs on eight hits and four walks.
On a night in which the Rockies were facing James Shields, they really needed Morales to have his best stuff. Shields has won over 100 games in his career and on Tuesday night he recorded his 1,500th career strikeout. He has spent his entire career in Tampa Bay and Kansas City, so he isn't as well known as other aces, but his stuff is just as good.
While Morales wasn't great, many fans will point to the offense scoring only one run and suggest that they are just as much at fault for the Rockies loss. They have a solid point. However, in baseball, everything effects the rest of the game. If a starting pitcher doesn't have his good stuff, it can effect the offense. It sounds far fetched, but baseball is so mental that it really can take a toll on an offense to have a starting pitcher not have his stuff.
The reason is, a guy like Morales is stressful just to watch. Some pitchers look effortless when they pitch, Morales is stressful just to watch. On any given pitch it seems that Morales has no clue where the ball is going to go. It takes maximum effort, and there is never any faith that he is going to put the ball where he wants it. He can get up 0-2 on a batter, then throw four pitches so far out of the zone a batter wouldn't even have a thought at swinging. It is stressful to watch.
A start like that, particularly when a team is facing a pitcher of Shields' ilk, can shut down an offense. Knowing that it is going to take several runs to win the game, batters start to press. They aren't comfortable in the box, feeling the pressure of having to get the job done every time they step to the plate becasue to win, it is going to take six runs. With a very good pitcher on the mound, the pressure leads to bad at-bats.
If a team starts to lose faith in a starter, it is easy for their winning mindset to go away. If they feel like they aren't going to have a chance every time that starter takes the mound, suddenly the edge goes away. The problem with Morales isn't that he is bad, he's always had electric stuff. The problem is, he's never been able to corral his pitches. It doesn't matter if the count is 3-0 or 0-2, the lefty could let loose a pitch that catches so much of the plate that it gets crushed and changes the course of the game.
The Rockies have a great offense. They are one of the best teams offensively in the league. However, take a look at their stats and it becomes very apparent, sustaining the level of offense that they have put up in the early going of the season simply won't be sustained. At some point, Troy Tulowitzki won't be hitting .400, Charlie Blackmon won't be getting on base every single game three times. Justin Morneau will slump. The point is, the Rockies have leaned far too heavily on an offense that is putting up numbers that are way too ridiculous to be sustained, regardless of their talent level.
What that means is that at some point, the starting rotation is going to have to pick up the slack. Jorge De La Rosa and Jordan Lyles have already done their part. Jhoulys Chacin, making his third start of the season on Wednesday, will have to pick up some of the slack, Juan Nicasio is going to have to need to remain pitching well enough that the Rockies stay in the game when he is on the mound. The issue right now is Morales. He simply doesn't seem good enough to keep the Rockies in the game. He isn't reliable when it comes to getting the job done when they need it to get done.
In years past, the Rockies would already be in trouble. Losing Anderson and Chatwood would have spelled doom for this franchise. However, the 2014 Rockies have been built for depth. Morales is essentially a placeholder. The first two prospects that come to Rockies fans minds are Jon Gray and Eddie Butler. Those two are by far the Rockies two top pitching arms. However, the club can afford to call up other prospects as those two continue to develop.
Maybe it is time for the Rockies to give former No.1 draft pick Tyler Matzek a shot. With his career nearly de-railed in Single-A, the lefty has worked his way back and is pitching well for Colorado Springs. He has harnessed his control issues and seems to be figuring it out. It might be time to give him a shot.
Christian Bergman, part of the Rockies 2010 draft class, is also pitching well in Colorado Springs. His record sits at 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA. However, Bergman has been pitching lights out of late. He took the loss on Tuesday night in Oklahoma City after giving up just one run in six innings. It was the first run he gave up in nearly 22 innings.
Whether Bergman or Matzek are a permanent solution or not isn't the concern. However, they may be a better solution than Morales, and possibly even Nicasio until both Butler and Gray are ready to go.
Whatever the solution is, the answer certainly isn't Morales. This team has better options, or at least options that couldn't be worse than Morales.
If the Rockies are serious about contending in 2014, Franklin Morales cannot be trusted to start every fifth day.
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