Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The wheels are starting to come off for the Colorado Rockies

Jhoulys Chacin looks like he loses his focus on the mound.
Who were we trying to fool? Ourselves? Fair warning, if you want something positive about the Colorado Rockies, you should find something else.

It has become an annual tradition in April and May for fans of the Colorado Rockies to humbly crawl back on the bandwagon. Hesitantly believing that maybe this is the year. Maybe the front office does have a plan. Maybe they actually do know what they are doing.

And as soon as the bandwagon fills back up, things start to get wobbly, the brakes start to smoke, and the wheels fall off, launching the loaded bandwagon back into the dust.

Sure, it is just two bad games. Two consecutive shutouts isn't something that is extremely rare. It probably happens to every team every year. The Red Sox, defending their World Series championship, just came off of a 10-game losing streak. Bad things happen to good teams. It is the nature of baseball.

However, for the Rockies, old habits die hard. In this case, the habit is believing that they cannot win on the road. It is accepting that they are going to lose and that sputtering to a 2-7 road trip is just something that they are going to have to accept.

If the Colorado Rockies ever want to win on the road, they have to start believing that they can win on the road.

A lackadaisical approach on Monday resembled the same one that they took a day ago in Atlanta. This team looks nothing like the team that battled back from four and six run deficits no more than a month ago. This team resembles the one that showed up from June on a year ago. A team that lacks focus and frankly, looks like they are going through the motions.

The lack of try-hard obviously falls on the shoulders of a stagnant offense after two straight shutouts. However, the performances from Jhoulys Chacin since returning from the disabled list suggest that he preferred to be there instead of on a big league mound. His efforts have been so maddening because he has such good stuff. He has legitimate No. 2 stuff. There isn't a rotation in baseball that wouldn't love to trot Chacin to the mound every fifth day. However, he lacks focus. When he wants to be good, he is good, but at times it looks like his mind wonders and he throws a get-me-over pitch.

Chacin allowed single runs in the 4th and 5th innings before giving up a two-run blast to Ryan Howard with no one out in the 6th to give the Phillies a 4-0 lead. He hit the showers after that home run.

The Rockies, especially with the injuries to Tyler Chatwood and Brett Anderson, are relying heavily on Chacin pitching the way that he is capable of pitching. He cannot be average, and he certainly cannot be bad. He has to figure out what he is lacking and figure out how to keep his focus on the mound like he was so good at in 2013.

Fingers can be pointed at Chacin, but when an offense strands runners in scoring position in five of the nine innings, it suggests that their plate approach is lacking significantly.

Comb through the game stats. The Rockies are back to their free-swinging ways. There is nothing wrong with firing at the first pitch. Often times that is the best pitch to connect on. However, there are times and places for that, and the Rockies are picking the wrong ones. When a pitcher just walked a batter, swinging at the first pitch is generally a bad idea. The batter should allow the pitchers struggles to continue instead of free swinging. Also, with runners on base, swinging at 2-0 counts is never a good idea.

What it looks like is that the Rockies are starting to press on the road. They are feeling the adversity and their struggles are starting to snowball. Instead of relaxing and knowing that they are going to get plenty of opportunities to win games, the Rockies seem to be feeling like every at-bat is going to determine who wins the game. Suddenly the grip on the bat becomes tighter and the ball that normally would be hit back up the middle for a single is popped up to the outfield because a batter is trying to do too much.

The Rockies are a talented team, but as was previously discussed, the success of this team hinged on this long road trip. The Rockies needed to prove to themselves that they are capable of winning on the road. They needed to show themselves that they can still put up runs in another team's ballpark. However, failing to win games, and failing to score runs has a far-reaching effect. Suddenly the Rockies now slip back into a mindset that makes them believe that they can't win on the road. With that belief, with that in the back of players minds, there is little to no chance for victory.

When that mindset takes over, suddenly the team starts going through the motions and doesn't believe they are good enough to get the job done away from home.

The Rockies had such a great start. They were playing well both at home and on the road. Getting into late May, the road trip gave them a chance to believe they could win away from Coors Field. Instead, it has proven that winning away from home is something that isn't going to be easy.

More than that, it confirms to the nay-sayers that it is the same old Rockies taking the field everyday. It is a bunch of guys who don't believe in themselves, and will ultimately crumble as the heat of summer rolls in.

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    The Rockies offense treats a sub-par pitcher, such as Kendrick, like a Cy Young candidate?
    The Rockies pitchers seem to pitch with fear like every batter that they face is Ted Williams?

    I am about ready to give up my optimism and hopes for the Rockies this year. They still aren’t mentally tough when they are on the road. They had an opportunity to gat a win against a, normally sub-par starting pitcher in Philly today but they fell flat. The veterans on the Rockies shouldn’t have such a mindset, especially with Cuddyer and Morneau because they are still somewhat new being with the Rockies. That being said, the manager and coaches cannot hold fault. It all lays with the players

  2. I am so tired of Walt Weiss and his high school approach to managing a major league team; leaving pitchers in too long because he wants to maintain their confidence - trying to be a player's coach. Also - if things are not working, change them. Leaving Rosario in the 6th spot when he is hitting less that 230; striking out or hitting into double plays with runners in scoring position is inexcusable. There is also a tool called the sacrifice bunt which Weiss appears to think is only meant to be executed by pitchers. Just once - I would like to see a little "fire" on the part of the manager rather than clapping his hands twice and looking like he is a deer in the headlights.

  3. I agree with you that the players are at fault because they, ultimately, are the ones that play the games. However, this lack of focus has been a problem for several years. During that time the players have changed. The one thing that has remained constant is the ownership and front office. They set the tone of the ball club. They set the attitude. They're lack of urgency to win and their acceptance of mediocrity are the reason the Rockies struggle like this year after year after year after year. In sports things begin with the front office. If you have a weak front office you will have a weak team. Occasionally you catch lightning in a bottle (2007) but it has been proven with the Rockies that good front office = good team.

    Recently the Diamondbacks added Tony LaRussa to their front office. The moment I saw that I said to myself "The Dbacks just improved their organization for the next 5-10 years". LaRussa is a winner. He'll set things in motion that lay the foundation for winning baseball in Phoenix. Mark my words. Signing LaRussa is something that should have happened in Denver. Now there is going to be another well run team to have to contend with for the Rockies. They better hope the Padres don't figure things out or they could be sitting in the cellar of the NL West for a LOOONNNNGGGG time.

  4. I agree that an incompetent front office is the main problem with this organization and that stuff rolls down hill. If an establishment has a bad manager, then all of the employees under that manager are going to be poor as well. The Rockies need a team president. If Kelly MacGreggor was still alive and at the helm of this team, I don't think that the Rockies would have ever gotten to be this bad.

  5. Seems like the better story line would be which reporter in the local media will predict the Rockies downfall first. Like it will assure you a vote for the sportswriters hall of fame (is that an oxymoron?).
    The Phillies gave up a No-No on Sunday. The Rockies are in the midst of another long road trip against non-divisional teams with one major injury. Better wait till June to see how the lineup shakes up, and you better wait till September to decide whether to write this team off. Just sayin....

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. O'Dowd. I wish you luck throughout the rest of the season.

  6. Not writing them off just yet but the upcoming schedule could be a make or break for them. After Philadelphia they head to Cleveland. Then it is home with Arizona, the Dodgers and the Braves. Coors Field may help them get right but for some reason the Dbacks always come to Denver and take a series from the Rockies. Then the Dodgers and Braves come in to town with their loaded pitching staffs. After that home stand is another west coast road trip with the Giants and Dodgers. Every Rockies fan knows the Rockies forget how to play baseball when they head to the west coast. The next month should hint at what type of team plays in Denver this year. Based on the past I hate to admit but I suspect it is more of the same. A pretender that had another fast start plays at Coors Field.

  7. This organization has great talent throughout their system, but the problem is and always has been a front office who seemingly sees very little need to make the moves necessary. The reasons for this could range from incompetence to complacency bred from steady fan attendance. Whatever it is, it is maddening to see them pass up on people like LaRussa and Girardi - when he was available - for management positions. Hurdle, Tracy, and Weiss will never manage their way into the Hall of Fame. Look at the winners like the Giants and Cardinals. It is easy when six guys are hot, but on a normal day they score a run her, two there, and you look up in the sixth down 5-2 to them and wonder how that happened. Well, their clubs bunt people over, execute hit-and-runs, pitch well, and play steady defense. It is the difference between mediocrity and greatness.

  8. It's Baseball people!!! They play 162 games in a season. Just because they lose a few in a row doesn't mean we throw everyone under the bus and start over. Be patient and see what happens. It's not even the All-Star break yet. woooooooosaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

  9. Let's put it this way.....the Rockies somehow finish at 81-81. During the season they lose just 10 games they should have won but...because of lack of execution they lost. If they were to win those games they go 91-71. That could get them a wild card or possibly an NL West title. If you lose "a few in a row" four or five times during the season you become a mediocre team. You do that a few more times and you're a loser. Every game means something. Details matter. THAT is baseball.

  10. The season shouldn't be seen as 162 games. Every team (besides the Lastros) wins 60 uninteresting games, every team (besides the Lastros) loses 60 uninteresting games. The outcome of the season hinges on the other 40: extra inning games, games where the starter has lousy stuff, afternoon games of long road trips, games where one correctly executed play changes an L to a W.