|Juan Nicasio isn't a starter. He belongs in the bullpen.|
Thursday night's 12-7 debacle underscores exactly why this team doesn't have the means to make a run. It highlights all of the weaknesses that this team has and shows what the offensive outburst through the first six weeks of the season hid.
The question marks during the Rockies 2-7 road trip were about the Rockies lack of offensive production on the road. No one seemed to have an answer for why the offense goes dark when they leave Coors Field. When they returned home, that question may have actually been answered.
At home, the Rockies offense seems comfortable. They know that they can put up six or seven runs every night. When the starting pitcher gives up a few early runs, there is no panic. The club is able to keep their approach at the plate and whittle away at the opponents lead. Even if the bullpen comes in and gives up runs, the offense feels comfortable that they can score enough runs to overcome the pitching deficiencies.
When they head out on the road it is a different story. When runs aren't easy to come by, when base runners aren't prevalent, it is easy to imagine that it gets in the offenses heads. If their pitching is going to give up six or seven runs, then the offense can't afford to sit back and wait for a big inning. They know that the pressure is on them to score, and score a bunch.
With that in their heads, the offensive approach changes. Instead of being relaxed at the plate, the approach becomes a hack-and-hope method. The pressure isn't on the pitcher, it's on the batter to get hits and move runners around the bases. When the approach at the plate goes, so do the runs, and in turn, so do the wins.
Walt Weiss is taking much of the heat for the Rockies pitching woes. While he hasn't been the greatest manager, and his bullpen management has left many baseball people scratching their heads, to blame Weiss is making him the scapegoat. The guy simply has no one to pick from. While he continues to go back to the same useless arms over and over, the only other options he has are the likes of Nick Masset, a guy off of shoulder surgery, and LaTroy Hawkins, who has been terrible himself. The bullpen is made up of a bunch of guys who don't deserve Major League contracts. Weiss can't make the right pick if all of his options are bad choices.
Surprisingly, the Rockies still have their positive fans spouting out their praises. The ultimate Rockies fans point to this team being just three games under .500 and still within shouting distance. While it is still early June, the reality is, the Rockies aren't built for a run. A team that can go on a run has to have a light's out bullpen that can shorten games. They have to have the ability to throw out a lineup night-in and night-out that can confidently score runs both home and on the road.
This Rockies team is in trouble. How can anyone believe that they stand a chance after such a dreadful series against the D-Backs. This was supposed to change the momentum. This 10-game homestand was supposed to be where the Rockies regained their composure and got back into the race. The problem is, the first three games were by far the easiest of the bunch and they didn't just lose them, they got completely dominated. After their offense was shut down on Tuesday, their pitching absolutely fell apart on both Wednesday and Thursday.
The Rockies now face the unenviable task of playing their next seven games against the Dodgers and Braves. The Dodgers series will be a tough one, and the Braves pitchers dominated the Rockies offense two short weeks ago. A homestand that the Rockies needed to win at least seven games on will be a shock if they win five.
The next thing that will start to happen is for the Rockies to blame injuries. They will point to their starting pitching woes happening because of injuries to Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood. They will mention that Jhoulys Chacin was on the disabled list for the first five weeks of the season. They will say that any team missing three-fifths of their starting rotation is going to struggle.
The problem is, no one expected Jordan Lyles to have his early success. In fact, it is easy to forget that he wasn't on the Opening Day roster. He was recalled when it became apparent that Chatwood would need to go on the 15-day DL after his hamstring injury late in spring training. Lyles early success largely covers for the loss of Chatwood.
Anderson started 30 games in the past three seasons before coming to the Rockies. His injury was a fluke, but he has shown that he is prone to injury. To assume that he would make 30 starts probably wasn't a wise assumption. Even Chatwood, while he was very good last year, really doesn't have a track record that suggests that he could have been depended on to be the same dominant pitcher that he was the majority of 2013. He was good, but only threw 111 innings. To think that he could shoulder the load and turn into a No. 3 starter was probably assuming too much.
It isn't fair to say that the Rockies haven't been hurt by injuries, but the reality is, they have no answer for any of those injuries. They have painted themselves into a corner with lack of depth. Their only option was to call up a prospect, perhaps too soon to fill the void, or go with guys like Franklin Morales and Juan Nicasio, who frankly have no business starting every fifth day in the big leagues.
It's hard to believe that the Rockies aren't going to follow the exact script that played out in both 2013 and 2012. They are starting to follow the same path. Things are falling apart and there really aren't any answers. This is a team that is going to have to rely on their young pitchers, and hope for better next season. The hot start that filled everyone's hearts with hope was once again a false alarm.
This Rockies team isn't going to the playoffs, they aren't going to be playing meaningful games in September, and they will be lucky if they don't finish in last place in the division.
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