Friday, August 22, 2014

Time for the Colorado Rockies to change their model

Boone Logan had another horrible night for the Rockies.
A bunch of Luke Skywalker's and Darth Vader's went home bitter on Friday night.

While the Colorado Rockies seemed happy to sell extra tickets using a Star Wars Night gimmick, the play on the field looked all too familiar.

After a lackluster performance on the mound from starter Franklin Morales, the bullpen came in and did what they do best. They made sure that the Rockies had no chance to win the game. Besides the lack of ability to get outs, the Rockies pitchers main issues remain not giving up hits, but finding the strike zone.

For a team that prides itself in pitching to contact, the Rockies lead the National League in walks at their home ballpark. They walked nine Marlin batters on Friday night. When a team gives the opposition nine extra baserunners, the odds of winning that games are slim-to-none.

Dwelling on the game is pointless right now. Everyone who is still watching the Rockies already knows the issues. The starting rotation has one reliable member and the bullpen is beyond awful. The Rockies are a team that was built with no margin for error and the amount of error that has happened is a very long list.

At this point, as the season slowly drags to a conclusion, it is time to focus on what the Rockies need to change in order to be competitive.

The issue with a management group that has been in place before anyone knew if Y2K would be a true issue or not, and a principle owner that has been there even longer, the Rockies have watched the times change, but haven't mixed up their model for building their club.

At Coors Field, the ball flies off the bat and pitchers struggle to get their pitches where they want them. Since the park opened in 1995, and frankly, since the Rockies came into existence, the model was to take advantage of the thin air and build a team that is stacked with quality hitters. The focus has always been to win games in football style, with the goal being to score a touchdown and a field goal and only allowing the opposition to score a touchdown, winning games by the score of 10-7.

For years that model seemed to be the only one that would work at Coors Field. Consistently teams would come to the Mile High city and watch their ace get blown out of the water. They would also see the Rockies ragged bullpen trying to get the team through nine innings after a starter was lucky to get through five innings night-in and night-out.

The problem is, while that model seems like it was the only way to do things in the 90's and early 2000's, the game and the park have changed extensively. Without presuming guilt over anyone in the Rockies clubhouse, the Mitchell Report, which called out at least one player from every franchise for performance enhancing drug use in the early 2000's, was damning to an era that saw the ball flying out of nearly every park, whether it was Coors Field or elsewhere.

The reality is, part of the reason the ball was flying out of the park so frequently was because of the thin air. However, another reason was because the players were juiced.

The other factor is that the Rockies did to neutralize Coors Field was to install the humidor. That eliminated the ball drying out and not only being difficult to grip, but also made it heavier, keeping the ball in the ballpark just a little more often.

The Rockies and Major League Baseball made moves that helped change the game and the way that things played out at Coors Field. However, the Rockies kept their model the exact same, building lineups to mash the ball out of the park while disregarding the pitching.

Times have changed, and it is time for the Rockies to get with it.

Instead of trying to build teams that are all-hit, no-pitch, the Rockies need to flip it around. Who cares if they play at Coors Field? The Rockies should adopt the model of both teams that play by the bay in California. Both the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's first priority is to build a starting rotation that can go deep into games. Then, they build a bullpen from the back to the front with guys who have power arms and throw strikes.

While the offense is fun to watch at Coors Field, the reality is, baseball in late August when the Rockies completely out of the race isn't fun to watch at all. It doesn't matter if Nolan Arenado logs four hits, as he did on Friday night, no one cares anymore. They are focused on the Broncos and whether or not their backup quarterback was a good pick or not.

The Rockies should look at Jorge De La Rosa, the one guy who has figured out how to pitch in Denver. Remarkably, since his return from Tommy John surgery, the lefty is 19-3 in the Rockies home park. He knows how to get it done at altitude and he isn't intimidated by the park.

The reality is, the Rockies will have to draft and develop guys who can pitch, but that needs to become their priority. They need to put less focus on bringing in guys who can hit, like Michael Cuddyer and Justin Morneau, and find quality arms in their system that they can develop, and eventually sign to deals that they can afford because the business model allows it.

Will guys get blown up at Coors Field? The answer to that might not be so obvious. Coors Field is certainly a great place to hit, but is the reputation what it is because the Rockies have always had a team that can crush the ball? Is the reputation in place because the Rockies have always had a pitching staff that consists of several pitchers who don't belong on a big league roster?

Maybe if the club finds arms that can actually pitch, the reputation might change.

The conclusion is that what the Rockies are doing, and what they have been doing for so long isn't working. The front office has tried to figure out how to win by going with unconventional idea after unconventional idea. Maybe it is time to go back to conventional thought, but just switch the style in which they try to build. Maybe the Rockies don't need to try and be outside the box thinkers, instead, going back to the basics, but focusing on pitching.

The Rockies model of mashing the ball and outscoring the other team might be fun, but when the pitching staff walks nine batters in one game and watches the bases get loaded eight times by the opponent, it doesn't matter how many great hitters are in the lineup, winning is going to be difficult.

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  1. I get what you're saying about "changing the model" away from the theory of an all-hit, no-pitch team to take advantage of Coors'. What about getting guys that can field a baseball or run the bases? How about guys that can hit everywhere, not just at Coors or just against lefties? Is it too much to find guys that won't strikeout 30% of the time or have the patience/vision to draw a walk? Despite the "theory", the Rockies actually have an occasionally-hitter, few-fielders, JV-coached, no-pitch team. Yeh, it's that bad.

    I recognize the thinking behind "looking at DLR" as someone who's succeeded at Coors, but before Jorge, it was "look at Cook". What about Jimenez' exploding fastballs? What about Marquiss or Fogg's pitching savvy? There is one way to succeed at Coors - be a good pitcher. The FO has this thing about "everything down and over the plate" which they believe translates into low pitch counts through contact. They're damned fools.

    There's so much wrong with the Rockies, no suggestion, theory, direction or examples could do anything. This is compounded by the fact management thinks they're doing everything right. It's a complete slash - burn - rebuild mostly focused on the front office, but also the organization's culture, assessment and development of players, roster and pitching theory, coaching and coaches in Denver on down through the farm, scouting directives and procedures, advertising and marketing, etc, etc.
    Burn it all, get out the marshmallows, toast to memories and start anew.

    1. Exactly, Start Over!! They can't even play .500 ball at home, and this BS about de la Rosa having a 44-14 record at home, who CARES!! he's under .500 on the road!! HA!!! Get with it!!

    2. Yes, but if your offense barely scores on the road, most of you pitchers will have losing records on the road...

  2. I agree it's time to focus on pitching. The problem with that is the current administration has an awful record on developing pitching.

    1. It's more than "an awful record on developing pitching", it's their consistent ability to destroy good pitchers via their coaching and system. It's not the altitude, it's them.

      Imagine I said, "Bolt runs with a certain form. If I run with that form, I'll be that good." You'd be completely correct calling me a damned fool.

      The Rockies pick out DLR and Cook as examples of successful pitchers, then conclude their use of sinkers is what made them good. Wrong! Their good pitchers that happen to use sinkers. There have been a lot of successful pitchers at Coors, mostly from opponents, and all with their own approach. The commonality is good pitching, not GO/AO, HRs, GIDP, etc. That the Rockies focus on such irrelevant metrics at the expense of good pitching is what makes them damned fools, destroyers of and inability to produce talent, and eternal losers. There's no cure for stupid.

  3. Maybe the scouts cannot evaluate pitching talent? How many times have the Rockies drafted a pitcher that has had an impact for the Rockies or any other team? I think the Rockies farm system is loaded with can't miss pitching prospects that are still missing.

  4. The Detroit Tigers walked 9 Minnesota Twins batters last night and they lost the game to the Twinkies, 20 - 6. The Tigers pitching staff stunk yesterday as did the Rockies staff.

  5. The season is lost, but last night was disgusting. The .500 Marlins took pitch after pitch and were rewarded. If the Rockies could swing 3 times at one pitch in order to get out, they would. I really like the baby Rockies. I think a lot of them have potential. It's the recycled Morales and those horrible relievers that they insist on bring up from the minors over and over again.

    BTW, there weren't THAT many people at the game. It was also so subdued, it looked like a Star Wars funeral.

    I think the 2+ month bad streak might finally be catching up with ticket sales? I hope so. That's the only way to shake up this organization.

  6. One person said he really liked the baby Rockies. Has he looked at the Colo. Sprgs club, they are just as bad as the home team, and in last place. Face the facts Cargo is done, and we are stuck with Tulo. Nobody is going to pay him, as it is a BIG fact, He is injury prone, and can't play a full season. Moving him to first base won,t help, a lot of his injuries, come from the fact, he is running.
    Best thing about the Rockies, we have the best third baseman, in all of baseball, come all. No sue complaining about the owner. he doesn't care what you think. Still think, take one ballgame, completely boycott it, then maybe he might listen.

  7. The Stars Wars Theme night is a gimmick that the Rockies borrowed from their AAA Sky Sox team. It's a nice minor league gimmick, since in the minors the owner of those teams, whom they have a development contract with the Rockies, only make money on selling seats. It's no surprise that the Sky Sox have a losing record since most of their good AAA players are playing in Denver. Which brings me back to the point, the Rockies don't need gimmicks and promotions like a minor league team to sell seats, they need to put a competitive team on the field, I hope that after this season, the corporate suites don't renew and the seaon ticket holders find other ways to spend their hard earned money until the Rockies blow up the model, the Ownership, the Front office and most of the entire staff throughout the organization. If the current group can't figure out how to win since 1993, then it's time for the paying fans to revolt. That's the only way the Rockies will change if people stop coming to the games... Just because you build a really nice ballpark doesn't mean that people will keep coming to see a losing organization. "People will not be coming Ray, people will definitely stop coming"

  8. We are watching the Sky Sox at Coors Field. Why all the injuries? Why the lousy pitching and no bull pen? I'm not going to a game until this broken system gets fixed.

  9. I disagree that the Rockies haven't tried to develop and/or import good pitching. After what happened to Mike Hampton, I don't think we can get a quality starter to come play at colors field 20 times a year. It's not that pitching at altitude is hard, it's that pitching at altitude, THEN trying to pitch at low altitude is hard. Because breaking balls break a little different at altitude, our pitchers are constantly trying to tweak their mechanics, which ends up screwing with their heads. It's one thing if you are an opposing pitcher who only has to pitch here once or twice a year. Your pitches either work or they don't. You may take a beating, but you move on to the next game. JDLR is the perfect example. He is disciplined enough to keep his mechanics consistent for Coors field, but he gets shelled on the road. I'm not sure how you solve that problem...maybe you exclusively draft and develop hard sinkerball pitchers. If you developed a fast defense oriented team who can cover the cavernous alleys at Coors, maybe they could compete. But as far as I can tell, the Rockies have NO unified strategy for developing ANYTHING. Every year seems to be a wing and a prayer that THIS will be the season that Cargo and Tulo stay healthy for 150+ games. When it doesn't happen, management has a built in excuse. It's worked for the past 4 seasons, but it looks like the fans are finally catching up.

    1. You solve that problem by splitting your rotation into home/road - not a rigid 'five-man rotation' with backup starter-onlys at AA/AAA . Two starters open and close each home stand - pitching on four days rest - and they are then available for emergency long relief in the middle of a road trip. Two starters open and close each road trip with the same emergency relief role on home stand. And you then have two-three starter/reliever/swing/backend/young pitchers to fill in the starting gaps, eat up relief innings (esp low leverage and extra innings games and early exits by the other starters).

      That way only TWO of your starters really need to be Coors-developed. The two 'mainly-road' pitchers can be traditional aces/#2 types - or pitchers with a repertoire that doesn't work well at Coors - or pitchers whose trade value is being boosted (since our road schedule is in VERY pitcher-friendly parks compared to all other MLB teams). And that can dramatically change the number of runs we end up needing to win on the road. With seven starters available to fit into the schedule, we will dramatically reduce the compulsion to try to get 200 IP's (and risk injury and playoff - hahaha ok in theory - burnout) from starters) - and eat up gobs of innings in multi-inning relief rather than burning out gobs of relievers in one-out one-inning stints. We will have enough starters to actually play the 'matchup' games with our starters (ie if Team X has trouble hitting curves or righties, then start your righty curveball guy in one game in that series) - from the beginning of a game rather than in the late innings where it is - too late to be effective. And with fewer one-inning one-out guys on the roster, they get limited to higher-leverage roles and don't get burned out in low-leverage garbage time appearances.

      Unfortunately that strategy itself involves a complete overhaul of the FO and manager. A FO that stops trying to 'develop all pitchers for Coors' and instead simply 'develops all pitchers own natural strengths'. And a manager who focuses on managing pitching between games (rotation scheduling, relief/readiness, short-term pitcher assessment, etc) rather than micro-managing pitching during a game. Which means - it won't happen.