Tuesday, August 12, 2014

With season in disarray, Colorado Rockies are playing selfishly

Corey Dickerson has been the lone bright spot.
Any married man knows, read one Nicholas Sparks book and you've read them all.

The Colorado Rockies and Nicholas Sparks have something in common. Change the names, adjust the storyline ever-so-slightly, change the location, and there is a new book to write, or a new game in which to tell the same story.

That has been the case for the Rockies since the middle of May. Injuries have figured into the story, but overall a lack of depth and a lack of talent has doomed the Rockies on a near-nightly basis. Winning at home has always been easier for the Rockies, but this team has taken their road struggles to a new level in 2014, something that is difficult to imagine.

This club, after losing on Tuesday night in San Diego, has gone 3-22 in their past 25 games away from Coors Field. Three wins in 25 opportunities is almost impressive. It is nearly as much of an accomplishment as it is an embarrassment.

On Tuesday night, the Rockies got something that they usually only get from Jorge De La Rosa. They got a start that allowed them a chance to be in the game. This time it was Yohan Flande who gave the Rockies a chance to win. He pitched six solid innings, giving up just two runs on four hits. He walked two and struck out two. If there was a night for Flande to pick up his first win, it was Tuesday. Unfortunately, the Rockies continued their poor offensive showing on Tuesday, which forced Flande's record to 0-5.

At the plate, the Rockies continued another disturbing trend. They struck out 10 times. Their strikeout rate continues to climb as they search for their offensive stride.

It isn't something that is too uncommon for a team that is hopeless in the standings and is playing out the string for the final seven weeks of the season. This is a team that hasn't had a chance since before the All-Star break. When that happens, focusing on winning baseball games gets harder and harder to do. Suddenly, wins and losses don't matter, but individual statistics do.

When the first thing that a team does when they hit the clubhouse after a win or a loss late in the season is to look at the standings, players are eager to win. When there is a chance to make the playoffs and every game matters, the way a team plays baseball is apparent. When a team has a chance to win, the guys at the plate have a plan. With a runner on base, they aren't afraid to drive the ball the other way. They work counts and foul pitches off until they get something that they want. They aren't looking to hit a home run every time they are at the plate, they are just trying to help move a runner around the bases.

On the contrary, when a team is hopeless, when players don't even look at the standings anymore because the loss column is creeping too close to 100 and there is no one below them in the standings, players start to get selfish.

When a team is out of the race, what is the point of looping a ball to the opposite field for a base hit when the next pitch might be a fastball on the inside half of the plate that they could drive? What does it matter if the runner on second base with no one out can move to third on a ground ball to the right hand side if that is going to decrease the batters' average? Why would a player sacrifice his own numbers in order to help a team win 65 games instead of 64? At some point, a player has to become selfish.

That just might be the case with these Rockies, who have quit shortening their swings with two strikes. They have quit trying to hit the ball to the opposite field. Instead, they are jumping out of their shoes at pitches, trying to pull everything, and generally getting fooled on off-speed pitches.

The biggest offender has been catcher Wilin Rosario. In a year when many fans expected him to take the next step, the Baby Bull as he is called in the clubhouse has regressed more than anyone else in purple pinstripes. Watching his at-bats is painful. The book is out on him that he is a dead-red fastball hitter. He is looking for a pitch on the inner-half of the plate that he can drive. So guess what? He never gets fastballs. Opposing pitchers continuously work the outer-half of the plate with soft stuff. Instead of adjusting, Rosario either flails at the pitch and misses it, or hits a weak ground ball to the left side.

When a team stops trying to hit pitches where they are at and starts trying to pull everything, nothing goes well. It makes things so much easier for the other team. Instead of having to work hard for outs, a pitcher just has to follow a simple formula, mixing in a steady diet of off-speed pitches that the Rockies won't adjust to.

The Rockies approach at the plate netted them with just one run on Tuesday night. The run came in the form of yet another home run from Corey Dickerson. Dickerson has been the lone bright spot on yet another disappointing road trip. His 16 home runs on the season give fans a reason to believe that he should be more than just a fourth outfielder, but instead should find his bat in the lineup on a nightly basis.

The misery continues for the Rockies on Thursday as they play a mid-afternoon getaway game in San Diego, with first pitch at just after 4:00 Mountain Time. After that, they head home to celebrate the greatest player in franchise history, Todd Helton for a weekend before watching their season spiral down the drain.

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  1. I agree, but cannot believe I am still wasting my time reading anything about the Colorado Rockies. I will never get those 4 minutes of my life back.

    1. It took you four minutes to read that? I've gotta quit writing long articles. Thanks for reading!

    2. I wonder that myself.... I've stopped watching games live and refuse to buy anymore merchandise until changes are made, but yet I still read every story about the Rockies

    3. The Rockies are that accident on the side of the road. It is horrible and disgusting, but you just can't take your eyes away from how they are going to make the train wreck worse.

    4. The clock will be moved back one hour in a few months.

  2. where's the local rage against this organization? how does monfort get away with this farce? some may say cooler heads should prevail, but I say for the crying out loud, hit the panic button already dick. fire yourself as team president and turn it over to a respected, proven baseball man. And then just get out of his way. PLEASE!

    1. Won't happen as long as Monfort is still raking in money hand over fist. We're a melting pot city so there will always be fans of the opposing team in the stands even if Rockies fans decide to protest.
      Although I wholeheartedly agree with your statement!!!!

    2. Local rage won't happen because a)enough people in Denver support the visiting team anyway and b)lots of 'baseball fans' in Denver are really more like Cubs fans used to be - more interested in 'going to the game' than in what happens there and reveling a bit in the victimhood/excuses (ooh- injuries - ooh- altitude-ooh-no one understands how difficult we have it) of having a losing team.

      Unfortunately, nothing will change until the Springs Sky Sox (different owner) gets sick of losing and low attendance and searches for an MLB affiliate that uses its AAA franchise for true development of prospects (rather than as a pure manipulated puppet that doesn't get the best prospects because otherwise it might compete for attendance). That could have a chance of drawing disgruntled Rockies fans away from Coors (rather than slipping in some 12-step program and going to Coors anyway) - and pull away some of the attention from residents who have a different team preference anyway.

      Otherwise, Denver is gonna have to wait until the Monforts sell.

  3. Great column. I think it fair to point out that Justin Morneau has remained a professional hitter through all of this. He is one guy that can be identified as having a plan at the plate every at bat. He shows game to game that he is willing to go the other way with pitches - to not just sit fastball and swing from his heels.

    Corey Dickerson reminds me of Seth Smith. It is obvious he can hit. Are the Rockies smart enough to transition him into an everyday player? I fear his potential will be wasted and he will turn into Seth Smith and be traded away. I also fear the Rockies will have their focus (wrongly) centered on Charlie Blackmon. Blackmon has been a surprise this year but, as a player, he is more of what we have seen of late than the All Star player from the first half of the season.

    The popular line of thinking with Jorge De La Rosa has been the Rockies MUST resign him at all costs. The reason being is that he knows how to pitch at Coors field. I don't buy that and I never have bought that. Jorge is a #3 pitcher AT best if he were on most other teams. Look at his road stats this year and you'll see the pitcher he truly is. Forget W/L record and ERA. Look at the ratio of strikeouts to walks. As of today, Jorge's ratio of strikes to walks is roughly 2 to 1 (K/BB). His home stats are 49 Ks to 22 BB (2/1 ratio). His road stats are nearly the same - 52 Ks to 26 BB (2/1 ratio).

    Now take a guy like Jon Lester. His K/BB ratio is 4 to 1. Not coincidentally all his other stats are better that Jorge's. IF YOU DON"T WALK PEOPLE YOU GIVE UP FEWER RUNS. How do you not walk people? Attack the strike zone. Pitch, not to contact, but to a hitter's weakness.

    Play the game at home as you would anywhere else. The altitude thing is a non factor. It is a condition that has to be dealt with - same as the wind at Wrigley or the heavy air at night in California. Both teams play in it - both teams have to adjust. The team that works with the conditions is the team that wins. I am sick and tired of hearing the talking heads at Blake street say what a problem the altitude is. The only problem is the mental psych out the pitchers get because all they hear about is the thin air and how balls travel farther and how breaking pitches don't break as much. All of that is BS. Play the game, execute your pitches, attack hitters, don't walk people. Simple. That mindset will translate to the road and, you'll find, the Rockies will play better on the road.

    It is perfect that the Rockies will be in the top portion of the league leaders in team offense. It would be perfect if they also lost 100 games. MAYBE then Dick Monfort will see that, even though they had injuries, they had a top offense - so injuries weren't the culprit. MAYBE he will see that, because of the injuries, depth is something that doesn't exist on this team. MAYBE he will see that pitching is the key to winning - it always has been and always will be. I doubt it, but you never know. If this season isn't evidence enough then I don't know what is.

  4. When you have an owner publically statse he expects his team to compete 2 out of every 5 years, he is a loser and that mentality is imbedded all the way down in this organization. Could you imagine if Pat Bowlen would have made a statement like that?