Rockies die with pitching

End Zone

| May 16, 2012

Deserving honor At last, Air Force All-American safety Scott Thomas (1982-85), later a decorated fighter pilot, has made it into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Still in it After playing 28 of their first 39 games on the road yet hanging close in their division, starting Thursday the Sky Sox play 20 of their next 28 at home.
On the brink With just a few minor roster tweaks and big-man help, the Denver Nuggets should be in position to go far in the 2013 playoffs.
Tough draw In a Mountain West vs. Missouri Valley men's basketball challenge early next season, Air Force will host rugged Wichita State on Dec. 1.

Here we are in mid-May, and for the Colorado Rockies, the prospects for this summer already look hopeless.

Already, the Rox have lost touch with the .500 mark. Their starting rotation has disintegrated. Their bullpen has let games slip away. They've even raided the Triple-A roster in Colorado Springs, hoping to find unexpected treasures.

Barely a month into the 2012 season, Colorado had confirmed all the apprehensive assessments about this team. There's plenty of offense on most nights, but not enough to outscore opponents feasting on the Rockies' sub-mediocre pitching.

Several statistics stood out through last weekend. Despite Colorado hitters ranking third in the National League and seventh in the majors in runs scored, the pitchers were setting off all kinds of alarms. Check out these numbers:

• They were last in the NL, and 29th out of 30 overall, in team earned-run average (5.10), and 28th out of 30 in runs allowed (181);

• They were worst in the majors in opponents' batting average at .289, light-years worse than the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers at .224;

• They also were 30th out of 30 in their WHIP ratio (walks and hits allowed per inning pitched) at 1.56, with no other team in their NL West division worse than 1.31;

• They had pitched no complete games this season, and stood 29th out of 30 in the majors for blown saves with eight.

• Their starting pitchers had produced only 12 quality starts — meaning at least six innings with no more than three earned runs allowed — also worst in the National League.

As if all that weren't enough, Colorado also rated 23rd out of 30 in team defense, thanks to 26 errors.

So what do those numbers mean? They tell me, once again, that the Rockies front office and coaching staff made many bad assessments going into, and coming out of, spring training. They were content in adding only an innings-eating starter, Jeremy Guthrie, who instantly became the No. 1 guy despite having a career record of 49-66. They assembled a staff so thin in spring training that Jamie Moyer, at 49 years old, made the team as a starter. (He's had some decent starts, but just one win so far.) Nobody seemed concerned with the bullpen, which suddenly became too thin and unproven.

Granted, Colorado is missing starter Jorge De La Rosa, who is rehabbing slowly from elbow surgery last year and lasted only one inning in a disastrous Double-A start last weekend. But when your overall statistics are this bad, it's unrealistic to think that one guy would make that much of a difference.

It also might be a reasonable explanation if the Rockies clearly were in a developmental mode, bringing along a posse of gifted young arms who might take the team far in 2013 or, more likely, 2014.

But that wasn't the mood coming out of spring training. The front office felt these Rockies were sufficiently stocked to become surprise contenders. (I didn't share that optimism, predicting a 76-86 record for 2012 in this space on March 29.)

Already, we've seen yet another promising young pitcher, Jhoulys Chacin, take a downward turn. Juan Nicasio has made an inspiring comeback from his neck injury last year, but still lacks a full repertoire of pitches. Meanwhile, newcomers like Alex White, Drew Pomeranz, Guillermo Moscoso and Tyler Chatwood have lacked consistency or direction.

This has come up before, but somebody has to blame pitching coach Bob Apodaca, now in his 10th full season with the Rockies. He has lasted through many ups and downs, but it's hard to understand how he can continue amid so many recurring stories of pitchers struggling and flaming out. Colorado has changed hitting coaches several times in the past decade, but not Apodaca.

Now the Rockies appear to have no other reasonable alternative. True, it might be harder to find the best-possible replacement during a season. But someone else with a fresh approach and attitude has to exist somewhere.

Somebody has to be accountable for the pitching failures. If nothing happens, though, at some point it's not about Apodaca anymore. It's about manager Jim Tracy and general manager Dan O'Dowd not making the tough decision.

routon@csindy.com

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Posted by longtooth on 05/16/2012 at 9:53 AM
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