The Colorado Rockies Pitching Mismanagement
Since the beginning of July, the Colorado Rockies have faced a plethora of problems. In fact, there are so many issues that the generally aggressive general manager, Jeff Bridich, stood pat at the July 31st trade deadline. One of the many problems the Rockies have faced, really all season has been inconsistency. Particularly with their pitching staff, and more specifically, the starting rotation.
Baseball, in general, has been a really tough year for pitchers with the increase in home runs. Whether or not that has to do with supposed “juiced balls” is a topic for another day. Regardless, the Rockies have not been able to hide from it, and it’s not because of the “Coors effect” either. It’s been inconsistency among pitchers and the inconsistency in who’s pitching.
For starters, the expected ace going into the year, Kyle Freeland, has not been close to ace material. Freeland’s situation wasn’t mismanagement. He ended up with his own problems that spelled disaster for the Rockies rotation from the beginning. Freeland started the year so poorly that he was sent down to Triple-A Albuqurque like Jon Gray last year. He wasn’t sent down due to how many wins and losses he had, or even to be able to get a fresh arm. He was sent down because of his lack of location. Freeland was consistently missing spots, notably missing towards the middle of the zone and giving up 16 home runs in his first 12 starts compared to just 9 in the same amount of starts last season.
The team reinstated Freeland to the 25-man roster after the All-Star Game in July. Since being reinstated, Kyle’s looked better, and a little more confident. No, he’s not all the way back to 2018 form, but he has looked better. Hitting the corners that he was missing consistently, and the home runs are coming off of better pitches are a big reason why he has looked better. While the Rockies have started to fall out of contention this season, Freeland’s continued growth is going to be an essential aspect to watch for going forward.
The first real mismanagement was bringing up 22-year old rookie Peter Lambert to replace Kyle Freeland. Lambert has some good stuff and will be a good major league pitcher. He owns a nice fastball and an inconsistent, but impressive, breaking ball. His debut was special enough to show the promise of his future. At the iconic Wrigley Field, Lambert pitched seven innings, allowing one run on four hits. Since then, he’s been up and down.
Lambert needed another year of seasoning in the minors. There is no doubt that this kid has potential, but it’s evident that he was brought up too soon. He generally has had slow starts, allowing a .325 batting average the first time through the order. He tends to settle in after that with a .255 average the second time through. Unfortunately, as a starter, starting fast is big for any pitcher, but it’s also about setting the tone for the team. The other thing that tends to develop in Triple-A is endurance. Lambert has struggled to get past the 5th inning; only working past the 5th only three times in his 12 career starts. Most importantly, there were other options to go with for the big club, but that was mishandled too, leading to Lambert getting the call.
The Other Options
The other options that have been pitching for the Rockies this season is where the biggest mismanagement lies. The Rockies’ fifth starter going into the year was Tyler Anderson. Anderson underwent season-ending knee surgery after his start on May 3rd. Thus beginning the carousel of different starting pitchers trying to fill the void left behind. Since that injury, the Rockies have employed numerous different tactics to get around it. They’ve gone with a four-man rotation and three different starting pitchers.
A four-man rotation is not the biggest issue, even if it is hard to sustain over a whole season. When you’re planning to use five guys heading into the year, it is hard to change direction so early. The more prominent form of mismanagement is using three different starters for one spot in the rotation, instead of just sticking with one pitcher. Pitchers are all about routine. Starters need to create a routine of going out every fifth day, going through workouts and recovery on their days off. It’s all-important to their performance and to their success.
When a team is consistently having to call you up and send you down, not knowing which team you’re going to be pitching for is difficult and can cause issues. It can also lead to confusion having to work with so many different catchers. Inconsistency is a pitcher’s nightmare.
German Marquez works exclusively with Tony Wolters behind the plate because he’s comfortable with him. The team has not given guys like Jeff Hoffman, Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Antonio Senzatela that luxury. That can lead to performances where they end up with ERAs approaching or above 6.00.
The Manager’s Role
Manager Bud Black is a former pitcher. It’s disappointing to see that he is allowing this to happen to these pitchers. He should know that inconsistency is a pitchers worst enemy. With the team more or less out of contention this season after an abysmal July and a slow start to August, it’s time to make changes to their approach. Alternating starts between Chi Chi Gonzalez, and Jeff Hoffman is not helping either guy. It’s time to bring up one guy and let him stay. Through the good and the bad, they can only grow. The season is basically lost so it won’t really affect the outcome on the season.
Inconsistency has Plagued the Season
Inconsistency across the entire roster and in all three facets of the game has really been the issue for the Rockies. Outside of two and a half (Wade Davis on the road) bullpen pitchers, the bullpen has been awful since May with 5.85 ERA. The offense has been up and down as well. Fielding has been average as they sit 17th in fielding percentage. Starting pitching has just been way too inconsistent and is the biggest culprit for this lackluster season. The back end of the rotation has been a mess since mid-May. Whether it’s been bringing up a rookie too soon or giving inconsistent starts to guys that desperately need consistency, this rotation has been mismanaged.
With the Rockies falling out of contention with no more expectations tethered to them, it’s time to give guys consistent opportunities. Let them have good and bad nights, that’s baseball.
Author Twitter: @zachgotlieb
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