This week’s record: 3-3
What a curious week this was for the Rockies. Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki were mostly on the bench, nursing minor injuries. Carlos Gonzalez played, but not much and not great. The lineups were comprised primarily of utility players and September call-ups. There were hits and misses in both of those categories. Chris Nelson and Eric Young Jr. appeared mostly as pinch-hitters and were very effective in that role. Mark Ellis had a terrific week, hitting .429 and scoring 4 runs. Jason Giambi and Ty Wigginton were both just okay; Giambi collected 3 RBIs in Saturday’s game but none in any of the others, and Wiggy grounded into a double play with the bases loaded on Thursday, which is never okay with me. Dexter Fowler cooled way down this week. Kevin Kouzmanoff was already cool and chose to stay that way. And Seth Smith had an abysmal week. It’s a shame, too, because he finally got to start in 6 straight games, and he responded by getting 1 hit in 20 at-bats. As for the kids, none of them turned in so nasty a performance as Smith’s. Wilin Rosario was the worst of them average-wise, but he still drove in a couple runs. Tommy Field collected his first 5 major-league hits in this week’s games. And Jordan Pacheco had a fantastic week; his 10 hits led the team. As a whole, the Rockies’ .261 batting average was just fine, and so was their .424 slugging percentage. But, as usual, they front-loaded runs in their wins and couldn’t by one in their losses.
I’m actually quite pleased with the Rockies’ running game this week. That’s not to say there weren’t baserunning errors; of course there were. Perhaps most shamefully, Mark Ellis was tagged out at home twice in the same game. But, they stole 7 bases, and they were only caught twice. That’s a decent percentage. 3 of those 7 bases came thanks to EY, who swiped them all in Sunday’s game and scored 2 runs as a result. I wish we could find a way to fit him in the lineup more often, because his speed is so valuable. With this team struggling to score the way they are, it’s impossible to understate the importance of getting a runner into scoring position. EY does that for himself. Ellis also collected a pair of stolen bases despite the running errors. The fundamentals still need work, but it was great to see a team mostly devoid of veterans run decently well this week.
Patience is the word for defense over the final weeks of the season, as the young September call-ups try to find their rhythms. Tommy Field was a great replacement for Tulo initially, but struggled late in the week, making 2 very bad throws in Thursday’s game. Pacheco had a Bill-Buckner-style error in that game as well, and then it was like bad defense was contagious. Iannetta had 2 passed balls in that game, despite having only 6 up to that point in the season. Cargo and Fowler both made bad catches against the outfield wall, and Jhoulys Chacin messed up a rundown that otherwise would have been an out. It was a very sloppy game. The Giants went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position and still won. Besides that game, there were 2 errors in Saturday’s and 2 in Friday’s. The infield turned 5 double plays, which isn’t their best number. I think we just need to concede defense for 2011, since our quality fielders are mostly on the bench. 2012 is right around the corner.
Starting Pitching: B-
Oh Alex White. I’m not so sure you are as good as we were hoping. White has some very good pitches, but he has yet to use them to make outs the way we need him to. In his 2 starts this week, he pitched 10 2/3 innings and gave up 12 earned runs on 17 hits. He also allowed 7 home runs. It’s the homers that are killing him; he’s far worse than Kevin Millwood in that area. Speaking of Millwood, though, he has turned out to be perhaps the most solid member of our rotation. He doesn’t blow anybody away the way Chacin and Juan Nicasio have at times, but he also doesn’t melt down the way they have either. In Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee, he got himself a well-deserved win, allowing 2 runs in 6 innings pitched. I’m sold on Millwood. Esmil Rogers had a very good start, for him, on Tuesday, allowing 1 run over 6 innings, but ultimately got a no-decision. He also had plenty of traffic, as usual: 9 baserunners in those 6 innings. Chacin had another in a long string of tough outings in Thursday’s game against the Giants. He only struck out 1 but walked 4 en route to giving up 4 earned runs and 7 total in 5 2/3 innings. We need a hero! Thankfully, Drew Pomeranz pitched in Sunday’s game against the Reds, and he may just be that hero. It was his major league debut and he didn’t allow one single run. In fact, he only allowed 2 hits. He was pulled after the 5th inning because he’s on a short leash right now due to his recent appendectomy, but it was an absolutely dominant performance. There’s a lot of pressure on him because of how troubled our rotation has been this season, but he actually seems like he might be able to handle it. Drew made an otherwise terrible week almost okay.
Relief Pitching: A-
3 guys in the bullpen had terrible weeks: Matt Lindstrom only pitched 1 inning, but he used it to give up a walk-off home run to Ryan Braun in Milwaukee on Tuesday. Aaron Cook, making his first relief appearance since 2003, pitched an inning in Friday’s game against San Francisco and allowed 3 runs in that inning. And Matt Reynolds, who hasn’t had a good week in quite some time, posted an ERA of 27.00 this week thanks to giving up a run in the 1/3 inning he pitched on Thursday. These are small sample sizes though. Everybody else was brilliant. Jason Hammel was the only other reliever to allow a run, and he just allowed 1 over 4 innings pitched in relief of Pomeranz on Sunday. He struck out 4 and walked no one. For Hammel, that is a performance worthy of great pride. And the following relievers combined for 14 1/3 scoreless innings: Matt Belisle, Rafael Betancourt, Rex Brothers, Edgmer Escalona, Jim Miller, Greg Reynolds, Josh Roenicke, J.C. Romero, and Huston Street. As the average age of this team seems to have been cut in half this month, it’s nice that one group of guys isn’t letting their inexperience be a problem. Thanks bullpen, for outshining everybody else this week.
It’s no secret that the Rockies haven’t been very good at teamwork this season, but that’s especially been true this week as the team dynamic has been so fluid. That meant lowered expectations, but in truth they played about as well as they have all year. The same problems they’ve struggled with were there: scoring in bunches or not at all, pitcher meltdowns that made offense irrelevant, bad defense breeding. Alex White’s home run allowance is kind of terrifying. Cody Ross’s dominance of the Rockies on every level is nuts. But in the midst of all these things, it’s been encouraging to see what some of the kids can do. I’m especially impressed with Jordan Pacheco and, obviously, Drew Pomeranz. There may be hope for this team in 2012 after all.
Overall Grade: B-
Hitter of the Week: Jordan Pacheco (.400, 2 HR, 5 RBIs)
Pitcher of the Week: Drew Pomeranz (1-0, 5 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 0 ER, 2 K’s in his MLB debut)