Cuddy. Image: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Rockies Power Rankings: Week Of 5/6/13

Don’t look now, but the Colorado Rockies are sputtering a little bit. They lost a series to the Diamondbacks, won a series against the Dodgers, and lost a series against the Rays. With an 18-13 record and hanging on near the top of the NL West, it seems to me that winning a series this week is important to keep pace. Unfortunately that might not be so easy, which brings us to this week’s power rankings of the people, stories, and anything else that matters to the Rockies right now.

10. A wicked schedule this week

How about three games with the New York Yankees and then four games with the St. Louis Cardinals? Inexplicably the Yankees are 18-12. The Cardinals are the hottest team in baseball, sitting at 20-11 and having won their last 6 games. Also Colorado’s next day off is May 23rd. With that kind of stretch coming up, it’s a good thing that the Rockies upgraded their rotation by removing Juan Nicasio and Jeff Francis.

Wait, they didn’t? Nicasio and Francis are both scheduled against the Yankees at Coors Field? Well that will be…exciting.

9. Playing the San Francisco Giants seven times this month

Four times at Coors Field and then three back at AT&T Park. For my part I find it significant that they get a crack at the defending champs at home before going back to the scene of the bloodbath that was their series at the Giants last month. Hopefully the Rockies can punch back, make a little bit of a statement, and gain a little momentum before trying to snap their 100-game losing streak (approximately) in San Francisco.

If the Rockies want to prove that they belong, they need to start holding their own with the Giants. That has to start this month, because there won’t be much chance of coming back from a 0-10, 1-9, or even 2-8 record against the class of the division.

8. Michael Cuddyer‘s hot start

The importance of Troy Tulowitzki and his .348/.435/.663 production is assumed at this point. When he plays, the Rockies are scary. When he’s out, the Rockies are pretty good, bordering on pedestrian. But don’t forget the guy protecting him in the lineup in 2013. Presumably Cuddy has benefited from his return to the 5th spot in the order; it seemed like he labored last year when the team asked him to fill Tulo’s shoes in the cleanup spot. Cuddyer’s early numbers are a huge part of the team’s early success: .333/.400/.613. Those are big boy numbers, but we would be wise to remember that he is probably posting them, at least in part, because he is back in his role protecting Tulo in the lineup.

7. In defense of Jim Tracy

Confused? Don’t be. Just a quick clarification about who was responsible for the “paired pitching system” last season, in which starting pitchers were on a strict 75 pitch limit. With the Rockies returning to normal this season and pitching much better in the process, many have given Walt Weiss credit for moving away from Jim Tracy’s strict pitch limit. Here is the clarification: it wasn’t Tracy’s idea. Furthermore, he hated it just as much as Joe Rockies Fan sitting up in the rock pile. Check this paragraph from the Denver Post’s article about Tracy’s resignation:

Tracy showed signs that the job was wearing him down in May when the club spiraled out of contention, losing 16 of 20 games. The job became more challenging when the Rockies switched to a four-man rotation on a 75-pitch count with accompanying piggyback relievers. Tracy was never comfortable with the idea, and it showed as he struggled to articulate the plan from the outset.

So you can be relieved for Tracy’s departure for other reasons, but quit blaming him for the most egregiously embarrassing part of 2012. It wasn’t his idea. And if you want a reminder whose idea it was, I would refer you to this and this (hint: his name rhymes with Dill Reivett).

6. Joel Klatt’s objection to Rockies fans doing the wave

In case you don’t know who he is, Joel Klatt is a former University of Colorado quarterback who covers sports in Colorado. He co-hosts a local radio show in Denver in the mornings. Joel Klatt loves football. He also begrudgingly covers the Colorado Rockies, hosting the pre- and post-game shows on Root Sports Rocky Mountain. If you don’t believe me on the “begrudgingly” in the previous sentence, I would refer you to the fact that his active Twitter profile says he is a “college football analyst.” But to his credit, he came up big with this tweet the other night:

5. Alana Rizzo’s response to Joel Klatt’s objection to Rockies fans doing the wave

Rizzo used to be the sideline reporter for the Rockies telecasts on Root. She is good at what she does and she actually likes baseball (now works for the MLB Network). During her time working for Root, she was subjected to march madness style “food brackets,” George Frazier talking about food, and Jeff Huson. What I’m saying is: Rizzo is an authority on annoying things. So listen to her when she says to STOP DOING THE WAVE.

4. The return of Jhoulys Chacin

The Rockies rotation is teetering on the brink of being exposed. As long as Nicasio and Francis are with the Rockies, you can only trust three-out-of-five pitchers. That made Chacin’s return Sunday that much more important.

3. Rene Lachemann‘s dating advice

Lachemann had big shoes to fill as first base coach. And I do mean BIG, because Glenallen Hill, now the manager of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, is a hero of mine. But between the toothpick in his mouth at all times and this video, it looks like Lachemann might be up to the task:

2. Seth Smith vs. Josh Outman

With Guillermo Moscoso officially out of the picture, it is up to Outman to justify the decision to trade away the beloved Smith before last season started. Recently Smith spoke about why he thinks he is better against left-handed pitchers this season (hint: it was never his fault):

I hit left-handed pitchers well early on, and I actually feel pretty comfortable against them. It’s just always been a struggle to find those consistent at bats. For much of my career, I’ve gotten two or three at bats against lefties a week. As a result, I’d take an approach up there and if it didn’t work, I wouldn’t know if it was a bad approach or just that one at bat. Sometimes I’d go into the next at bat not completely sure.

Your approach against a left-hander is totally different. Your swing is your swing, but the fact that the ball is breaking away from you obviously factors in. You need at bats to stay on top of that. Right now I like my approach, and hopefully I can continue to ride it out.

This will always bug me about good ol’ Seth. Rather than acknowledge that he needed to improve his approach against lefties, he always always always blamed it on a lack of at-bats against them. Here are Smith’s career numbers, to date, against LHP:

2009: 58 at-bats, .259/.368/.500
2010: 52 at-bats, .154/.182/.212
2011: 92 at-bats, .217/.272/.304
2012: 70 at-bats, .157/.250/.271

So yea, it annoys me that he never owns it that he just struggles against lefties. Smith is hitting .345/.387/.455 thus far against LHP in 29 at-bats in 2013. But it will take a heck of a lot more than that and an interview about his approach before I will buy it. In the meantime, Outman just needs to keep up his 4/1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio; if he does that he has a good chance to level out his ERA and other numbers out of the bullpen.

And until either of them prove anything definitive, the winner of the controversial “SETH SMITH TRADE” is still undecided.

1. Nolan Arenado

You know.

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