The Rockies are running out of steam and honestly, so am I. I usually feel pretty sluggish in August no matter what’s going on, a personal quirk that all my summer-loving friends never hesitate to remind me is more like a flaw. But when the team I love is phoning it in, it’s that much harder not to do the same myself. So if this weekly report is a little shorter and less enthusiastic than previous ones, I apologize. Although the shorter part might not be so bad. Verbosity = another quirk that is probably more like a flaw.
This week’s record: 3-3
I could go on and on about the Rockies’ feast-or-famine offense, but I won’t. I will say that the average person knowing nothing about the individual games who checked their stats would be very confused by their inability to win. They hit .259 as a team this week, 5th-best in the National League and well above the league average (.244). They’ve hovered right around .260 for the entire season, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that average. It’s just that they hit .400 in one game and .150 in the next, and there is something very wrong with that. Last night they collected just 5 hits after banging out 15 on Wednesday. They went 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position in Saturday’s game against the Cardinals, then went 1-for-8 on Sunday and threw up 8 goose eggs after a 2-run 1st inning. Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Todd Helton are all contributing more than their share, but the game stands or falls on the abilities of the secondary players, and they are choosing whether or not to show up as a group. They all hit below .300 this week, and it showed.
The Rockies’ struggles to score runs evenly over the course of a week seem to go hand-in-hand with their failure to run aggressively. They stole 3 bases this week and were caught once, so that’s only 4 attempts. I went to a minor league game in Boston today, and there were 4 steal attempts by the visiting Binghamton Mets alone. They had the exact same success rate as the Rockies had this week as well. Granted, the Portland Sea Dogs catcher wasn’t so swift on the uptake, but the point is that running is important. Smart running, which is also lacking. In Monday’s circus act, Dexter Fowler blooped a single into center with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th and inexplicably tried to stretch it to a double. Fortunately the Marlins’ infield mishandled it and he was not caught in a rundown, but he very nearly was. If he’d gotten himself out, it would have ended the game. I’m just tired of the shoddy stuff on the basepaths. It’s making me frustrated. If it wasn’t for Eric Young Jr., there would be hardly any base stealing at all. I’m very tempted to fail the running game, but … I’ll grade on a curve. Nobody did anything dumber this week than the week before.
Defense continues to be a semi-bright spot for the Rockies. They committed 3 errors this week, which is forgivable. The best part is, none of them belonged to Eliezer Alfonzo, despite the fact that he played in 4 games (he also hit .083, so hopefully Jim Tracy’s love affair with him is over). Jhoulys Chacin’s throwing error on a pick-off attempt was his 4th of the season, and I would definitely like to see him clean up his fielding a bit. Dexter Fowler was one of the culprits as well, but when he’s good he’s SO good that I want to let him off the hook. He made some amazing running catches that no other outfielder we have would have made. Seth Smith was the final error maker, and he certainly isn’t as impressive in right field as he once was. That’s all the bad news there is though. Chris Iannetta caught 3 batters stealing this week and boasts an impressive .999 fielding percentage for the season. And the infield turned 8 double plays. When the Rockies lose, it is almost never the fielders’ fault, and that’s something.
Starting Pitching: C-
Very uneven performance by the rotation this week. Jason Hammel pitched twice, once quite brilliantly against St. Louis, and once terribly against Los Angeles. He was just demoted to the bullpen today and, much as I like him, that seems like it was probably a wise move. His ERA for the week was 6.75. Esmil Rogers had a rough time on Sunday, which also happened to be his birthday. He allowed 7 walks in 5 innings pitched, which is pretty much abysmal. That helped him get to 107 pitches. Some pitchers throw fewer than that in a complete game. Kevin Millwood had a so-so start against Florida on Monday, allowing 4 runs over 6 innings. He wound up with a no-decision, but the thing that will keep him from success with the Rockies is tendency to give up home runs. He’s averaging more than 1 per 3 innings pitched, which is far and away worst on the team. Don’t get too attached to him; he won’t be here long. Jhoulys Chacin, on the heels of a phenomenal start in Cincinnati, was pummeled for 5 runs in 4 innings on Tuesday. Here’s how desperate our situation is: the best start of the week was had by Aaron Cook, who went 7 2/3 innings on Wednesday and allowed 3 earned runs, all 3 in the final 2/3 inning. Far better than anything that came out of the big-league club this week was the news from Tulsa: both Drew Pomeranz and Alex White had terrific starts for the Drillers. Help is on the way; White joins the team on Tuesday at Coors.
Relief Pitching: A
Much as the rotation struggled, the bullpen picked up the slack. They did not record a single loss or blown save this week. As a group, they gave up 5 runs in 19 1/3 innings, good for a 2.33 ERA. Very solid. Also, all 5 of those runs were given up by 2 pitchers. One, Edgar Gonzalez, had the gall to take Ubaldo Jimenez’s #38 when he was called up recently, and he allowed 2 runs in 2 innings pitched in St. Louis on Sunday. He was promptly designated for assignment. The other, Edgmer Escalona, almost ought to be counted among the starters this week, as he pitched 6 2/3 innings. 3 runs is probably 1 too many for that workload, but he has been very reliable as a longman when the starters have struggled. And everybody else posted an 0.00 ERA this week. I’m so pleased with what the pen has accomplished lately, and they’ve done it with Matt Lindstrom and Huston Street on the disabled list. Great stuff.
The Sunday thing is getting out of control. 17 in a row? I don’t even wish to speak about that, but I can tell you that it is severely hurting both morale and momentum. At this point the Rockies will be lucky to finish at .500, and if they’d won even a third of these Sunday games they’d be substantially closer to that goal.This Sunday’s loss was particularly horrible, since it occurred on national television and the Cards’ Octavio Dotel was named player of the game by ESPN. Dotel was with the Rockies for 8 games last season and posted a 5.08 ERA. In 1 2/3 innings against them in St. Louis, he retired all 5 batters in order, 4 with strikeouts. How the Rockies can let themselves be dominated like that by someone who shouldn’t have a prayer against them makes no sense to me. Also, here’s a random weird thing that happened: Bryan Petersen of the Marlins, in his second major-league season, has 3 career triples. He hit all three of them in the first two games of the Rockies-Marlins series this week. That’s just the kind of thing that happens to this team this year. Despite all this, the Rockies did achieve their first walk-off home run on Monday. It came off the bat of Jason Giambi, who hadn’t had a pinch-hit homer yet this season. I won’t comment on how long it took the Rockies to achieve this, I’ll just be happy that they finally did.
Overall Grade: C
Hitter of the Week: Carlos Gonzalez (.409, 3 HR, 3 2B, 7 R, 11 RBI)
Pitcher of the Week: Josh Roenicke (2 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K)