Making Sense of the Dreaded Sunday Lineups


As one considers the gloomy situation that is the Rockies’ 1-3 start, there is plenty of blame to go around. The pitching is bad. The hitting is worse. Even the defense is bad. And of course, the dreaded Jim Tracy Sunday lineup reared its ugly head in just the third game of the season, leaving plenty of room for second guessing as the team dropped a heartbreaker to the Astros in the series finale.

It is easy to point to the sheer number of moves Tracy made this past Sunday and proceed to say: “See! He always over-manages!” And when a manager swaps out 5 (!) starters for his bench on the third day of the season, there is certainly something to be said for that. But let’s grant each move its distinctiveness, for the moment, and consider the actual reasons for each substitution in the Sunday lineup, both this past weekend and, more importantly, looking forward.

Jason Giambi in for Todd Helton

This move’s justification is the most obvious. The Giambino’s power is a real asset so it makes sense to get him regular plate appearances. The Toddfather’s back will not hold up without frequent days off. It is an easy decision, even if it is one you make with the knowledge that you give up a lot on defense. Besides, you always have Michael Cuddyer as a late innings defense replacement on Helton’s days off. Right guys? Eh eh? Anybody? Too soon?

Wilin Rosario in for Ramon Hernandez

Once again, it makes sense on multiple levels. You cannot play your catcher every day, and it often makes sense to send out your second catcher on the third game of a series, the day game after a night game. Add Rosario’s potential to be an impact player, and you will rarely get much of an argument against his getting a start. Even if he does try to pull every single pitch including offspeed pitches on the outside corner with a runner on 2nd and nobody out. Too soon? It obviously is for me. I’ll get over it, but I would sure like to see Rosario’s approach improve in a hurry (even with that gigantic and awesome home run). We don’t need a right handed Ian Stewart right after we traded Ian Stewart.

Tyler Colvin in for Dexter Fowler

As it was dispatched last Sunday, this move was admittedly confusing. For a team already grasping for offense after its inexplicable struggles against Lucas Harrell, it probably was not the day to try something baffling outside the box at the top of the lineup. But spot in the lineup aside, I am not opposed to this move. Fowler needs to turn things around in a hurry, and if playing Colvin serves as a reminder that his starting spot is not a given, I am all for it. You could also do a lot worse for a 4th outfielder after the power that Colvin displayed at the plate this spring. On the right day, Colvin for Fowler is OK, especially if Fowler enters the game late on defense.

Jonathan Herrera in for Marco Scutaro

When it comes to last Sunday, your guess is as good as mine. It really didn’t make sense. It eventually might work because Scutaro is a veteran, and after all, Dan O’Dowd warned us that depth would be important with an aging roster. But on Sunday? Yea, it was just idiotic.

Vinny Castilla in for either third baseman


OK OK…I just wish that would happen. Moving on…

Jordan Pacheco in for Chris Nelson

Really, it’s not clear at this point which is considered the member of the Sunday lineup. Presumably the two will continue to proceed in something like a platoon, with Nelson getting more time because the team will choose a black hole on offense over a black hole on defense. Let’s just hope that Nolan Arenado is not swapped out as part of the mass Sunday substitutions when he takes the job over in June.

Some concluding thoughts: Was it unnecessary to deploy the Sunday lineup in the third game of the season? Definitely. Is Jim Tracy a bit…er…ambitious when he boasts about the depth on his bench? Definitely.

But we would be wise to consider each move on its own before making a blanket claim about whether or not Tracy’s managerial hand is too heavy. Unfortunately, any attempt to do that only answers part of the problem; it is hard to be reasonable when all the changes appear on the same day. This all brings us to the final and obvious question: would it be a lot easier to take a step back, consider these moves on their own, and grant them their merits (when deserved) if Tracy would distribute them over a number of days rather than making them all at once?


Yes it would be! YES YES YES!

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