Results tagged ‘ Recaps ’
Well, so much for the momentum theory. I would love to see what the Rockies’ record is historically the day after they score more than 10 and win by more than 5. It seems to me as if they tend to lose more often than not, but I have absolutely no evidence to back that up. This season they’re 4-4 but the sample size is pretty small. If you drop the "scoring 10" requirement they are 8-9 after wins of five or more. I have no idea whether this is significant or not, I just felt a sudden urge to give myself a migraine peering at the season results pages.
Mike Esposito certainly didn’t embarrass himself in his major league debut but his numbers don’t bode particularly well for the future: 10 baserunners (seven hits, three walks) in five innings, only one strikeout (of Ramon Hernandez). There’s a reason why John Sickels faint-praised this guy as a "utility pitcher." In any case J.D. Closser’s wasted season reached perhaps its nadir when Clint Hurdle elected to use him as a pinch runner. Despite the fact that Danny Ardoin hit his fifth homer for the Rockies, the fact that he continues to get the bulk of the starts at catcher baffles me. Ardoin will still be a .240 hitter next year. Closser could be much more, but the Rockies have basically punted a year of his service time away because as a last-place team they’re worried about basestealers. At Coors Field.
You’d think Closser would at least get a start when Jamey Wright, one of the best righthanders when it comes to holding runners on in the majors, goes for Colorado, but no, Ardoin started yesterday. You’d think the one good thing to come of the Monferts’ inexplicable confidence in Clint Hurdle would be the guy managing with the team’s long-term growth in mind, but no. Hurdle’s driving motivation as a leader seems to be not making himself look bad. This is not the attitude for the field general of a young team to have.
Look at guys like Ozzie Guillen or Ken Macha. Ozzie challenges people to tell him he’s wrong. He’s named Bobby Jenks the closer and has stuck with Joe Crede at third even though the "safe" thing to do would be to go with vets Dustin Hermanson and Geoff Blum. Macha benched Scott Hatteberg in favor of Dan Johnson and bravely threw rookie Huston Street right on the fire. (On the other hand, Macha has fallen victim to the worst sort of "proven veteran syndrome" when it comes to Jason Kendall, who is playing nearly every day and having a career-worst season while the capable switch-hitting Adam Melhuse has seen less action than Yankees backup John Flaherty. Nobody’s perfect.)
Today’s big news, outside of the pennant races, was that Lou Piniella is jumping his contract in St. Petersburg. This should come as a surprise to no one. There are some managers out there who are just constitutionally unsuited to helm rebuilding projects. (Dusty Baker springs immediately to mind, although I would be very interested to see what Joe Torre could do with a team like Kansas City, not that that would ever happen.) If you’re going to fly into an uncontrollable rage every time a rookie misses a sign, airmails a cutoff man, or slides headfirst into first base (this last one maybe not so much, it personally drives me nuts), maybe you would be better off working for ESPN. Think of your blood pressure.
This is amazing: with the Angels and A’s locked in a death struggle for the AL West and the Indians and White Sox in extra innings, my eyes were locked on one bad team beating another bad team 17-1. Why? Because a position player was pitching. I love when position players pitch. Does anybody else remember Mark Grace on the mound doing a Mike Fetters impression? One of my favorite regular-season baseball memories ever. Sean Burroughs showed slightly better stuff than Grace, but allowed Matt Holliday’s sixth, seventh, and eighth RBIs in the form of a big fly off the leftfield foul pole. What a game!
Seriously, you have to read the box score to this game. It’s a work of art. The Padres used 21 players! Every position player on the Rockies except J.D. Closser scored at least one run! The Rockies (in addition to the club record-tying eight from Holliday) got 4 RBIs from Luis Gonzalez and 3 from pitchers! Colorado scored 15 runs in the first three innings! Jamey Wright allowed only one run in six innings pitched! Insanity!
It’s games like this that make me shake my head (further) at those who think the Rockies "can’t win at altitude." Indeed, in addition to the simple statistical record, Colorado ought to have a huge psychological advantage at home. They don’t need to overpay for "sluggers" to blow people out. The Rockies had 23 hits, but "only" four home runs. They won in both of my beloved categories, but not by much (three walks to the Padres’ two, six strikeouts to San Diego’s seven). But mostly, they put the ball in play and let the field do the work. Meanwhile Jamey Wright didn’t hurt himself needlessly (two walks and no home runs allowed) and by pitching effectively for the first three innings, he received the reward of a cartoonishly huge lead which let him cruise for the rest of the start.
Colorado only had to use three pitchers in a 21-run Coors game. While winning games 15-14 may ultimately be more trouble than it’s worth, watching both sides of the equation work the way they’re supposed to ought to carry over for longer than one victory. Or maybe they’ll get hammered tonight, who knows. In any case, last night was solid theater. Who needs the humidor?
Another disheartening loss Saturday (Zach Day: not good), the much better news Sunday of an Aaron Cook complete game. What’s the difference between these two groundball pitchers? Well, Day is the one with the semi-decent strikeout rate (5.73 per nine), but Cook’s WHIP stands at 1.39 to Day’s 2.45. Day has walked 32 guys in 47 IP (including his time in Washington), Cook 8 in 46.2. That’s a pretty big difference.
Annoyingly, Danny Ardoin was 3 for 3 on Saturday. Ardoin hitting .240 in nearly a full season as a starter for Colorado is a complete embarrassment. 31-year-old catchers do not spontaneously generate extra base ability. Nor do they suddenly morph from career minor leaguers to legitimate major league starters. The choice between 25-year-old J.D. Closser and Ardoin should have been no choice at all. Closser’s defense can get better. Ardoin isn’t suddenly going to grow offensive value. Ever. Shame on you, Clint Hurdle. Now that Ardoin is a Proven Veteran, there’s nothing to stop him from doing it again next season, either. Argh.
Other good signs from the weekend: Clint Barmes had multi-hit games Saturday and today. Matt Holliday continues to hit doubles where last year he would have singled. Cook only walked one guy in nine innings, bless him. The Rockies’ hitters only struck out three times to Arizona’s five. That’s the stuff, guys. That’s the stuff. Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, and Luis Gonzalez are a better 4-6 combo than the Rockies have had all year. Cory Sullivan continues to hit better, but by no means should he be guaranteed the starting spot in center for next year.
Colorado is 57-85 with 20 games remaining. That means they’re (probably) not going to lose 100, which is sort of an accomplishment considering their tiny payroll, litany of injuries, and serially inept field managing. If the current group was healthy and intact for the whole season, could the Rockies have pushed for .500 (and incidentally a division title)? Probably not. It’s only due to injuries that many guys have gotten the chances to succeed that they have (Brian Fuentes, Byung-Hyun Kim, Gonzalez). Had injuries not given him a reason not to, Hurdle probably would have kept lobbing Jason Jennings and Jamey Wright out there to lose games all year. Ditto Aaron Miles. I don’t think much of Clint Hurdle. Or Danny Ardoin.
Win four in a row, lose three in a row. It’s that kind of season. Except for the winning four in a row part, that hasn’t happened very often. What’s distressing about the last two losses to San Diego and Arizona is that the offense that’s supposed to be back with Barmes and Hawpe, isn’t. Granted, Clint didn’t play on Friday and Brad didn’t play yesterday, but neither did much when they did play (0 for 5 for Barmes, 0 for 4 for Hawpe). With Todd Greene available, why is Danny Ardoin even still wearing a uniform? I hate Danny Ardoin.
It’s at this time of the year when it’s easy to let one’s attention sway from Colorado baseball. The Premiership is heating up, and somewhere in between three solid hours of commercials I believe they snuck an NFL game on TV Thursday night. But we’re following this thing to the bitter end, and after the Rockies are mathematically eliminated will we have a few things to say on the subject of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, if you’ll excuse me, I have a wedding to attend. I haven’t worn a tie in over a year and I must say it doesn’t suit me. I hereby give the Rockies permission to win in my absence.
How about this? The Rockies are on fire! After yesterday’s victory in San Diego, Colorado has won four in a row and 11 of their last 15. Beware, Arizona! Fourth place is not safe.
What has cued the Rockies’ recent success? Well, having several guys who can hit behind Todd Helton in the lineup (Holliday, Hawpe, Atkins) doesn’t hurt. Collecting tons of walks (ten yesterday) is another good sign. Aaron Cook after a shaky start is really proving worth the wait as he collected another win. Brian Fuentes continues to be as good as money in the bank.
Of course, beating $15 million man Chan Ho Park is not terribly difficult these days. And Padres catcher Miguel Olivo did his best to hand the game over with a pair of errors. Still, it’s at times like this when you think maybe with a real catcher and one more starter, the Rockies could contend next year instead of in ’07 or ’08. If at all. One side benefit of the lopsided September schedule is that we’ll leave this season with a good memory having played mostly awful fellow NL West teams down the stretch.
How about those A’s storming back from a 7-3 deficit with five runs in the bottom of the ninth earlier today? And did you see David Ortiz’s homer last night? Wow, there’s a guy who understands the meaning of The Big Stage. With two (maybe three?) interesting division races, the American League has it all over the National right now. The Braves and the Cardinals are good but boring, the NL West is a horror show, and no one seems to want to win the wild card race. It could all change in the blink of an eye, though. That’s what September’s all about.
In case you’re keeping track, we’re rooting for the A’s, Red Sox, and White Sox. All of our National League teams have been eliminated (unless Barry Bonds does something magical), but we are keeping an eye on the Brewers’ quest for .500. If I had to pick a team in the wild card race, I’d put the good word in for Florida, since Dontrelle Willis is so much fun to watch. I reserve the right to change my mind whenever I feel like it, though.
Lloyd McClendon was fired as manager of the Pirates. That makes Clint Hurdle the last manager of a last place, non-contending team who hasn’t either been fired (McClendon, Tony Peña, Dave Miley) or is trying actively to leave (Lou Piniella). While I have often despaired this year of Hurdle’s insistence on managing the team as if their won-loss record mattered, and his botching that goal besides, the Rockies are realistically too far away from bringing on the manager with which they’ll next win. Why hire the right guy only to have to fire him in two years because Dan O’Dowd doesn’t bring in the players he needs?
On the field, meanwhile, things are looking up. Having Clint Barmes and Brad Hawpe back means the Rockies have a major league player at nearly every position, except catcher and center. Barmes had two hits in the extra-inning win Sunday; Hawpe along with Garrett Atkins homered in the blowout on Saturday. The Rockies drew nine walks on Saturday against an erratic D.J. Houlton and the soft(er) underbelly of the L.A. pen. That warms my heart. They also left 11 guys on base, but if they had 22 guys on altogether, that’s acceptable. Although he only needed to go five innings, another win for Byung-Hyun Kim.
On Sunday Zach Day was solid and the Rockies tagged Edwin Jackson for six earned, led by a Matt Holliday home run. But Jamey Wright, removed from the rotation as he is, still lurks in the bullpen, and sure enough he, Randy Williams, and David Cortes could not secure a four-run lead. Cory Sullivan doubled to lead off the tenth. (He’s been playing great ever since I started dumping on him. I should have started dumping on him earlier.) Todd Helton was predictably given four balls. Holliday struck out, but Hawpe was there to get the man home and secure the win. That’s a sweep. Wow, and I was feeling pessimistic about this series. You live and you learn.
San Diego, in San Diego (again) tonight. I don’t think there’s much to be expanded on what I’ve already said about the Padres and the NL West in the last few weeks so write your own preview. It’ll be Aaron Cook and Chan Ho Park, then Jeff Francis and Adam Eaton, and Sunny Kim and Brian Lawrence. Park and Lawrence are crummy, so the Rockies should be able to take at least two, and Jeff Francis has been known to do his best pitching at PetCo. Two sweeps in a row? You know, if not for April, the Rockies wouldn’t just be winning the division, they’d be running away with it.
It’s always a good day in baseball when your two favorite teams win by a combined 23-3. Man, watching Al Leiter pitch in Oakland last night was hysterical. I mean, it’s sad to watch a former great at the end of the line, unless he plays for the Yankees. Then he deserves whatever he gets. Watching A-Rod trying to fake sympathy during a mound conference for Leiter, who didn’t make it out of the first inning, was pretty funny too. Sometimes I think Alex Rodriguez is a robot programmed only to hit meaningless home runs in blowouts and swat impotently at cornrowed Red Sox pitchers. That wouldn’t explain the ugly error made on a ball hit directly at him last night, though.
But enough about my fantasy life where I’m still living in Berkeley and in the thick of another A’s pennant race. The Rockies somewhat surprisingly took the pipe to Jeff Weaver as Clint Barmes and Brad Hawpe eased back into duty. Hawpe had two hits. Todd Helton (pretty good, this Helton guy) homered twice and Matt Holliday had another good game. I’m not sure were I Clint Hurdle I would have hit Barmes leadoff in his first game back (0 for 5), but Cory Sullivan reacted extremely well to the two spot (a hit, two walks, and three runs). J.D. Closser and Aaron Miles had good games as well. Please, don’t allow Aaron Miles’ batting average to impress you. A guy with 16 extra-base hits in 296 at-bats is simply not good in any imaginable scenario. Miles’ isolated power (slugging minus average) is .074.
The Colorado-Colorado State game ended up being very compelling, even if I wasn’t happy with the ending. Who decides which early national games go on ESPN and ESPN2 out here? Illinois and Rutgers? I ended up watching a World Cup qualifier between Sweden and Romania all morning.
If you follow a bad baseball team long enough, you can start filling in the box scores just from hearing the finals…when Colorado loses a medium-scoring game to Jeff Fassero, you know there were lots of runners left on base (12), lots of strikeouts (nine), and the starter was probably decent but not quite good enough (Jeff Francis gave up six hits in six innings, but four of them were solo home runs). As I have been paying close attention to lately, the Rockies’ offense did outwalk the Giants’ 4-2, but I have it on good authority that the Giants’ lineup is all brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop every night.
Good game for J.D. Closser anyway (a single, a walk, and a double). Hurdle hit Todd Helton second, which is sort of novel. Cory Sullivan is still hitting leadoff and did have two hits yesterday. Matt Holliday had another multi-hit game. I suppose the big news is that Clint Hurdle and his staff will be back next year. Well, if you’re not willing to pay top dollar for playing talent, I suppose there’s no point in shelling out the big bucks for decent coaching. Also, retaining Hurdle give the Rockies a readymade excuse for not competing next season. Then when they’re in fifth place at the halfway mark in 2007, they can fire Dan O’Dowd. I am getting how this works.
Another encouraging start from Aaron Cook, more offense from Todd Helton (first half? what first half?), lots of strikeouts, no walks, one-run loss. So much for reliable setup man Mike DeJean. What’s the deal with the continuing Cory Sullivan leadoff experiment? Has Clint Hurdle been taking Dusty Baker chewable vitamins? Cory has more at-bats in the #1 slot than anyone else on the Rockies roster (141) and for that show of support has posted a .278 OBP when hitting first and .305 overall. J.D. Closser is at .312.
Would anyone object at this point if Hurdle did something mildly creative like hit Matt Holliday leadoff? With Garrett Atkins hitting second, Todd Helton might get to bat with runners in scoring position every so often. Then again, if you move Holliday, who do you put in the four spot to protect Todd? Come back, Brad Hawpe, we need you. Although Jorge Piedra or Bizarro Dustan Mohr would not be a bad stopgap solution. Isn’t funny how just when the Rockies are coming around to the fact that Aaron Miles isn’t a good player, they’re rotating in a guy with the same offensive flaws?
The Rockies as a team are .307 in leadoff OBP, 14th in the NL, which is simply not acceptable for a club that plays half its games on the moon. While he has hit for some pop recently, why try and make Holliday into something he’s not in a middle-of-the-order hitter? With Sullivan, Omar Quintanilla, and the free agent catcher behind door number three, the ’06 Colorado offense is going to be as poor if not worse than the current model, even if Clint Barmes hits .350. Which he won’t.
Jeff Francis faces Kevin Correia today as the Rockies wrap up the series and the month. A win today and Colorado finishes August 16-13, which has to be described as progress. The pessimist in me says for every advance the starting pitching is making the offense is right there to meet them with a step back. Prove me wrong, boys! Prove me wrong!
Almost forgot: are we happy or sad that Shawn Chacon finally got blown out of a game for New York? Eight hits, four walks, and eight earned in six innings. He gave up a dinger to Ichiro, even. I can’t recall whether we’re rooting for Chacon’s new venture or not. Simply as a fan of baseball history I will find it amusing if a team that has started 14 different pitchers this year squeezes into postseason play. They have Hideo Nomo stashed away in Columbus, too!
A good win to get, as a victory in Matt Cain’s debut might have given the Giants a lot of momentum for the rest of the series. Cain did well to get out with the numbers he did (two earned runs in five innings pitched) seeing as he walked four. The Rockies’ pitching staff, on the other hand, walked no one. Byung-Hyun Kim struck out six and went seven solid in one of his best starts of the year. Mike DeJean pitched a perfect eighth, Brian Fuentes pitched a perfect ninth. They should all be so easy. (Another road homer for Matt Holliday, too. Woo!)
It’s around this time of year that people who don’t follow the Rockies very closely (many of whom, sadly, live right here in the Denver area) glance towards the bottom climes of the standings tables and declare fustily, "See, I told you they could never win at altitude!" More and more often lately, when I mention to people that I run a Rockies blog, I get a prepared statement in response regarding how their pitching staff always breaks down. Well, we did lose Jason Jennings and Dan Miceli, but I’m unconvinced that that’s a bad thing. Jeff Francis has had his ups and downs (like a recent 4-start stretch when he allowed 24 earned runs in 18 innings) but his home ERA is practically two points lower than his road ERA and he did look very strong the other day in San Diego.
Byung-Hyun Kim, on the other hand, has been starting more or less all year (since May anyway) and he’s pitching better now than he has all season. August will mark the fourth straight month his ERA will have been lowered from the month preceding. I’m not going to say that BK is a bold new vanguard for Rockies pitching (he is 4-10), but he is a good sign that there are some things that Colorado is doing right with regards to building a winning pitching staff, and there are some others they need to think harder about.
The obvious thing that they are nailing is the bullpen. It’s a foregone conclusion that Colorado is going to be around the league lead in innings pitched by the bullpen every year, so it might be worth assembling one with particular care. This year’s model bears little resemblance to the Spring Training plan, but with guys like David Cortes and Marcos Carvajal who can pitch multiple effective innings, and a real-no-fooling setup man and closer in DeJean and Fuentes, the Rockies can be pleased with getting five innings out of their starters more often than not. The best part is keeping the bullpen decent should be relatively cheap. Other teams are unlikely to bid high on many of the Rockies’ middle relief guys because, well, they’re Rockies middle relief guys. Add that to the fact that Colorado has inadvertently lucked into a legitimate star closer in Brian Fuentes and it could be the glory days of 1995 all over again.
Then there’s the other hand. Byung-Hyun Kim is a talented guy, and he’s well-compensated for what he does. He’s a bargain compared to, say, Chan Ho Park or Russ Ortiz, but that’s like saying Bronson Arroyo is a better guitar player than Barry Zito. The competition is not fierce. The only reason Colorado has Kim and his high paycheck ($6.6 million) is they exchanged Charles Johnson’s even more onerous contract for his in one of those lovable modern-era salary boondoggle trades. Still, as the trades of Shawn Chacon and Joe Kennedy (3-0 in the AL!) evidence, the Rockies are terrified to pay starting pitchers real money. This will not do. Even the A’s are willing to pay the going rate for a Mark Redman every now and then if he’s the missing piece their rotation needs.
Colorado is understandably spooked about bringing in veteran hurlers after the Hampton and Neagle fiascos. This is stupid. Those guys were mediocre players whom the Rockies opened the checkbook for in the vain hope that somehow being paid like aces would make them so. Colorado has to be willing to pay the price ($4-6 million per) for Steve Trachsel types, guys who will pitch 200 innings from the four spot in the rotation and not embarrass themselves doing so. It’s improbable to expect them to cobble together an entire rotation from prospects, projects, and waiver claims. Sure, trying to develop an ace is a smart and economical strategy. Maybe Francis or Aaron Cook will become The Guy. But future dependence on the Zach Days, Jamey Wrights, and Joe Kennedys of the world is not a blueprint for success.