Guest Post by: David Martin via Rockies Review
The Colorado Rockies are coming off of the worst season in team history. After losing 98 games, they watched their manager, Jim Tracy, walk away from $1.4 million because of frustration with the front office. The team experimented with many different theories in an effort beat the altitude that they deal with for half of their games.
The Rockies front office seems very concerned with the altitude issues. General Manager Dan O’Dowd went as far as saying that studies show that after a pitcher has logged 600 innings at altitude, they generally go down with a major arm injury. That thinking led the Rockies to insert a 4-man, 75-pitch limit on their starting pitchers with a “piggy-back” relievers who had a pitch limit of 50 and came in after the starter hit his limit. Are you confused? So are Rockies fans.
The biggest issue for the Rockies in 2012 was that they seemed to defeat themselves. It seemed that the Rockies front office was so concerned with figuring out how to pitch at altitude that they forgot how to play baseball altogether. Instead of simplifying things, they seemed to make things more complicated, which cost the team on the field.
The problem with the 4-man rotation was that it didn’t allow the young starting pitchers that the Rockies employ to improve. Not only did they not have a chance to go deep into games and deal with that adversity, they also missed bullpen sessions because there was too little time to get side work in with only three days of rest.
It was a difficult year for the Rockies, and it only got worse when Troy Tulowitzki went down with a groin injury in June and didn’t see the field again. The All-Star shortstop hurt himself in the second game of the season while turning a double play, tried to play through it, causing him to play at a lower level.
If the Rockies want 2013 to be a better season, the most important thing they are going to need to happen is for their young pitching staff to take the next step forward. Drew Pomeranz, a former first-round draft pick acquired from the Indians in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, looked lost on the mound throughout most of 2012. However, the talent is clearly there and many critics blamed the Rockies for tinkering with his mechanics too much. Pomeranz told the Denver Post at one point that he pitched his best game after he ditched the advice he was getting and simply lifted his leg and threw the ball.
The Rockies are also depending on starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin to get to the next level. Another injury victim, Chacin missed two months with a pectoral issue, then took two months to get to the next level before pitching to a sub-3.00 ERA in September. If Chacin can return to the form that saw him nearly become an All-Star in 2011, the Rockies might surprise people with their talent.
Another factor that will be an important part of the Colorado Rockies season will be the impact that Walt Weiss has. The former shortstop came out of the high school ranks to be named manager of the Rockies, much to the surprise of many experts. Weiss has no experience managing above the high school level, but few doubt that he has the pedigree to get the job done. As a player, he was hard-nosed and determined. He also played under the likes of Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox, so there should be no shortage of knowledge. If Weiss manages the same way he played, it will quickly change the ho-hum attitude that seemed to be prevalent in the Rockies clubhouse. His ability to control the attitude of the clubhouse should prove to be the most important factor for the Rockies.
There are very few questions about the Rockies lineup. Most believe that their lineup should be able to compete with any in the league. The questions for this team will be how the front office handles Coors Field. Will they go back to the basics of baseball, or will they continue to use the park as an excuse? How will Weiss handle the learning curve of managing at the big league level? Will he be able to manage the clubhouse? How will the young starting pitchers improve from one season to the next? Will they make a big step forward?
Those are the reasons watching the Rockies should be interesting in 2013. No one is expecting them to contend, but they could surprise some people if they have a few key pieces click.