Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rock Solid Recrap: Nibbling Leads To Crumbling

Padres 13, Rockies 3

I'll attempt to not overreact to one really horrfying loss.

I think I'm going to fail miserably at this.

Jeff Francis

If Jeff Francis is going to come out nibbling, while also completely wearing down 80-90 pitches in to his outings, then he should be considered for removal from the rotation when Jorge De La Rosa returns.

That will never happen, of course, but it could be a consideration.

His command needs to improve. His confidence isn't where it needs to be. His arm strength should be progressing by now. It's just not happening. He's not going to be anything more than a 5-6 inning pitcher unless he sees significantly improvement in each of those categories.

Honestly, I'd much rather live through the growing pains of Jhoulys Chacin and the inconsistencies of Aaron Cook than sit through anything like today again. Seriously, did you not want to jump through your TV, computer screen, IPhone or radio today and scream at Jeff Francis?


Make them earn it. Quit pitching like you're afraid of challenging the likes of Jerry Hairston and Chris Denorfia. He set an awful tone for himself in that first inning -- and then he got drilled in the arm by a comebacker. That surely didn't help him find his comfort zone.

It's weird, but aside from that particular hit, Francis was not hit hard in the game. He just constantly put himself in trouble with the walks, a HBP, several three ball counts. Then he naturally wore down, starting leaving pitches up, and the the Padres pecked away at him with bloops and well placed bleeders.

Franklin Morales

Of course the lightning rod Franklin Morales came out there and poured gasoline on the fire. He was his usual erractic self, while also getting hit hard. We already know what we're getting with Franklin, though. It's asinine to continue using him in a relief role when the trend shows he can't retire the first couple batters he faces. I don't even need to see a stat to understand that one.

Manny Corpas

Has a dead arm I'm sure.

The Offense

Clayton Richard's career high coming in was 8 strikeouts.  Today he set a new mark with 10 strikeouts.

Just fire Don Baylor already and give this team a fresh voice. Whatever he's saying, if he's even saying anything, isn't resonating.


It was just another one of those Rockies mail it in type of games we too often see when a W could really cement something positive.  Oh well. It is what it is with this team. They're still hanging tough in the standings, but something is going to break one way or the other very soon.

We're turning the page to July. This is where the contenders start stepping up and the pretenders start stepping aside.

Lineup Card -- Rockies @ Padres

Rockies Lineup (41-36)

  • CF Fowler
  • 1B Helton
  • LF Gonzalez
  • 3B Mora
  • RF Hawpe
  • C   Iannetta
  • SS Barmes
  • 2B Herrera
  • P   Francis
Nice to see Helton and Hawpe are able to give it a go today, though I'm a little surprised to see both against a left-handed starter and no Spilborghs in there.  

Herrera's hitting streak ended last night and he sees himself dropped to 8th today.  I'm sure that has everything to do with him not being as comfortable as a right-handed hitter.  

Padres Lineup (45-32)
  • 2B  J. Hairston
  • CF Denorfia
  • LF S. Hairston
  • C   Hundley
  • 3B Headley
  • 1B Salazar
  • RF Cunningham
  • SS Cabreara
  • P   Richard
I'm sure Clayton Richard appreciates not having Gonzalez or Eckstein in there.  

The outfield positions may not be totally accurate based on what I read.  

Rock Solid Recap: Barmes The Road Warrior

Rockies 6, Padres 3

Clint Barmes is not a favorite of people who sit around computing stats all day.

Thankfully those people don't manage baseball teams.

For those of us who watch games -- yeah, we get frustrated with some of his unproductive ABs, but for the most part it's hard to argue against Barmes being one of the more clutch bats in the Rockies lineup.

And the oddity in that is that most of his big hits seem to come on the road.

I especially remember the two games in San Francisco. The 2-run single off Lincecum. Then the extra inning GW RBI the night after that. Now tonight he comes through with a crucial 3-run HR in 7th late inning (highlight), followed by the 9th inning insurance RBI (highlight), stretching a one run lead to two.

Those are three extrremely important divisional road wins for the Rockies in this 2010 season.

Also, the Rockies have played the Pades eight times in 2010. Barmes has 12 RBI in those eight games.

Barmes can hold his own. In a perfect baseball world, his offensive production would only be a bonus. Unfortunately, this is far from a perfect world for Colorado, so we should be estatic when Clint carries the offense and team to victory like he did tonight.

-- Jason Hammel got himself back on track after the rough Boston start. Hey, a lot of pitchers will say their worst start came against Boston, so it's nice to see him shrug that right off and give his team six good innings tonight. Now, hopefully next time he can take it a little further and help Tracy ease off the bullpen.

-- Maybe the most encouraging part of Hammel's start tonight was his ability to pitch over some incredibly horrendous defense by Melvin Mora.

Mora's foot actually lost contact with first base three different times. Granted, the throws weren't perfect, but any average 1B makes those plays with his eyes closed. Hell, I was a right-handed 1B for 12 years and I never recall having that happen to me, so clearly any ham-and-egger should be able to handle it.

It's all in the footwork and anticipation. Mora was anticipating a perfect throw every time, so he committed to his stretch too early. The results were embarrassing.

There was another awkward moment when he took a throw from Olivo on a strikeout in the dirt. He caught it straddling the bag and then had to collect himself to touch the bag. It's little league stuff. It's stuff he should be able to correct pretty easily, but it's amazing how awful it was tonight. He actually had looked decent at 1B before tonight, too, so I really don't know how it fell apart that badly.

Maybe it's the Townie Jinx since I gave him credit for playing well at 1B on short notice last night. At least he made up for it with a big throw.  (highlight)

-- That Carlos Gonzalez HR was the prettiest left on left swing you will ever see.  Damn that was a thing of beauty.  (highlight)

-- Congrats to Huston Street on his first save of the season.  His stuff seems to be getting better with each appearance.  (highlight)

-- Rockies back to work tomorrow with Francis on the mound. You hate to weigh the game too much, but yeah, that's a big game. Hopefully the good guys find another way to steal one.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lineup Card -- Rockies @ Padres

Rockies Lineup (40-36)

  • CF Fowler
  • 2B Herrera
  • RF Gonzalez
  • LF Spilborghs
  • 1B Mora
  • C  Olivo
  • 2B Barmes
  • 3B Stewart
  • P   Hammel
Chris Nelson was the one sent down for Fowler.  That leaves the Rockies with no true backup middle-infielder, which I guess this means they trust Herrera to play shortstop when Barmes needs a day.  I still don't trust Mora to play second though.  Very odd roster move.

Padres Lineup (45-31)
  • CF Gwynn
  • 2B Eckstein
  • 1B Gonzalez
  • LF S. Hairston
  • 3B Headley
  • C   Torrealba
  • RF J. Hairston
  • SS Caberea
  • P   LeBlanc

Rockies Thoughts: Fowler, Hawpe, Helton, Mora

As I mentioned in my Rock Solid Recap of last night's win over San Diego, anytime you hear Todd Helton, back, and spasms in the same sentence, there's reason for concern.

Great reason.

For great concern.

I also tweeted during last night's game that if Helton's back was flaring up again, and if Brad Hawpe's ribs were sore enough to keep him out of the outfield, but well enough to let him swing, then maybe we could see Hawpe manning first base one of these days.

And then after the game came word that Colorado was recalling OF Dexter Fowler for Tuesday's game.


Until we see a corresponding move it'll be difficult to assertain what this means, but I do know Fowler was scratched from the Sky Sox game before it started, which would lead me to believe his call up is more a reaction to Helton's leaving BP than anything else.

Maybe it signals that the Rockies know Helton needs more rest, maybe even needs a week or two away from the field, which could finally open up some 1B time for Hawpe.

The Rockies have been doing okay with a four outfielder rotation, with Melvin Mora kinda playing that 5th outfielder/Mr. Everything role.  If you think you might be taking Hawpe away from that rotation temporarily, or even longer, then it makes perfect sense to put Fowler in his place.

It could just be the Rockies rewarding Fowler for his excellent play down there, but I tend to think there's something more involved than that.  The Rockies don't often make moves based on player needs  Everything is about making the team better.

It's also interesting because Helton sitting out opens up that two slot in the order, which is where the Rockies like Fowler to hit.

Like I said, it's hard to say what this means.  I hate speculating on things I have little to no knowledge of, but sometimes things add up and need to be at least pointed out.

Oher Thoughts/Links

-- In somewhat related news, Fangraphs is in full support of Hawpe moving to first base for Colorado.

They also see the Rockies as buyers in this year's trading market, and suggest Clint Barmes become the Rockies utility man after they acquire Dan Uggla.  I guess they aren't sold on Jonathan Herrera... or haven't seen Herrera play.

Remember, stat people don't typically watch games, they just play with numbers.

Personally I'm content with allowing Herrera to play 2B most every day and hit lead-off.  He's providing a spark there the Rockies have lacked, plus Uggla's ugly defense and strikeout totals don't lead me to believe he'd be worth trading a significant prospect for.

-- Credit Melvin Mora for stepping in last night at the last minute and playing a terrific game.  It may seem like no big deal, but trust me, there's a lot of mental prepartion and other factors involved in the role he was pushed into last night.

Playing first base is still kind of foregin to him.  I don't think he's hit second a whole lot in recent years.  And instead of looking at scouting reports of potential bullpen pitchers he'd face later in the game, he had to quickly make sure he was prepared to face Kevin Correia.

It was a challenging experience I'm sure, but he just went out there and proved his worth as a solid veteran with one goal in mind at this stage of his career.


Rock Solid Recap: It's A Win!

Rockies 10, Padres 6

The Rockie bats kept Taco Bell in business.

The Rockies arms went a long way towards keeping pepto bismol in business.

There are just some things in life that should never happen.

One of those things would be a game Ubaldo Jimenez is leading 8-0 (with a no-httier going) in the 6th inning turning into barnburner.

That's exactly what happened tonight. Scott Hairston, the undisputed champion of all Rockies killers, who hit a 3-run HR the inning before, was literally a foot away from a second 3-run HR. That one would have tied the game.

Not only would it have tied the game, but it would have crushed the spirit of Rockies fans and very likely a lot of Rockies players.

But it didn't go out. It's a win. Style points be damned, it's still a win.

It's a win because for the second consecutive Jimenez start, the offense gave him the support he needed... plus a little more.

Four HRs in Petco Park (CarGo, Olivo, Spilly and Mr. Late Night in the 9th). I'm too lazy/tired to look this up but I suspect not many visiting teams have hit four HRs there in a series... let alone a single game. Not this season... not any season in Petco.

That's some impressive thump for a team so often lacking the firepower.  Makes you wonder what could be if there was ever consistency.

Ubaldo Jimenez

I'm not excited that Jimenez allowed some hits and some runs in that sixth inning tonight, but it does make it easier to mention his command was kinda all over the place. The Padres impatience certainly assisted in Ubaldo completing five no-hit innings, but once they adjusted they started laying off the junk and squaring up the fastball pretty well.

It happens to the best of them. You miss location, you get hit. Jimenez just needs to clean a couple things up in his mechanics.

 Mitch Williams on MLB Network was consistently pointing out the difference in Ubaldo's front foot landing from previous starts. The front side was opening a lot more than we're used to from.  That likely led to the decrease in velocity and often inconsistent command.  I personally wonder if the shape of the mound is what led to that different delivery.

Aside from the command, he and Olivo missed connections a couple times. I don't want to call it sloppy, but there were elements that weren't smooth. So you see, even the guy most are calling the best pitcher in baseball still needs to work on his game. That's why this game is so impossibly difficult to master. That's why failing 70% of the time is acceptable for any hitter.

In addition to Jimenez, I think the entire staff needs to work on pitch efficiency. Too many walks are taking place that are leading to too many extra pitches being thrown, which is leading to a lot of tired looking pitchers before July. That's a concern.

Another concern would be Todd Helton's back flaring up on him in BP tonight. He was scratched from the lineup and early indications are day-to-day. That said, any time I read Todd Helton, back, and spasms in the same tweet, I brace for the worst.

In other late breaking news... it appears Dexter Fowler will be getting the recall to the big leagues. Much deserved for him. I don't know what this possibly indicates from a Rockies rosters standpoint, but I would assume it's health related to Helton, Hawpe, or both.

Healthy bodies are few and far between.

Well this concludes another exhausting day of Rockies baseball. Like I've said a couple times... it wasn't pretty, but it's a win. Now you just close your eyes, get some sleep, and wake up hoping today is the day everything clicks at once.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Lineup Card -- Rockies @ Padres

Check out my blog over at Bugs & Cranks on the Rockies/Padres series.

Rockies Lineup (39-35)

  • 2B Herrera
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Gonzalez
  • RF Spilborghs
  • LF Smith
  • C  Olivo
  • 3B Stewart
  • 2B Barmes
  • P   Jimenez
Padres Lineup (45-29)
  • CF Gwynn
  • 2B Eckstein
  • 1B Gonzalez
  • 3B Headley
  • LF S. Hairston
  • RF Venable
  • C   Hundley
  • SS J. Hairston
  • P   Correia

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Rock Solid Recrap: This. Team. Can't. Focus.

Angels 10, Rockies 3

They can focus and play out of their minds in front of a packed house against Boston in June.

They can focus and play out of their minds in August and September when their season depends on every result.

They can focus and play out of their minds when the manager gets fired.

The rest of the time it's just another ordinary Rockies team that makes all the mistakes you'd expect from a 4th or 5th place squad.

Strange and inconsistent plate appearances.

Sloppy defense.

Mind-numbingly stupid baserunning mistakes.

Pitchers that are always victimized by the error, because they make a horrible pitch to the next batter.

A manager that doesn't understand his bullpen. Seriously, Drew Goodman should lose one of his Colorado Sportscaster of the Year trophies every time he says Jim Tracy is a master of mixing and matching. Yeah? He's mixing and matching his way into a dead bullpen by July.

I know the grind of 162 games makes it virtually impossible to play at top form day in and day out. I understand that, accept that, and I think most other fans do as well. But this team just can't maintain the focus unless the atmosphere in the ballpark is at a fever pitch or their backs are against the wall... which they are dangerously close to being right this moment.

Also, this team absolutely can never blame injuries for their problems. Even though they've had a ton of them, they've never been physically outmanned on the field in 2010. Not one game.  Not one series.

Mentally, however, is a different story. Mentally they are almost always at a disadvantage.

Teams like the Angels and Twins, the reason they always contend is because they're the opposite of that. They rarely lose that focus or intensity. They rarely beat themselves because their minds drift away. In their minds, they can view each opponent and each game as equally important.

Until the Rockies can get that point, which might be a longshot to happen given how long some of these have been around now, this team will always frustrate us and leaving us wondering how good they could be.

That's all I really want to say about the team today. If you saw the game, you know the situation and how ugly it was. If you didn't see the game, consider yourself lucky.

Lineup Card -- Rockies @ Angels

Rockies Lineup (39-35)

  • 2B Herrera
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Gonzalez
  • DH Giambi
  • LF  Smith
  • C   Iannetta
  • 3B Stewart
  • RF Spilborghs
  • SS Barmes
Jhoulys Chacin on the mound.  

Iannetta gets the nod behind the plate.  He and Chacin have not worked well together in the past.  Hopefully that's something that'll be cleaned up today.  I'm not opposed to Iannetta getting more ABs.  Olivo is clearly slumping and tiring.  The playing time will need to be divided up a little more evenly in the coming weeks.  

Angels Lineup (42-35)
  • SS Aybar
  • 2B Kendrick
  • RF Abreu
  • CF Hunter
  • DH Matsui
  • LF Rivera
  • 1B Napoli
  • C   Mathis
  • 3B Wood
Ervin Santana on the mound.  Won't be an easy day again for the Rockies bats.  

Baylor's Mind In Other Places?

Interesting article penned by Nick Cafardo at

The article centers around Don Baylor's desire to manage again in the big leagues and his frustration with being disregarded by a number of teams with managerial openings and/or likely future managerial openings.

Baylor says...

“It’s not lack of experience,’’ said Baylor. “I have experience. I have the same desire to be on the field and to help an organization put together a winning strategy and work with a GM that has the same goal and philosophy.’’

“When you’ve managed for nine years or so and when you’ve been the Manager of the Year in the National League, there are no other issues whatsoever. None.’’

I suppose it's only natural a guy at Baylor's age who has managed in the past and desires to do so again would be frustrated by the lack on interest. That said, he has a job to do with the Colorado Rockies, and as far as I'm concerned and most Rockies fans are concerned, he's not doing his job worth a damn.

To have the gull to make public comments on wanting to manage again, while he's clearly underperforming in the role he has with the Rockies, kinda makes me sick to my stomach. Do the fricking job you have, then worry about moving on. Don't sit there and bitch about not getting promoted when you're lucky to even have the job you do have.

I'm holding my frustrations back pretty good right now, but to read this.

"I have the same desire to be on the field and to help an organization put together a winning strategy.."

Then put together a winning strategy for Rockies hitters! My God this team looks so freaking clueless at the plate sometimes and you desire to help a team put together a winning strategy? Isn't that your job now?

The Rockies really need to do everybody involved here a favor and can this guy right now. I don't want a guy coaching my team in any shape or form when his mind is 1,000 miles away. Then he can go on that wild goose chase for that job offer that isn't coming again in his lifetime.

Hat tip to MLB Trade Rumors for the heads up.

Garrett Atkins DFAed by Baltimore

Not surprising news out of Baltimore this morning.

The Orioles have designated former Rockie Garrett Atkins for assignment after he hit a dismal .219 with 1 home run.

I don't know how or why it went so bad for Garrett so quickly, but it's sad to see it happen.  Obviously he wasn't going to be in the Rockies plans beyond last season even if he hadn't nose-dived, but he's still a guy that was easy to root for and easy to like.

It's likely Atkins will clear waivers due to his $4.5 million salary.  Whether or not he reports to Baltimore's Triple A squad sometime this week is another story.  I can't see any teams itching to sign him at this point, so I hope he accepts the assignment to AAA and gets his game figured out.

And just to answer that inevitable question... the Rockies will have 0 interest in giving him another shot.  That ship sailed and it's not one I would expect them to revisit under any circumstances.

Now watch them trade a minor leaguer for him tomorrow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Cook Returning To Form

Angels 4, Rockies 2

Aaron Cook pitched like a total stud tonight. My goodness was he sharp. The numbers won't completely bare that out, but to those watching intently you know Cook was in command and using all of his pitches effectively. Especially after the shaky/bad luck filled first inning.

About that first inning.

When you have a pitcher on the mound as frazzled as Aaron Cook was in road starts coming in, you can't afford boneheaded plays like the one made by Ian Stewart. Just get Cook outs. He made his pitch, get him an out. Don't congest the bases even more trying to make a fancy play or force a double play that isn't there.

It wasn't smart. There's a lot to like about Ian Stewart, but it baffles me sometimes how poor his instincts are.

All this doesn't take Cook off the hook for making the lazy 3-0 pitch to Matsui, but the circumstances surrounding the whole first inning were largely out of his control. That includes the jam job bloop single by Torii Hunter. Hard to make a better pitch than that.

Also, the Angels four run first shows us once again how important simply putting the ball in play is. Nothing good ever happens when an offense doesn't get the ball in play, and that was a problem yet again for Colorado. Another bleh pitcher, Joe Saunders, fell one short of his career high strikeout total with eight.

Hated the approach by Carlos Gonzalez and Jason Giambi against Saunders. The game plan apparently called for patience, and rightfully so when you study his recent starts, but neither of them seemed to get that message. Bad swings at bad pitches early in the count. Never really allowed themselves a chance to be productive against a lefty they should handle.

That was frustrating.

We didn't see the same urgent plate appearances we've seen the last four games. We saw a few good ones, but not the up and down the order tough ABs. Tonight I'll chalk that up to fatigue, lack of confidence hitting on the road, and maybe a little bit to Saunders for being better than usual.

Still a chance to win a big road series tomorrow before heading off to San Diego. Needless to say this stretch of baseball isn't letting up in quality of opponent or importance. Need a good game from Chacin tomorrow so the bullpen can get another solid day of rest. Let's get it done.

Lineup Card -- Rockies @ Angels

Rockies Lineup (39-34)

  • 2B Herrera
  • RF Spilborghs
  • CF Gonzalez
  • DH Giambi
  • 1B  Mora
  • C   Olivo
  • 3B Stewart
  • LF Smith
  • SS Barmes
Aaron Cook on the mound.  Jim Tracy will cross his fingers that he can get another at least seven innings out of Cookie.  That seems almost impossible on the road.

The latest on Brad Hawpe is the same as the earliest report.  Bruised Ribs.  Day-to-Day.  Not likely to be available for any kind of duty tonight.  

Angels Lineup (41-35)
  • 2B Kendrick
  • 3B Frandsen
  • DH Abreu
  • CF Hunter
  • LF Matsui
  • RF Rivera
  • 1B Napoli
  • SS Aybar
  • C   Wilson
Southpaw Joe Saunders on the hill for the Angels.  He used to be real good.  Now he's just kinda bleh.  The Rockies haven't fared real well against bleh this season.  

Rock Solid Recap: Herrera is my Hero

These games are taking years off our lives.

And it's only June!

Rockies 4, Angels 3 (11)

Of all the wonderful stories the game of baseball can tell, the one that I enjoy the most involves a guy like Jonathan Herrerea. A guy with no hype, no fanfare, and few expectiations, that just possesses a determination and that one ingredient that pushes a team to another level.

Let's face it, the Rockies have had good players batting at the top of their order -- Carlos Gonzalez and Seth Smith have a spent a lot of time there -- but they haven't had a legit pain in the ass there in far too long. By that I mean, a that gives good ABs, reaches base, possesses enough speed to be dangerous, and above all, understands his role.

Herrera, to this point, has shown those qualities. All he needed was the opportunity to play every day. Now we're seeing the results.

It just sets the lineup up so beautifully. Now you can let Carlos Gonzalez do what he was born to you... drive in runs. Helton can be that perfect #2 hitter that gets on base. Then you slot your lineup the rest of the way accordingly.

The whole lineup gains a new dynamic and a fresh confidence that is slowly trickling its way down to the Ian Stewarts and the Chris Iannettas.

It's funny I'm saying all these nice things about a kid that struck out his first three plate appearances in this game. But the great thing about Herrera is that each AB wasn't wasted. He was fooled very badly a couple times, but he filed away the approach the Angels pitching were using on him. That allowed him to fight off a tough pitch inside to bloop a single in the 8th. The same pitch that had frozen him twice already.

I noted this as I was watching but didn't tweet it.

Did you see that other #Rockies hitters? Angels had a plan to get Herrera out, it worked a couple times, but he adjusted to get a single.

Dexter Fowler should also take note of that.

Herrera added two more singles after that. The one in the 11th inning proved to be the game winner.

It's just a fantastic story that seems to get better everyday. And as I've said many times, his defense isn't a downgrade at all. He can play the infield. He's quick. He can make the throws.

I don't know yet that he could sustain a whole season, but I feel the Rockies have uncovered something here that will benefit them more than a trade for Dan Uggla or anyone would.

On a side note tonight... Chris Iannetta had his best game of the season. A two-run HR in the 5th on a hanging curve got Colorado on the board. His two out double in the 11th started that rally from scratch. The Rockies will need to lean on him a little more going forward as I believe the workload on Olivo is unsustainable.

That is much like the workload on Manny Corpas. He got the outs he needed tonight, but Jim Tracy has to realize 41 innings in 73 games is going to kill a reliever. At some point he'll have to back off on Manny, let him catch his breath, and then slot in him in the 6th-7th.

Winning Player: Matt Belisle

The same could probably be said about Belisle, but hats off to him for gutting this out and coming through again. Herrera's three hits were all huge, but Matt Belisle's work not only won the Rockies this game, but it could possibly win them tomorrow's as well. He's a horse and is becoming one of my favorite guys on the team.

Whew. Another late night. Time for some rest. Let's hope tomorrow is a much quicker, easier on the liver and heart type of victory.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Lineup Card -- Rockies @ Angels

Rockies Lineup (38-34)

  • 2B Herrera
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Gonzalez
  • DH Giambi
  • RF Hawpe
  • LF Smith
  • 3B Stewart
  • C  Iannetta
  • SS Barmes
Jeff Francis on the mound.  Before anyone gets up in arms over Iannetta starting, I like him paired with Francis.  They seem to work well together.  Plus Olivo played that entire physically and mentally draining Boston series.  He might need a couple days off in this series.

Angels Lineup (41-34)
  • 2B Kendrick
  • SS Frandsen
  • RF Abreu
  • CF Hunter
  • DH Rivera
  • 1B Napoli
  • C  Mathis
  • LF Willits
  • 3B Woods
Jered Weaver on the mound.  He's better than his brother, Jeff Weaver, who typically gives the Rockies a tough time.  

Stacked with righties against Jeff Francis.  It will be a challenging night for Francis.  The Rockies need him to be really good, or at least to work deep in the good.  If he's not good, he may need to take one for the team just a tad bit.

Rock Solid Recrap: That Was A Bloodbath

Red Sox 13, Rockies 11 (10)

The Colorado Rockies and Boston Red Sox fit a week's worth of baseball and the entire Godfather and Rocky movie series into a single game tonight/'last night. A 10 round bloodbath that never relented in anxierty, drama or violence.

That came on the heels of two other games that could qualify as epics on their own merits.

Both teams approached tonight's game as if it were Game 7 of the World Series. They threw the kitchen sink, emptied the benches, bullpens, had start pitchers running the bases, Melvin Mora returned to second base, Kevin Youkilis played first base without full use of his right arm. All hands on deck as they like to say in October.

Only this was June 24th.

The Rockies wanted this sweep as badly as they wanted Game #163 in 2007, or Game #4 of last year's NLDS. They had to have it. They just couldn't get it.

The Red Sox couldn't afford to be swept. Not with the Yankees starting to distance themselves in the AL East. Not with Tampa Bay securing a win earlier in the day. They had to have it. They got it. They got it because of one man.

Dustin Pedroia.

As excruciating as tonight's game was to lose from a Rockies perspective, what the hell do you do when a guy catches fire like Dustin Pedroia did?

Not hang him sliders? Yes

Not pitch to him at all? Yes

But for once I agree with Jim Tracy. Walking Pedroia to put a potential winning run in scoring position is too risky. Maybe not as risky as hanging the slider to Pedroia, but that's a spot where you trust your closer to execute his pitches. Huston Street just didn't get the job done.

Matter of fact, Rockies pitchers haven't made a ton of mistakes this season, but every little one was paid for these last two days. The Red Sox offense is pretty special to watch when they are clicking. No easy outs. No ABs given away. No retreat and no surrender.

But that's enough credit for the bad guys. The Rockies also possessed those qualities, and they still get a series win out of this. You have to be encouraged that the offense came off the deck for the second straight night.

Not just came off the deck. The offense was patient and the approaches were all incredibly solid. Guys were willing to take walks. Guys were driving pitches where they were pitched. Guys were battling, spoiling pitches just to get something in play.

I'm hopeful that focus will be exhibited against all opponents from now on, not just opponents of the Red Sox caliber . If the Rockies offense could play with the same focus and determination as they did tonight, and as the Red Sox do all the time, they would be impossible to beat in the NL West.

That's no lie either. The talent is all here. They just need to focus or pretend every opponent is Boston.

The only two real big concerns I have coming out of the series are two forms of fatigue.

Mental fatigue -- The possibility of a letdown of emotions flying to Anaheim and facing another good AL team.

Physical fatigue -- Jeff Francis needs to go deep tomorrow night. Like 8 innings deep. I'm thinking Street and Corpas are definite no gos. Morales probably too. Yikes.

Ok... Final thought of the evening...

I love Jonathan Herrera. Can't say enough about his level of play since entering the everyday lineup. Kid knows how to get on base and set the table. That has definitely set a tone for the offense to bust out.

Good stuff from him.

And good night to you.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lineup Card -- Rockies vs Red Sox

Rockies Lineup (38-33)

  • 2B Herrera
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Gonzalez
  • RF Hawpe
  • LF Smith
  • C   Olivo
  • 3B Stewart
  • 2B Barmes
  • P   Hammel
Red Sox Lineup (43-30)
  • SS Scutaro
  • LF Nava
  • 2B Pedroia
  • 1B Ortiz
  • 3B Beltre
  • C  Varitek
  • CF Cameron
  • RF Reddick
  • P   Matsuzaka
This start is a heat check for Jason Hammel.  If he gets into the 8th/9th inning again, he'll have to be considered on fire... and the hottest pitcher in the NL West.  Personally, I'd take six innings with the Rockies leading, or at least still in the game, and be very pleased with that.  

Rock Solid Recap: Take A Walk, Pap

As excited as Drew Goodman was on the Rockies broadcast, I'm glad I was listening to Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy on the Boston call for NESN. Hearing opposing announcers attempt to talk over the roar of the crowd in a somber/stunned tone is like music to my ears.

Tonight... the music came via the longball, and the music makers were two of the Rockies strongest, but most frustrated left-handed bombers.

Video: Ian Stewart's Game-Tying Bomb

Video: Jason Giambi Walk-Off

That never gets old.

And as good as it feels every damn time it happens, how much better does it feel coming against the Boston Red Sox, knowing Red Sox Nation was silenced and sent back to their hotels or whatever hole they crawl out of during the day.

On top of THAT, it feels great that the Rockies were able to bail out Ubaldo Jimenez for a change. He was been single-handedly keeping the team above water for two months. For the offense to come to his rescue tonight will just give Jimenez even more motivation to bounce back.

Which he will. No excuses!

Forget the flu talk. Forget fatigue. Forget any excuse you've heard.

Let's give Boston credit for being a good offensive team. Good teams hit your mistakes. Good teams lay off your best swing-and-miss pitches. Good teams work the pitch count. Boston did all those things in the middle innings.

Its not like Ubaldo was completely awful. He cruised through four of the six innings. It's just when he didn't make his pitches, Boston got him. It's as simple as that. It doesn't mean anything other than that, and it doesn't change anything he's accomplished so far.

Also, let's tip our caps in the direction of Jhoulys Chacin again. He deserves a lot more credit for how good he was last night.

And now... the real key to tonight's victory.

The Bullpen.

Criticized for recent struggles (not by me), the bullpen (Huston Street, Franklin Morales, Matt Belisle and Manny Corpas) quietly shut the Red Sox out the last three innings. This win is not possible without ALL four of them getting outs.

Yes, even Morales. They all played a role. They all contributed to the win in a big way. It's as good a team win as you'll see all season.

Enough said. Let's get'em again tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lineup Card -- Rockies vs Red Sox

Rockies Lineup (37-33)

  • 2B Herrera
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Gonzalez
  • RF Hawpe
  • LF Smith
  • C   Olivo
  • 3B Stewart
  • SS Barmes
  • P   Jimenez

Red Sox Lineup (43-29)
  • SS Scutaro
  • 2B Pedroia
  • C  Martinez
  • 1B Ortiz
  • 3B Beltre
  • LF Nava
  • RF Reddick
  • CF McDonald
  • P   Lackey
Simply stated... this will be Ubaldo's most difficult task so far this season.  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rock Solid Recap: A Step Towards Manhood

Rockies 2, Red Sox 1

Winning Player: Jhoulys Chacin

There are starts in the Major Leagues, and then there are starts in the Major Leagues against the Boston Red Sox (and their ace) in your home ballpark.

No problem, huh kid?

Seriously, to embrace that challenge, knowing your team's scoring opportunities will be limited, and knowing the reputation of the lineup you're facing, shows the makeup Chacin has. It's all there. It's all going to be on full display at some point real soon.

There are still some steps remaining for young Jhoulys Chacin to reach that level...

  • Slowing the heartbeat a little bit when there's traffic  
  • Getting comfortable in the stretch
  • Repeating the same motion  
  • Not overthinking a situation  
  • Trusting his stuff
... but tonight was a large step in the right direction on many fronts. Tonight you could clearly see why the Rockies (and all scouts who have seen him) visualize him as a fixture in their rotation for years to come. Tonight was pretty damn special.

Speaking of special. A pretty special night for Chris Nelson.

Nelson made his first ML start at third base -- a position he hasn't seen much of throughout in baseball playing days -- and had an up and down game there. However, it was his first ML hit in the 5th inning that led directly to the Rockies first run.

Another First

Huston Street was in the building and active. Manny Corpas was in the building but not available after pitching four straight days (two very poorly).

Enter Matt Belisle.

It was shaky at times, but Belisle earned his first save since 2005 -- first as a Rockie. That opportunity was made possible by Rockies bullpen cornerstones, Rafael Betancourt and Joe Beimel, holding the Red Sox in check. It was also made possible by possibly the defensive play of the year for Colorado.

Clint ****ing Barmes! (Video Highlight)

I don't know how important this game will look in the standings for Colorado or Boston 3 1/2 months from now, but I do know I'll remember this game for four very specific reasons.
  1. Jhoulys Chacin pitched a gem. 
  2. Chris Nelson's first hit
  3. The bad bounce single by Spilly. 
  4. Clint Barmes robs Mike Lowell.
What a game.

Lineup Card Rockies vs Red Sox

I wrote a rebuttal (kind of) to Woody Paige's article that appeared in the Denver Post this morning.  Check that out over at Bugs & Cranks.

In other news... Welcome back Huston Street!

Rockies Lineup (36-33)

  • 3B Herrera
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Gonzalez
  • LF Spilborghs
  • RF Hawpe
  • C  Olivo
  • 2B Barmes
  • SS Nelson
  • P   Chacin

Red Sox Lineup (43-28)

  • SS Scutaro
  • 2B Pedroia
  • C  Martinez
  • 1B Youkilis
  • 3B Beltre
  • RF Nava
  • CF Cameron
  • LF Reddick
  • P   Lester
This is a far less intimidating lineup than the one we saw in the 2007 World Series.  That said, there's still fire power, especially in the middle.  Chacin will need to do a better job or trusting his pitches and commanding his pitches if he wants to stick around past 4-5 innings.  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Updated Player Rankings 6-21-10

  1. Ubaldo Jimenez
  2. Jason Hammel
  3. Miguel Olivo
  4. Joe Beimel
  5. Jeff Francis
  6. Seth Smith
  7. Manny Corpas 
  8. Ryan Spilborghs 
  9. Carlos Gonzalez
  10. Rafael Betancourt
  11. Clint Barmes
  12. Todd Helton
  13. Matt Belisle
  14. Brad Hawpe
  15. Jhoulys Chacin
  16. Jonathan Herrera
  17. Melvin Mora
  18. Aaron Cook
  19. Randy Flores
  20. Juan Rincon
  21. Chris Nelson
  22. Ian Stewart
  23. Chris Iannetta
  24. Jason Giambi
  25. Franklin Morales
No question about it, Ubaldo Jimenez is in a class all to himself.  Now Jason Hammel is behind him... in a class all to himself.  At least for now.  

Seth Smith jumps a few due to his recent heroics.

I couldn't drop Manny Corpas very far because the circumstances surrounding his "collapse" are being understated by Jim Tracy and the media.  He was set up to fail.

Clint Barmes gets a bump because I'm pleased with his defense at SS.  It's easy to lose sight of his overall value when there's a Troy Tulowitzki on the team and he's limited to 2B.

By the same token, Jonathan Herrera has come on pretty strong as he gets more comfortable with every day life in the big leagues.  His defense has been pretty consistent with the usual work from Barmes at 2B, and the bat seems to be coming around as well.  He's no Tulo, but he has value.  

Nelson and Rincon haven't done much, so it may not be fair to rank them above anyone, but the Fab 4 below them have disappointed and underperformed since Opening Day.  The Rockies came into this season relying on all four to be productive.  Their collective contribution of zilch is a big reason why the Rockies sit uncomfortably at three games over .500.  

A Trade Request To Dan O'Dowd

Mr. O'Dowd,

I'm not one to discuss or dream up trade rumors because I think it's a waste of time and energy for people with little knowledge of the inner-workings of trade talks to pretend like we have that knowledge.

This is just me pitching the name of a player out there that I like.

Jhonny Peralta -- IF -- Cleveland

He's 28.  By all accounts he has a reasonable contract.  Most importantly, the Indians sound willing to part company with him.

He's topped 20 HRs three times since 2005.  He averages roughly 80 RBI a season over that period of time.  He also plays two positions the Rockies currently need assistance at.

SS is his primary position.  He's no Troy Tulowitzki, very few are, but he could help the Rockies withstand the loss of Tulo for a number of weeks.

When that time passes, and maybe even before then, Peralta is a fine candidate to get ABs at 3B from Ian Stewart.  Let's face it, you need better production from the hot corner offensively.  A platoon there involving those two could maximize some production there.

What happens to Melvin Mora?

Well, we've seen he can play a little LF.  He could get ABs there, but the ultimate use for Mora is a platoon with Helton at 1B, while serving as a PH.  Jason Giambi would be the odd man out of this scenario.

I just wanted to throw Peralta's name out there.  Aaron Hill, Dan Uggla, Kelly Johnson, Craig Counsell are all names that intrigue me.  Names like Ryan Theriot, Cesar Izturis, Kaz Matsui, Julio Lugo and Adam Everett do not interest me.  In fact, I never want to hear those names linked to the Rockies again.

I like Peralta better than all of them.  Where he plays makes sense.  The money seems to make sense.  I don't know if they talent would match up, but you can always dangle Franklin Morales, right?

Thank you for reading, Mr O'Dowd.  I appreciate your time.

Mark R. Townsend
Heaven & Helton

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Rock Solid Recrap: Don't Blame Manny

I came into today's game never once expecting to hear Manny Corpas' name. Manny had pitched the previous three days, earning saves in the first two, and then laboring badly through the third appearance. No way he could be counted on to pitch a 4th straight day unless the most extreme circumstances arose was my thinking.

Apparently 1-1 in the 9th inning qualifies as extreme circumstances.

Brewers 6, Rockies 1

Not surprisingly, Corpas had nothing in the tank. He faced five hitters. All five hitters reached. All five hitters scored. And Corpas was booed off the mound by a large number of fans that probably didn't realize the circumstances or aren't baseball educated.

It wasn't Manny's fault.

There was a lot wrong in this one, just as their usually is when the Rockies drop games to bad teams.

The offense is this team's achilles heel. Has been all season. They sucked again today. In fact, I think the season's low point came in the 8th inning today. They went down 1-2-3 to Trevor Hoffman in that 8th inning. No one goes down 1-2-3 to Trevor Hoffman in 2010.

Hell, the Rockies never used to go down 1-2-3 to Trevor Hoffman even when he was still at his peak Hall of Fame level.

The offensive fails didn't surprise this fan a whole lot, though, when he saw a lineup not including Miguel Olivo, Todd Helton or Seth Smith, in addition to CarGo still nursing the sore knee.

However, the ultimate bottom line today is Jim Tracy was going to use Corpas again if the game was close, and Corpas was still going to have nothing on the mound. To me it boils down to a manager looking at the game at hand, and making a decision that gives his team the best chance to win that game.

Jim Tracy failed. Jim Tracy failed miserably. Jim Tracy let his team down. Jim Tracy also let his pitcher down.

Go to Juan Rincon. Go to Rafael Betancourt. Go to somebody that isn't running on fumes. Someone that gives your team a chance to get a zero on the board, and then give your offense a chance to get one run.

There's no guarantee that works either, but it's the common sense factor. It's not even baseball logic, it's the logic of physics. Manny Corpas clearly needed a night off last night. He was gassed. You can't use him again today after seeing that. You can't, that is, unless your name Jim Tracy.

I'm glad that's not my name.

But hey, the Rockies do win a series this weekend. That's a positive.

Aaron Cook pitched a GREAT game today. He deserved a better result than a no decision.

Jonathan Herrera has shown to be a little more than servicable.

Meanwhile, Dexter Fowler hit for the cycle today at Colorado Springs... by the 5th inning. He might be nearing a return.

Can't let the one bad inning damper a good weekend of baseball. And above all that, can't let anything related to baseball put a damper on Father's Day. Hope you all have or had a good one.

Be on the look for updated Rockies player rankings sometime tomorrow.

Lineup Card: Rockies vs Brewers

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there.

Rockies Lineup (6-2)

  • 2B Herrera
  • LF Mora
  • CF Spilborghs
  • 1B Giambi
  • RF Hawpe
  • C   Iannetta
  • 3B Stewart
  • 2B Barmes
  • P   Cook
Tracy didn't like my idea of Herrera at third I guess.  We'll wait at least two more days before Chris Nelson gets start #1.

Once again Aaron Cook gets Jason Giambi behind him defensively.  If you recall Aaron's first start of the season in Milwaukee, Giambi's defense cost him a win.  We'll hope this goes better.  

Brewers Lineup (28-40)
  • 2B Weeks
  • RF Hart
  • 1B Fielder 
  • LF Braun
  • 3B Counsell
  • CF Gomez
  • C   Kottaras
  • SS Escobar
  • P   Wolf
Craig Counsell must have insane numbers against Cook to be hitting 5th.

We saw how quick the offense can strike for the Brew Crew late last night.  Cook and what's available of the pen today have their work cut out for them.  

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Rock Solid Life-Shortening Recap

How did we live through 10 years of games like that night after night?

Rockies 8, Brewers 7

That one has to rank at or near the top of the wackiest, weirdest, craziest games played in Denver.

Oddly enough, it may not have been the craziest in baseball today. Rays/Marlins and Phillies/Twins make a strong case for that title.

What made this particular game a little extra crazier was the incredible struggles of the Rockies offense coming in. No one would blame you if you sensed the game was at 4-1. Even when they scored the three to tie in the 7th, I wouldn't have blamed you for feeling like they were going to find a way to fall short. The Rockies just don't win games like this in 2010.

On the other side, when the Rockies put four more on the board in the 8th, no one would have blamed you for feeling like the Rockies were secure with a four run lead. We should know better than that by now, but you just can't help but feel that way.

Then Manny Corpas comes in. I don't know what it is about closers in non-save situations, but once a closer is in that role for awhile, they simply can't succeed in non-save apeearances. That is among the biggest anomalies in baseball since the save stat came into play. No one can explain it or understand it.

Another anomaly (Denver only) is Jim Tracy going to Franklin Morales with the game on the line. Was Tracy afraid to use Joe Beimel because Prince Fielder doubled against him last night? If so, Tracy is a moron. Have your best guys ready regardless. Morales is not your best guy.

In fact, Morales should never touch a baseball in a 9th inning again this season. He just can't handle the pressure. It's even past the point where it's fair to question why he's even on the 25 man roster. He doesn't offer anything. I still think he could somewhere down the line, but that time is not now or anytime soon.

Co-Winning Players: Seth Smith and Jonathan Herrera

There's a reason Smith was given the nickname "Mr. Late Night". He's earned it in the past and he put a trademark on it tonight. Obviously his HR that tied the game was important, but the 2-out hit in the 8th was even more so. If that rally had died with only one run scored, chances are pretty good this game ended a lot differently.

That leads into the other Winning Player.

Jonathan Herrera's hit right after that ended up being the difference in the game. It's amazing how important those two out hits can be, even when they don't seem to be. Herrera's excellence wasn't just limited to one AB, he was fantastic all evening, collecting four hits, and playing a level of defense that is consistent with Tulowitzki and Barmes up the middle.

I was excited by the possibility of seeing Chris Nelson (don't overlook his bunt in that 8th inning) start tonight, but credit Jim Tracy for not only sticking with Herrera, but batting him leadoff. That made a big difference.

I still want to see Chris Nelson play, but I also don't see how you can sit Herrera after tonight. How about Herrera at third tomorrow, Nelson at short, Barmes at second, and Ian Stewart riding pine against a lefty? Write that one down, Jim.

One last thing...

The offense still needs to do a better job of putting the ball in play.  I think tonight was a good example of the many good things that can happen when you simply put wood on baseball.  That said, the strikeouts against Gallardo weren't great, but the overall patience and extending of the pitch count won this game for Colorado. If Gallardo goes one more inning, again, chances are this ends differently.  So credit there.

I'm exhausted again just thinking about the game. Be back with you again tomorrow. Let's pull for back-to-back weekend sweeps and the Rockies going five games over for the first time in 2010.

Lineup Card: Rockies vs Brewers

Rockies Lineup (5-2)

  • 2B Herrera
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Spilborghs
  • RF Hawpe
  • LF Mora
  • 3B Stewart
  • C  Olivo
  • 2B Barmes
  • P  Francis
CarGo's out until Tuesday with the sore knee.  He tweaked the knee when he slipped fielding a ball Wednesday at Target Field.  I hate Target Field.  Melvin Mora plays LF tonight.  Something tells me he's going to have a busy night out there.  That's just how baseball works.  

All the speculation of Chris Nelson starting tonight was untrue, though Jim Tracy did say during his pregame yesterday that he didn't want to throw Nelson right into the fire.  I guess facing Yovani Gallardo counts as the fire.  

Brewers Lineup (28-39)
  • 2B Weeks
  • RF Hart
  • LF Braun
  • 1B Fielder
  • 3B McGehee
  • C  Lucroy
  • CF Gomez
  • SS Escobar
  • P  Gallardo
Same lineup that was shutout by Hammel, Beimel, Betancourt and Corpas last night.  Doubt they'll be shutout again.  Need some offense!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Rock Solid Recap: Nothing Noticeably Different

We're one game into the Troy Tulowitzki injury recovery period. So far, I'd say the impact has been minimal.

The offense still can't score. They're still getting fantastic defense from the middle infield. Jason Hammel is still on fire. The bullpen is still shutting the door.

Yup. Nothing's changed.  They won't miss Troy a bit.


Rockies 2, Brewers 0

Winning Player: Jason Hammel

When people were down on Hammel earlier this season I went out of my way to defend him as a well above average 4th/5th starter, with a chance to jump into that 3 spot. I'm not patting myself on the back for that, because even though I truly believed that and I was right, I never envisioned him going on a run like this.

If not for Jimenez doing what he's done just this season, Jason Hammel would currently be on the greatest roll for a Rockies starter ever. Seriously. 25 1/3 scoreless innings. With a big hat tip to Rafael Betancourt tonight for keeping that intact tonight.

A lot of people outside Colorado attributed his success post DL stint to an easy schedule. Well, he's now done it against two of the league's best offenses (Toronto and Milwaukee), and he's done it at Coors Field.

Jason Hammel has turned the corner. No way around it.

The Offense

Has not turned the corner. We just have to be thankful they scratched out what they did tonight and that it was enough.

By the way, Jason Hammel executed a perfect suicide squeeze and laced a double off Manny Parra. When your starting pitcher takes complete ownership of a baseball game like he did tonight, he better not pay for dinner out of his own pocket for the next 4 days. The offense has some paying up to do.

Shutout Record

The Rockies recorded a single-season franchise record 9th shutout tonight. They have 95 chances to make that double digits. I'll take those odds.


I want to see Chris Nelson. I'm not really dying to see him or anything, I just think I have a decent read on what Jonathan Herrera offers, and I'd like to see if Nelson can offer more. Herrera is the definition of serviceable, which could work well if the rest of the offense was at least partially clicking. In this offense, it doesn't work. The Rockies need to make sure they maximize every little thing they can.

They also need to get Jeff Francis a win!

Lineup Card: Rockies vs Brewers

Rockies Lineup (4-2)

  • LF Smith
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Spilborghs
  • RF Hawpe
  • C  Olivo
  • 3B Stewart
  • SS Barmes
  • 2B Herrera
  • P   Hammel
Life without Tulo begins.  You know who I'm looking at to step up?  Ian Stewart.  It has to be him.  He a guy that can absolutely carry the team if he heats up.  Looking at you, Ian.  Let's go!  

Brewers Lineup (28-38)
  • 2B Weeks
  • RF Hart
  • LF Braun
  • 1B Fielder
  • 3B McGehee
  • C  Lucroy
  • CF Gomez
  • SS Escobar
  • P  Parra

Rockies Aren't Dead Just Yet

I thought the lack of news last night and today was a good sign. How wrong I was. Tulo's out 6-8 weeks thanks to that worthless Twins reliever named Alex Burnett.

The Rockies, who were already operating with small margin for error thanks up and down play the first 10 weeks, are now... well... playing with paper thing margin for error.

The Rockies have two choices at this point.

  1. Curl up and die.
  2. Get motivated.
This season isn't over.  As long as you can pitch and defend, you're never out of it.  I know a lot of Rockies fans don't subscribe to the "pitching and defense win championships" mantra.  They may not WIN them, but they can keep you afloat.  That's what this team needs to focus on.  Stay afloat.  

Sustaining good play will be very difficult, but it's not impossible.  Other teams and fans are going to count them out now based on this.  The Rockies can take advantage of that if just keep showing up and playing ball.

It's not over.  It just got a whole lot more difficult.  But good things can still happen.  Let's try to not lose sight of that.   More importantly, let's hope the 25 now wearing Rockies uniforms (including Chris Nelson) also realize that.  

Ubaldo Is A True Stopper

Did you know that in five different series this season, Ubaldo Jimenez has prevented the Rockies from being swept?

Granted, not all five wins have come in the final game of the series, but five different times he has pitched his team to their lone victory in a series.

Did you know that of those five, ALL five came on the road?

April 5th in Milwaukee (Opening Day)

April 17 in Atlanta (The No-Hitter)

May 20th in Houston (The Cramp Game)

June 6th in Arizona

June 17th in Minnesota

Everyone weighs Opening Day pretty heavily, so you can easily say all of those wins came at a time the team badly needed one.  There really are no limits to how special he has been, and how important he is to the team.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rock Solid Recap: My Favorite Number

Is lucky 13. Always has been. Always will be.

I'm hoping Ubaldo's favorite/lucky/magic number ends up being 27. Lord knows the Rockies will need it to be to have a shot at 90 wins.

Rockies 5, Twins 1

Winning Player: Ubaldo Jimenez

Because he flat did it again. You could nitpick and look at the number of hits he allowed in 8 innings. You'd be stupid to do so. Jimenez doesn't mind those a bit if the batter swings early in the count and earns his way on base.

He just shrugs those off and makes his next pitch a better pitch. A number of times than next pitch resulted in a double play, and Jimenez walked away from the mound with a low pitch inning.

That's the beauty of the Jimenez we're seeing right now. Hits don't bother him. He wants opponents to swing early in the count. He's pitching to contact early in those counts, because he knows he can make the pitches later to wipe out baserunners. It's so beautiful to watch a guy pitch with that much confidence, that has the stuff to back up the confidence and the mindset.

If Jimenez were still trying to be a strikeout pitcher, he'd still be that guy we saw from 2007-2009. The guy who barely gets through 5-6 innings. The guy who sometimes blows up in the 3rd-4th inning. Now the strikeout stays in his back pocket. And he only breaks it out when he really needs it.


The stars lined up for the Rockies in the first inning today. Francisco Liriano did not start the game sharp. He hit two batters. His fastball was sailing in every which direction. But credit the offense for taking advantage of that by sprinkling in the timely hits. Those have been missing far too often.

Of course the offense went in the deep freeze for the next six innings. No big shock there given their recent history and the ability of Liriano. However, the two big runs they added in the 8th inning off Minnesota's bullpen really felt like a breakthrough.

Those runs ended up looking pretty important as Joe Mauer stepped in with the two runners on in the bottom of the inning. His one big swing couldn't beat you at that point. That's why you have to keep adding on, no matter who's on the mound for you. Hopefully that'll be something we start to see more of heading towards July.

And credit Spilborghs for putting those two runs up there with a big HR. Right after Tulowitzki was hit by that pitch (I hope he's okay) I was thinking the only way to pay them back is to hit the next pitch off Alex Burnett's kneecap, or hit one in the seats. Spilly went with the latter. We'll take it.

Solid win today. This team really needs to back this up with a series win over Milwaukee. There's very little room left for error here. Not with three teams in the division up on you and playing well. Now really is the time to turn it on.

Lineup Card: Rockies @ Twins

Rockies Lineup (3-2)

  • CF Gonzalez
  • 1B Helton
  • SS Tulowitzki
  • LF Spilborghs
  • C  Olivo
  • 3B Mora
  • RF Hawpe
  • DH Iannetta
  • 2B Barmes
Ubaldo Jimenez.  That is all.  

Iannetta stands out as a head scratcher at first glance.  He's hardly done anything to earn the right to hit for anyone.  Then when you consider the pitching matchp, and the Rockies lack of RH hitters on the bench, you can make sense of it.  That said, maybe a you let Mora DH and get Herrera a day in the field.  Let Herrera hit leadoff.  That could make sense, too.  

I do like Spilborghs hitting cleanup.  

As for Brad Hawpe.  Where's Seth Smith?  At least I feel like he has a shot against left-handers.  

Twins Lineup (38-27)
  • CF Span
  • 2B Tolbert
  • 1B Morneau
  • DH Kubel
  • RF Cuddyer
  • LF Young
  • 3B Valencia
  • SS Punto
  • C  Butera
P Francisco Liriano -- He's good.  Very good.  

No Joe Mauer today.  He's taken a beating behind the plate lately so he gets a day to rest those bumps and bruises.  Also a little surprised we didn't see Jim Thome this season.  I guess the Twins figure why mess with a good thing.  

Numbers That Make You Queasy

Courtesy of Rotoworld.

Scott Baker dominated the Rockies on Wednesday, allowing two hits over seven scoreless innings and striking out 12 in a victory.
 There's that word again: Dominated.
The 12 strikeouts are a new career high for Baker. He's always featured a strong strikeout rate, but he's not one to rack up a whole bunch in an outing like this. Oddly, he had recently been suffering in that category, striking out a total of 12 batters over 23 1/3 innings in his previous four starts. Always a streaky pitcher, perhaps this was what he needed to get himself going.
And how many times do we hear about a starter racking up an unusually high -- sometimes season/career high -- number of strikeouts in a start against the Rockies?


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rock Solid Recrap: Scott Baker Was Dominant

Twins 2, Rockies 1

Those were among the final words on both the Twins and Rockies broadcasts tonight.

Scott Baker.

When I think of Scott Baker, I don't think about domination. I actually think...does it get anymore bland than Scott Baker?

Actually... it does. Randy Wells, Brian Bannister, Brandon Morrow, Felipe Paulino (twice), Brian Moehler, Dontrelle Willis, and on and on and on. All very bland, umimpressive piitchers that have made the Rockies offense look completely non-existent.

It's not a concern anymore. It's a problem. This offense has no life. It has no direction. They just keep swinging. They just keep missing. They have no clue how to get out of the funk they're in.

I know they prepare. I know they take batting practice. I know they read scouting reports. I just don't know how that, combined with the immense talent and potential up and down the lineup, doesn't translate into good offense. I don't how they can constantly look overmatched by average pitchers.

Lineup Card: Rockies @ Twins

Been awhile since we've added a Rockie to the DL.  Not that I'm complaining... and not that it's really been that long.

Matt Daley was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation.  You had to think something was up about a month ago when Daley was sent to AAA just with the thought of giving him rest.  Daley was pushed hard the first 4-5 weeks of the season, much the same way Matt Belisle has been since Opening Day.  Much the same way Huston Street was last season.  It catches up.

Juan Rincon, who provided some solid help at the end of last season, and is a former Minnesota Twin, will join the team tonight in Minnesota.

Rockies Lineup (3-1)

  • CF Gonzalez
  • 1B Helton
  • SS Tulowitzki
  • RF Hawpe
  • 3B Mora
  • DH Giambi
  • LF Smith
  • C   Iannetta
  • 2B Barmes
Jhoulys Chacin on the mound tonight.  Has to be some pressure on him to get into the 6th-7th inning following another abbreviated Cook outing.  

Giambi falls to sixth.  I'd say he's fortunate he didn't fall completely out of the lineup.  Regardless, there's no way he'd hit in front of Smith in my lineup. 

Twins Lineup (37-27)
  • CF Span
  • 2B Tolbert
  • C   Mauer
  • 1B Morneau
  • DH Kubel
  • RF Cuddyer
  • LF Young
  • 3B Valencia
  • SS Punto
Scott Baker on the mound for the Twinkees.  Many viewed him as their ace coming in to 2010.  That's not the case anymore.  The two aces will be battling tomorrow afternoon.  

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rock Solid Recrap: Twins Baseball At Its Finest

Twins 9, Rockies 3

You couldn't have written a script that better captures the essence of Twins baseball than what we saw unfold tonight.  They are pesky.  They are professional.  They adjust mid-stride.  They don't beat themselves.  That's why they constantly contend.

Just look at what they did to Aaron Cook.  They know what Cook likes to do.  They knew the HP umpire wasn't calling the pitches Cook needs to be strikes, so they layed off everything around the knees and forced Cook to bring it up a little more.  The result was a lot of baseball that were struck pretty well on the ground that simply found holes.

A lot of those eight groundball hits could have just easily been right at infielders, and Cook could have had 6-7 innings of quality pitching under his belt.  But the Twins knew that was their only chance for offensive success against an Aaron Cook that was keeping the ball down pretty effectively.

Tip your cap to Minnesota.

Aaron Cook

Regardless of how or why it the Twins knocked him out in under four innings, the fact of the matter is that it's happening way too often to Cookie.  His command is still off.  The sinker is there, but it's not there consistently.

We're approaching a point where a decision has to be made on the bottom of the rotation.  The Rockies would like to hold off on that decision until Jorge De La Rosa returns but another outing like this may force their hand a bit.  

My prediction remains that Cook will hit the DL, rest for a couple weeks, take a couple rehab starts, and the Rockies will hope they're adding a quality rotation arm come August and September.

Losing Player: Franklin Morales 

All that said about Cook, the losing player for me is Franklin Morales.  He had a chance tonight to establish himself in a new, more relaxed role as a long man that gives his manager innings and keeps his team in the game.

He didn't take to the role at all.  He was still all over the place with his command.  He was missing up in the zone, which resulted in quick offense for the Twins.  At least with Cook everything was down and Minnesota had to scratch and claw a little bit.  When Morales came in, the ball started flying.

Not good.

That's my take tonight.  Not a whole lot else to cover.  The offense was spotty.  The HRs from Tulowitkzi and Helton were nice to see.  It was just one of those games where they were clearly outplayed, which is a lot less frustrating than watching them give away a game that should have won against a team they should beat.

Lineup Card: Rockies @ Twins

The Rockies and Twins have mirrored each other a lot of different ways over the past 4-5 years.  That continues now as both teams come in to this series banged up.  Both teams are missing their closer.  The good news for Colorado is that Huston Street should return soon.  

Troy Tulowitzki comes in to the series dealing with a groin.  The Twins are missing both of their starting infielders -- Orlando Hudson and JJ Hardy.  Both guys we're familiar with and won't miss a bit.

Rockies Lineup (3-0)

  • CF Gonzalez
  • 1B Helton
  • SS Tulowitzki
  • DH Giambi
  • RF Spilborghs
  • LF Smith
  • C  Olivo
  • 3B Stewart
  • 2B Barmes
Aaron Cook on the mound.  

Jim Tracy is such a tease -- or just doesn't get it -- because Carlos Gonzalez back in the leadoff spot.  I guess that's a little less of a big deal in the AL because there's no pitcher in front of him.  But still... ugh.  I would have moved Spilly to #1, CarGo at #4, Smith #5, Olivo at #6 and Giambi #7.  Giambi hasn't really earned hitting in an RBI position.  

Twins Lineup (36-27)
  • CF Span
  • 2B Tolbert
  • C   Mauer
  • 1B Morneau
  • RF Cuddyer
  • DH Kubel
  • LF Young
  • SS Valencia
  • 3B Punto
Carl Pavano on the mound.  

No question where Aaron Cook will earn his outs tonight.  That 3-6 is as good as there is in either league.  Lots of power, lots of intelligence and with lots of speed in front and behind them.  It'll be important to keep 1,2,7,8, and 9 off the bases.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rock Solid Ryan Spilborghs Show Recap

Rockies 10, Blue Jays 3

Winning Player: Ryan Spilborghs

Not just today, but the entire weekend.  He set the tone for the offense on Friday night with an opposte field HR.  He set the tone today with TWO opposite field HRs (#1 & #2) and a triple.  Heck, if he had a few more ABs in the Houston series, who knows, he could be looking at NL Player of the Week honors.

He was simply a beast all three games.

Or as they say on the Toronto broadcasts: Ryan Spilborghs was quite the O-ffensive force this weekend.

Now I just wish guys like Ian Stewart could condition themselves to consistently drive the ball the other way.  That's the power alley.  Extend the arms, drive it, watch it fly.  Spilborghs is so good at that when he's on his game.  As is Todd Helton.  It's just so... beautiful... to watch.

I'm such a sucker for good fundamental hitting.  I can't help myself.

By the way, Toronto's broadcasts are actually pretty good.  Not filled with much personality or anything, just solid play-by-play, game analysis and knowledge of the opponent.  I appreciated that and always enjoy hearing different voices talk about the Rockies.  It helps keep a good perspective.

Needless to say they were very complimentary this weekend.  Especially of Ryan Spilborghs and Rockies pitching.  Oh, and they couldn't stop gushing about Carlos Gonzalez either (Highlight).  Neither can I, and I can't get over how much I love Helton hitting 2nd and CarGo hitting in an RBI position.  That's a dream come true from about five weeks ago.

Another thing I took from their broadcast is a new understanding for how incredibly popular Jeff Francis is in the entire country of Canada.  They almost treated his start today as if it were Stephen Strasburg making his debut again.

Note that I said almost.  It wasn't quite that over the top, but it was still a big deal.

Jeff didn't disappoint either.  That was a very strong outing against an offense I didn't think he'd fare well against.  He had solid command of his entire arsenal, and changed speeds well enough to slow their power bats.  Good stuff from Jeff.

Also, a well called game by Chris Iannetta behind the plate.  That hasn't been a strong suit for him lately, but I suspect it's something he was coached on between starts.  The game plan was good.  The execution was better.

And Chris threw a couple hits out there as well.  Literally threw (Highlight) them out there, but we'll take them.  Can't forget Clint Barmes either.  He continues to pacify his critics with some very solid baseball.  Two big RBI doubles today and more great defense at shortstop.

This was a terrific weekend of baseball for the Rockies entire team.  Now they take a trip to Minnesota to take on the team they try to mirror themselves after.  Can't wait for the action to begin on Tuesday night at brand new Target Field.

Until then... enjoy your Tacos Rockies fans.  You've been waiting for two weeks!

Lineup Card: Rockies vs. Blue Jays

This one just has an empty the bullpen type feel going into it.

Jesse Litsch: Making his first ML start in over a year after Tommy John Surgery.

Jeff Francis:  A little off his game the last couple starts.  If that issue isn't solved today, against a mostly right-handed power hitting club, he could be in line for a short opening.

Not to mention two offenses that seem destined to break out sometime soon.

Rockies Lineup (2-0)

  • SS Herrera 
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Gonzalez
  • RF Hawpe
  • LF Spilborghs
  • 3B Stewart
  • C   Iannetta
  • 2B Barmes
  • P   Francis
So Ryan Spilborghs is now on the plus side of the platoon with Seth Smith.  Nothing wrong with that.  It gives Jim Tracy his best pinch-hitting option back in the late innings and allows Spilborghs to build up the ABs.

Blue Jays Lineup (34-29)
  • RF Bautista
  • 2B Hill
  • LF Lind
  • CF Wells
  • SS Gonzalez
  • 1B Overbay
  • C  Buck
  • 3B Encarnacion
  • P   Litsch

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rock Solid Recap: Second In Command

As of this moment, Ubaldo Jimenez is no longer the hottest Rockies starting pitcher.  That title now belongs to Jason Hammel.

I mean, all you have to do is look at the ERA comparison since we restarted the season yesterday to figure that out: Hammel 0.00, Jimenez 4.50.  It's a no contest.

For real though...

Now that he's completely healthy from the groin issue (which is never minor), Hammel has turned the corner.  That's not to say he's going to start rivaling Jimenez in the CY Young race, but I think it's safe to view him as more than a solid bottom of the rotation pitcher.  He's moving up the ladder, and in terms of the Rockies current rotation, he's the deputy to Ubaldo's sheriff.

Now we just need 1 1/2 of Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin to step.  It can a whole Cook and a half a Francis.  A Francis and a half Cook/De La Rosa.  Maybe 1/2 of three.  We just need a little something more from the bottom 3/5ths.  Not a lot more, just a little something.

Lineup Card: Rockies vs. Blue Jays

Something I totally neglected in my Rock Solid Rain Shortened Recap last night was Ubaldo Jimenez being credited with his 3rd complete game.  Hey, six innings or nine, it still counts because he went the distance.  And regardless of how many innings it was, it still means the Rockies bullpen received a MUCH needed night off.

See, even when Ubaldo isn't his "best" he's still doing everything right for the team.

And we'll call Mother Nature and the umpires even with the Rockies for the botched game vs. Washington a month or so back.  You remember the Cesspool Game?

Here are tonight's starting nine... not starting ten.  We're in a National League park.

Rockies Lineup (1-0)

  • 2B Herrera
  • 1B Helton
  • CF Gonzalez
  • RF Hawpe
  • LF Spilborghs
  • C  Olivo
  • 3B Stewart
  • SS Barmes
  • P   Hammel
Carlos Gonzalez hitting third!  Wow.  I hope this is more than just a temporary thing while Tulo's out of the lineup (groin)!  A few good games and maybe it won't be.  

Blue Jays Lineup (34-28)
  • RF Lewis
  • 2B Hill
  • LF Bautista
  • CF Wells
  • SS Gonzalez
  • 1B Overbay
  • 3B Encarnacion
  • C  Molina
  • P   Morrow

Rock Solid Rain Shortened Recap: 1-0

Before I get into the unimportant stuff, I want to send along my congratulations to David Martin (Rockies Review) and his wife on the birth of their first child (a boy).  Hopefully David is able to negotiate an Ubaldo or Helton somewhere in his son's name.

Good luck with that.

I was going to suggest that since his son was born on my dad's birthday that maybe his son could be named after my dad.  Then it occurred to me that his son's name would be Russell Martin.  So I'll pull that request off the table.

In all seriousness though, best wishes to the new parents!

Now: Back to Baseball

Earlier today I called for a season restart.  We wouldn't forget the first 60 games (how could we?), but we weren't focusing on those anymore.  It's fresh start.  All that matters is what happens from now on.

Game 1: Rockies 5, Blue Jays 3 (6)

What a weird, messy, disjointed, windy, rainy, icky game.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lineup Card: Rockies vs. Blue Jays

We're starting all over (in my mind).  Welcome to Opening Day.

Rockies Lineup (0-0)

  • CF Gonzalez
  • 1B Helton
  • SS Tulowitzki
  • RF Hawpe
  • 3B Mora
  • LF Spilborghs
  • C   Olivo
  • 2B Barmes
  • P   Jimenez
Blue Jays Lineup (34-27)
  • LF Lewis (That's Fred, former Giant)
  • 2B Hill (8 HR)
  • RF Lind (8 HR)
  • CF Wells (15 HR)
  • 3B Bautista (18 HR)
  • SS Gonzalez (13 HR)
  • 1B Overbay (8 HR)
  • C  Buck (9 HR)
  • P  Romero
Bombs away Blue Jays.  This kid Romero is no pushover either.  Bottom line... Blue Jays are a handful!

Happy Opening Day!

I like the perspective of David Martin in his recap of yesterday's game. He was pointing out the positives that took place in said game (yes, there were a few) and encouraging us all to focus on the positive, rather than beat the negative to death.

Now is a great time for that.

While thinking about it, the most obvious silver lining I could find was this.

There are still 102 baseball games to be played in 2010. That's a lot of damn baseball. A lot of good things can happen in those 102 games. We all know this.

Like I commented to David, most of that will now have to come against good baseball teams, but honestly, if the Rockies can't compete with the Toronto's, Minnesota's and Boston's, then they really had nothing to begin with.   We will just come to grips with that reality.

So my approach to tonight is this. The Rockies are sitting at 30-30 (a nice round .500). Ubaldo Jimenez is on the mound. This can be Opening Day all over again. The season is starting over. 0-0. It's what they do from now on that matters. We won't ignore the first 60 games, but there's nothing we can do to change them either.

Now's the time to rally behind this team, because even though this season has been greatly frustrating, these guys on the field have given us many reasons to celebrate in the past. If we stick behind them, chances are they will again.

PS: I still wouldn't mind a shakeup on the coaching staff somewhere (hitting coach).

PSS: I still wish Jim Tracy had taken a different road in his comments on Jhoulys Chacin yesterday.

PSSS: I could rant again after the game tonight, but it'll take a really lousy effort to get that out of me. Like I said, it's Opening Day again.

Lineup Tinkering

I was very disappointed with Jim Tracy for several reasons yesterday.

There was, however, one thing that I applaud and congratulate him on.

Moving Helton to the two spot.

That's a move I've been promoting and hoping for for over six weeks now. It's just a natural fit with his reduced power and still solid on base skills. Every manager's goal should be to maximize each player's ability. For Helton, it just makes worlds of sense at this stage of his career with his current skill set.

True, he may not possess the speed or bunting ability that most two hitters possess, but not many two hitters can or will build a resume like Helton's.

It's not just good for the physical side, it's also good for the mental side. Thinking about driving a ball out of the park or in the gap, things that used to just happen naturally for Todd, are not so important. Just finding a way on base is his main job now, and very few do that as well as Todd, no matter what his slugging percentage is. That's a load off his mind.

I'm hopeful Tracy sticks with it and let's it play out. If one day is any indication, and I think in this case it is, the Rockies are one piece closer to solving the puzzle.


The next thing Jim Tracy needs to figure out is a way to get Carlos Gonzalez out of the leadoff spot. He's a natural run producer. Run producers flounder at the top of the order. When they don't, their damage is still minimized with solo HRs and doubles that get stranded because the pitcher made an out before him.

We need to maximize Carlos. We need to maximize him quickly.

Who leads off in that scenario? Well, probably Seth Smith/Ryan Spilborghs until Dexter Fowler/Eric Young return. I prefer the speed element in the one spot when possible, which CarGo does provide, but at this point I just want guys on base ahead of Tulo, Gonzalez, Olivo and Hawpe.

That gives the Rockies the best chance to bust out of a slump that seems like it's going on a 10 years.

Mark it down, Tracy. If it doesn't work, call me out in the press conference. At least I'll deserve it.