Rox Linx

It’s hard to be giddy after a 4-2 loss to the Diamondbacks, but with Eddie Butler being called up, Rockies fan have something to celebrate.

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Duck on the Pond: Where Colorado can improve

Welcome to the first installment of Ducks on the Pond where I will analyze an area the Rockies need to improve in order to reach their full potential. This area is crucial moving forward and will be easily monitored as it controls whether Colorado comes out a victor or a loser.

In order to get back to its winning ways, Colorado must get their starters into the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

The Rockies bullpen has already compiled 179.2 innings up until June 3. Though that ranks just 15th, teams that have thrown the fewest bullpen innings are set up to win in August and September because they won’t have tired arms. The three teams that have gone to their bullpens the fewest are Cincinnati (138.1 innings), Atlanta (149.1 innings) and Detroit (157.1 innings). Atlanta and Detroit are both leading their respective divisions, while Cincinnati is below .500 but has had tough luck with injuries thus far in 2014. You can never count out the Reds, as they have been playoff contenders since 2010. At least one of Atlanta or Detroit have made the postseason in each year since 2010.

Jorge De La Rosa and his fellow starters need to log more innings in each start the rest of this season. (Mile High Sports/Chris Bianchi)

Jorge De La Rosa and his fellow starters need to log more innings in each start the rest of this season. (Mile High Sports/Chris Bianchi)

These are teams that the Rockies need to model their pitching structure after.

Starters for Colorado have pitched the sixth-fewest amount of innings (326.1) in the majors this season. Check out the stats from the four pitchers the Rockies have started the most:

Jorge De La Rosa: 12 starts, 66 innings, 5.5 innings per start
Jordan Lyles: 11 starts, 65 innings, 5.9 innings per start
Franklin Morales: 11 starts, 62.2 innings, 5.7 innings per start
Juan Nicasio: 11 starts, 62 innings, 5.6 innings per start

Of that list above, De La Rosa has pitched seven or more innings four times, Lyles three times, Nicasio two times and Morales just once. That means that 22 percent of that time, the bullpen will not be overworked. Complacency will settle in and that can give a shock to starters who are asked to pitch into the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. What will happen when the bullpen arms are exhausted and starters reach the late innings?

One can only assume that those innings will not be pretty for Rockies fans.

Hitters have started catching on to how relievers are pitching them. Opponents have a .256 batting average against Colorado relievers, ranking 24th in baseball. Opposing hitters hold a .743 OPS against the bullpen, ranking them 26th in that category.

Considering these numbers, what makes the bullpen a better option than keeping the starter out for an extra inning or two? If starters can go just a little deeper into games, relievers will remain fresh and provide quality innings where they matter the most.

If it is just June and the relievers are being torched due to soreness from being overworked, Rockies fans will be in for a long summer.

 

Profiling the prolific: Tulowitzki’s defense

In order for one to be prolific, they must excel at something in an extraordinary way.

Troy Tulowitzki has been prolific in many ways since donning a Rockies uniform. What separates Tulowitzki from his peers? Defense, defense, defense.

The shortstop from Long Beach State has been a part of 1,513 putouts and 626 double plays in his nine-year career. “Tulo” owns a career fielding percentage of .986.With such a demand at the position, I challenge you to find better numbers from anybody else in that nine-year window.

Troy Tulowtizki has been a defensive star since coming up in 2006. (Creative Commons)

Troy Tulowitzki has been a defensive star since coming up in 2006. (Creative Commons)

With his 6-foot-3 frame, Tulo may have the most range among all shortstops in the majors. Let me rephrase that: Tulo DOES have the most range among all shortstops in the majors.

Inside Edge Fielding rates balls in play in categories of remote (1-10 percent), unlikely (10-40 percent), even (40-60 percent), likely (60-90 percent) and routine (90-100 percent). In all remote balls, Tulo makes a play on 12.8 percent of the them. That means, even if there is a minute chance, Tulo has a shot on getting to it and recording an out. By the way, that 12.8 percent is the best in the majors.

Are these numbers not making any sense? Take a look for yourself.

Two more strides and Tulo could’ve been at third base.

Tulowitzki uses that range and strong arm to make big plays at crucial junctures of the game. The two-time Gold Glove winner has saved 90 runs since coming into the league in 2006. That mark stands alone as the most amount of runs saved during that time frame.

Tulo has committed less than 10 errors in seven of his nine seasons with the Rockies. That is astounding considering shortstops receive the majority of balls put in play.

Sure, Jeter may have pattented the jump-throw, but Tulo has had that play among 20 others in his arsenal.

With hops like that, Tulo should be catching alley-oops from Chris Paul.

With a DWAR (defensive wins above replacement) of 1.6, Tulo leads the majors (seeing the trend?) in 2014. He is one of only four shortstops to have a DWAR over 1.0.

Tulo also leads the league with a Range Factor of 4.84. Range Factor is simply the total number of putouts and assists divided by number of innings played. The next closest on the list is Alexi Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox with a Range Factor of 4.45. Then the logjam ensues with 15 other shortstops coming in with a 4.0 Range Factor or greater.

That means he is clearly the best defensive shortstop in the game today. If all these numbers and highlights still don’t have you acknowledging Tulo’s defensive prowess, I’m all ears.

Rox Linx

Started off my day with some Jefferson Starship. Is there a better song to exemplify the Rockies right now?

Triple Play: A look into the upcoming series versus the Diamondbacks

The Rockies returned home Monday to begin a 10-game homestand against the Diamondbacks (June 3-5), Dodgers (June 6-8) and Braves (June 9-12). After getting swept by Cleveland, Colorado drug its feet back to Coors Field after going 2-7 on the nine-game roadtrip. June will be a telling month for any postseason hopes. It all starts with the Diamondbacks.

Here are three things that I would like to see in the series against Arizona:

1. Quality outings from the starters.

Jorge De La Rosa, Jordan Lyles and Juan Nicasio will toe the rubber against the Diamondbacks. De La Rosa (six), Lyles (seven) and Nicasio (five) are the top three pitchers for the Rockies, in terms of quality starts.

Jorge De La Rosa, Jordan Lyles and Juan Nicasio have combined for 16 of Colorado's 28 wins. (Creative Commons/Denver Post/Creative Commons)

Jorge De La Rosa, Jordan Lyles and Juan Nicasio have combined for 16 of Colorado’s 28 wins. (Creative Commons/Denver Post/Creative Commons)

De La Rosa has dominated Arizona throughout his career. In 21 starts, the southpaw has held the Diamondbacks to a .233 batting average, .301 on-base percentage and has amassed 86 strikeouts. De La Rosa is on a hot streak, picking up six wins in his last seven starts.

Lyles has been a jerk to opposing batters this season. He has relied heavily on the two-seam fastball, throwing it 40 percent of the time. Using a fastball with movement causes the ball to sink as is evident with Lyles inducing 104 ground balls, nine of which were turned for double plays. Arizona has grounded into 40 double plays thus far into 2014, so this should be a dream matchup for Lyles.

Nicasio enters the series after a largely successful month of May. The 27-year-old picked up four wins with three coming at Coors Field. What has helped Nicasio is the run support he has gotten from his teammates. The Rockies scored 33 runs in Nicasio’s six starts last month. He leads the majors with an average of 6.36 runs of support per start. Look for a lit-up scoreboard in the final game of the series.

2. Troy Tulowitzki to break out from his recent slump.

Since appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Tulowitzki is 1-for-16 with six strikeouts. He couldn’t get back to Coors Field fast enough on Monday. Tulowitzki is hitting .521 with eight home runs and 24 RBI in just 21 homes games this season. Granted, he may be getting help from his buddy, Dinger.

Like he has to most teams, Tulowitzki has torched the Diamondbacks this year. In 15 plate appearances, the MVP candidate has collected eight hits including two home runs and six RBI. He has also shown good discipline drawing six walks against the NL West rivals.

3. Three wins for Colorado.

I’m not asking for a lot. The horrible road trip is over, so it is time for the Rockies to get back to their winning ways. The Rockies are 14-10 against the other four teams in the NL West, including a 4-2 mark against the Diamondbacks. Arizona is in the midst of a tumultuous season and has seemed to lose interest in challenging for a playoff spot. What better way to add to their misery than by sweeping the Diamondbacks?

June is set to be a huge month for the Rockies. May did not go by the script, but the good news is that it is over.

Colorado fans, don’t stop believin’ in our guys.

 

Sunday Mailbag

Throwing everybody a curveball on this Sunday afternoon. Having a mailbag on a Sunday might just be the new trend. As always, any inquiries can be sent to cody.j.voga@gmail.com or @BlakeSt_Bombers.

Dillon from Des Moines, Iowa writes: Rockies have the eighth pick of the MLB draft this season. Who do you think they will go with?

Cody Voga: The Rockies should be in prime position to pick up an excellent prospect at No. 8, Dillon. One guy I feel would help Colorado out in a big way would be Max Pentecost (C, Kennesaw State). With Wilin Rosario planning on moving to first in a couple of years, catcher will be a big need. Pentecost can fill that role as soon as the Rockies would need him.

Pentecost is hitting .424 with nine home runs and 57 RBI for the Owls, who are currently battling in the NCAA Regionals. The former seventh-round selection of the Texas Rangers would see an improved power surge if he plays his home games at Coors Field. Pentecost hits for average and does well behind the plate. The Rockies would hope he could turn into a defensive specialist, like Russell Martin.


Carl from Rome, Ga. writes: Will Colorado’s pitching staff ever figure it out? Or are we looking at some turnover come July?

Cody Voga: There’s a good chance we are going to see some changes soon, Carl. I believe calls to Tyler Matzek and Eddie Butler are imminent. Franklin Morales has proved once again why the Rockies ditched him a few years ago. It’s been five starts and we still don’t know if Jhoulys Chacin will get back to last year’s form. Those two, I would say, are in serious trouble to lose their jobs.

Franklin Morales could have made his last start in a Rockies uniform on Saturday. (Creative Commons)

Franklin Morales could have made his last start in a Rockies uniform on Saturday. (Creative Commons)

Matzek and Butler have been waiting in the wings for a couple of years now. Manager Walt Weiss has said that the only thing holding them back is Major League experience. How else do they get experience in the majors without pitching in the majors? That could be one subtle hint that the time will be coming.


Sadie from Osage Beach, Mo. writes: What’s the status on Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood? Can the Rockies get them back sooner than expected?

Cody Voga: If all things go as planned, Sadie, you might be seeing Brett Anderson and Tyler Chatwood pitch before the All-Star break.

Anderson is coming off of a surgery in which he had implanted pins removed from his left index finger. For him, it’s all about getting back into rhythm. Once he has gotten back into shape and can throw from a long distance, he will begin the rehab process. Gripping the baseball may be the biggest thing prolonging his comeback. With the index finger being an important tool in creating movement, it’s ideal to be 100 percent before pushing back into it.

Brett Anderson has begun the rehab process and is aiming for a return in early July. (Creative Commons)

Brett Anderson has begun the rehab process and is aiming for a return in early July. (Creative Commons)

Chatwood, who had a strained flexor tendon, has returned to playing catch at 75-plus feet. Building up stamina and getting back into the throwing program is what Chatwood needs to do before returning to Coors Field. I would anticipate a longer wait for Chatwood as he doesn’t want to have another flare-up in his elbow.

As nice as it would be to have them before the All-Star break, I think it would be best to sit these two until after July 15. If they are rushed back too early, they could be out for an extended period of time that could include the rest of the 2014 season.

Chirps from the Rockies-Indians finale

Well, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. The Indians brought their brooms to the ballpark on Sunday and swept the Rockies. Colorado dropped to 2-7 on this road trip. Below are some tweets from the 6-4 loss, including fan reaction, professional analysis and even a web gem nominee from MLB.

The Rockies have a travel day on Monday before beginning a series against the Diamondbacks at Coors Field on Tuesday.

Rox Linx

Here’s to hoping the Rockies end their drought on the road and steal one from the Indians on Sunday. As long as this little drummer boy keeps quiet, it will be a good day.

Fair or Foul?

When you rank near the bottom in a statistical category, many call for a change in strategy. This is an open-door invitation into this segment of “Fair or Foul?” This section won’t need instant replay. It will be up to you, the audience, to decide if the proposed change is fair or foul. Let’s commence, shall we?

The Rockies need to move Adam Ottavino to closer.

That’s a pretty drastic move for a guy who had an ERA or 4.51 entering this season. However, he has continued to show promise, lowering his ERA every year since his move to Denver. Thus far into the 2014 campaign, Ottavino owns an ERA of 1.46 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 8.3:1.

Ottavino has been fanning batters left and right this season. His 25 strikeouts in 24.1 innings pitched produce a team-best 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

Adam Ottavino has shown that he is ready to close games for the Rockies. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Adam Ottavino has shown that he is ready to close games for the Rockies. (Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

Not only has Ottavino been impressive at striking batters out, but the righty has come in and shut down opposing rallies. He has stranded 85 percent of the runners he has inherited this season.

If this doesn’t scream “closer role,” I don’t know what does.

The current closer for the Rockies, LaTroy Hawkins, has 11 saves this season, but cannot pitch effectively on back-to-back days. In days where Hawkins has pitched the evening before, he has given up three runs in 1.2 innings pitched and zero strikeouts. How can those numbers validate your role as a closer?

Hawkins is just nine years away from his AARP card and doesn’t have a strikeout pitch. Through 19 innings, he has eight strikeouts and has given up 23 hits. What’s more alarming is that hitters are batting .300 when they put the ball in play.

If I were Walt Weiss and my closer is giving up more than a hit per inning and can’t strike batters out, it would time to rethink my strategy.

I am not calling for LaTroy Hawkins’ head. I still think he is crucial to the Rockies run for a postseason berth, but his role should change to the seventh or eighth inning. Adam Ottavino has been the best relief pitcher to don the purple uniform since Huston Street compiled 84 saves in his tenure in Denver.

If this decision were up to me, you know where I would go. However, that’s not how this segment works. It is up to YOU!