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Starting pitching must improve if Colorado Rockies want to compete

David Martin Avatar
April 30, 2015

 

It’s all about the pitching.

The Colorado Rockies are talented. They have a lineup that rivals anyone in the National League. They have superstars and budding superstars. Their defense is better than anyone in baseball, specifically around the infield.

The one area where the Rockies don’t match up well with the rest of the league, the National League West in particular, is in their starting rotation.

Make no mistake, the Rockies have talent on the mound every single day. However, the starting rotation for Colorado is young and inexperienced. Beyond Jorge De La Rosa, who has a track record of success, and Kyle Kendrick, who defines mediocre, the rest of the rotation still has a long way to go to prove that they can be effective big league starters.

Jordan Lyles was the latest starting pitcher to take his lumps as he learns to pitch at the big league level. For four innings, Lyles was very good. He gave up two runs in the 1st inning on a botched pick off attempt at second base when Daniel Descalso made a throwing error trying to throw out Ender Inciarte at third base.

After that, Lyles was great through four innings. Then, the implosion happened. Lyles started the inning by battling Inciarte for eight pitches before giving up the walk. That walk seemed like it set Lyles back. The righty recorded an out on Chris Owings sacrifice bunt, but then the Rockies righty walked Paul Goldschmidt on four straight pitches. The walk was as intentional as it gets without the catcher standing up and taking four pitches. Lyles wanted nothing to do with Goldschmidt, who destroyed the Rockies in the series.

Up next was Mark Trumbo, who drilled a pitch high in the air, barely falling short of the left field wall, where Corey Dickerson made the catch. From there, Lyles again chose to lead the bases, walking David Peralta with little intent of throwing a strike. Lyles wanted to face righty Yasmany Tomas. Tomas drilled a ground ball to right field, scoring two runs and setting the route into motion.

The problem for Lyles was that he had nibbled and dinked and dunked around so many hitters, that suddenly when he needed to make his pitch, he wasn’t able to. It seemed that the nibbling got him out of rhythm and ruined his entire approach. After Tomas’ single, former Rockie Jordan Pacheco drilled a pitch into the left field seats for a three-run homer.

Lyles good night was suddenly shot. He was standing on the wrong side of a 7-1 deficit.

Part of the Rockies going from being a very bad team to being respectable is having to watch the club’s young pitchers learn how to pitch on the job. Lyles has a ton of talent and could end up being a very good pitcher in the big leagues. However, he is going to take time to develop. He was rushed to the big leagues by the Astros, and didn’t spend very much time in the minors.

The problem is, most good teams might have a guy who is a project, like Lyles. The Rockies currently have three of them in their rotation. Lyles is probably the most groomed, however, after that comes Tyler Matzek and Eddie Butler. Those three guys have enough talent to have good big league careers. However, the team is going to have a hard time expecting those three guys to all be pitching well at the same time.

If Lyles is pitching well, it can be expected that either Matzek or Butler will be struggling. The problem is, at some point, all three are going to be searching for their stuff and how to pitch at this level. When that happens, it is easy to imagine that the team will be struggling to pick up wins.

The other issue with having three projects in the rotation, and a guy like Kendrick, who frankly isn’t very good, is that the bullpen will likely get overused and used in spots where they aren’t supposed to be used. When the burnout sets in, the Rockies might find themselves in a terrible spot. If the bullpen can’t lock down games, and the rotation is struggling, the reality is that the Rockies will likely end up on the losing side of more games than fans would like to see.

The truth is, the Rockies are going through the process of getting back to respectability. It is going to take some time and growing pains in order to get to the point where the team needs to be. It might take weathering the storms of games like Wednesday and Thursday, but if the Rockies can provide the chance for these young pitchers to grow up, the team might have a chance to be very good in the next couple of seasons.

It all comes back to pitching. The Rockies need to get depth and solid growth from their starting pitching. If they don’t, it will be another long year.

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