In geological terms, a slump is a landslide that moves downhill in one piece. They’re fairly common and most are small. However, they can also be catastrophic events. In 1999, the northern coastal region of Venezuela saw over a full meter of rain in just three days, triggering thousands of disastrous slump landslides. There was rampant destruction of homes, buildings, and roads. Many people died. The event literally changed the landscape of the region, diverting numerous rivers and destroying miles of coastline. Monetarily, the final damage tally was $1.9 billion.
Since late April, the Rockies have been in a massive landslide and it seems to be gaining momentum. The team is failing in every facet of the game. They can’t hit or pitch. Felipe Paulino, Franklin Morales, and Jose Lopez have been sent packing and Ian Stewart is in AAA. After sitting in first place in the NL West for most of the season and building a four game lead, they’ve fallen all the way to third and are four games back of the Giants. Management keeps calling this a slump. They’re right. It is a slump, a massive catastrophic slump. If the slide doesn’t stop soon, the season may not be salvageable.
Through all of this, I’ve been maintaining hope that the Rox would right the ship, but the loss of Jorge De La Rosa and Ubaldo’s continuing struggles have me thinking otherwise. This team, in its current state, cannot contend for the NL West title. The sooner Dan O’Dowd comes to terms with this fact, the better. If they want to remain competitive, moves must be made.
Calling up EY Jr. was a good start, but playing him center field isn’t going to help much. Junior can’t hold down Coors’ expansive outfield as well as Fowler. If they want him playing outfield over Dexter, they need to move Cargo to center. Personally, I think they should play Junior at second and start Herrera at third. This will enable them to move Wiggy into a utility role, which is what they signed him for in the first place. Also, moving Ty from regular starter to role player will improve their depth.
Offensively, the main reason the Rockies are struggling is because their best player has had an awful month. After a terrific start, Tulo’s production has fallen off significantly. However, he’s also been the victim of bad luck this year. It seems like he is constantly hitting the ball directly at fielders and the numbers back that up. For the year, his BABIP is a very unfortunate .217 and it’s under .200 for the month of May. For his career, Tulo has a BABIP well over .300. Cargo is in a similar situation. He currently has a career low .270 BABIP. It’s a safe bet that this will change for both players. So I’m actually somewhat encouraged about their offense going forward. It’s the state of their pitching that has me concerned.
The loss of Jorge De La Rosa is enormous. With him pitching well, the Rockies were able to withstand Ubaldo’s poor season. However, now that he’s gone, the Rox are left with Jason Hammel and Jhoulys Chacin as their only consistent starters. Clayton Mortensen has a low ERA, but his 4.05 xFIP suggests that he won’t be able to sustain that for the rest of the season. Hopefully, Aaron Cook can return and pitch better than he did last season. However, even under the best of circumstances, neither Mortensen nor Cook will be able to replace DLR.
That leaves the Rox with a couple of options. Juan Nicasio makes his major league debut today. Over the last year, Nicasio has emerged as the Rockies’ number one pitching prospect. He has a high octane fastball that he’s learned to harness and throw for strikes. This season, he has completely dominated the Texas League, leading in just about every important statistical category. However, as we all know, success in the minors doesn’t always translate, especially right off the bat. I’m holding out hope that he can step in and help carry the rotation until Ubaldo figures it out. However, I’m not counting on it. Even if he does, they probably need to trade for another arm.
The Rox also need to address the bullpen. At the start of the season, the pen seemed like it was going to be a major asset, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Aside from Matt Lindstrom, the Rockies’ relievers have not pitched up to expectations. Huston Street and company have had trouble holding leads and they’ve been giving up too many homeruns. For weeks, many have been screaming for a Rex Brothers call-up. At this point, the only conceivable reason for not calling him up is that they don’t want to start his arbitration clock. That’s a shame. Brothers is a confident, overwhelming pitcher who is effective against lefties and righties. He would be a major asset right now.**
This last month has been tough to watch for everyone. Last night, when Ubaldo was getting knocked all over the yard, Jim Tracy looked like the most depressed man on earth. It’s been a combination of poor play and extremely bad luck. The luck will turn around, but they need to plug some leaks. Honestly, they don’t have to do much — just a few moves. If they can add an arm or two and maybe even a third baseman, they’ll probably be okay. Hopefully, the landslide won’t completely wipe them out before they have the chance.
**Rex has been incredibly dominant in Colorado Springs. He has 44 K’s in 24 innings pitched. He has a 2.42 ERA and a 1.93 FIP even though his BABIP is a ridiculously unlucky .414.