Losing streaks are miserable. They cause irrational responses from fans and reckless decisions by teams. Everyone has a right to be frustrated with the Rockies right now, but maybe it’s time to take a step back. There is no need to cuss out Jeremy Guthrie on Twitter. He knows he’s been terrible, but I assure everyone that he is trying his best. The outfielder with a .375 OBP is not the team’s problem, regardless of the perceptions over his attitude and hustle. They don’t need to trade Tulo or CarGo. They are still two of the best players in the National League and an argument to the contrary isn’t based on anything but frustration over the Rox being thirteen games under .500. Right now, this team just plain sucks, but effective analysis requires the removal of emotion from the process. It clouds the brain with false perceptions and malicious agendas.
In times like these, fans and writers tend to start reaching for answers and often we wind up with something fundamentally absurd. Earlier today, there was an article published in the Denver Post about playing Michael Cuddyer at second base. Travis touched on this in a recent post here on Blake Street, but since this has now become a real discussion, I felt the need to chime in. Please, please, for the love of all that is holy in the game of baseball, stop with this nonsense. If you think moving Michael Cuddyer to second will help the Rockies in any kind of way, you’re just totally missing the point about what’s wrong with this team.
First of all, let’s put all discussion about this being the worst pitching staff in the history of baseball to rest. The highest ERA ever recorded by a pitching staff belongs to the 1930 Phillies – 6.15. Let’s get one thing straight, if the staff of the 1930 Phillies had to deal with Coors Field and the defense that Tracy is running out there every night, their ERA would’ve been above 7, easily. That team struck out less than 3 hitters per every nine innings and walked almost 4 per. The Rockies have posted much, much better strike out numbers than that. Plus, comparing the ERAs from teams that played 80 years apart is an exercise in futility. In this instance, it’s also completely unfair to the Rockies. Sure, they’re terrible, but there are far too many variables at play for us to call them the worst pitching staff ever, or in franchise history, really.
One of the more underrated aspects of this team is how truly terrible they are on defense. I’ve touched on this before, but it continues to be ignored by most. Unfortunately, the manager seems to be one of those who is ignoring how bad his team is with the leather. Right now, they are lapping the field in Defensive Runs Saved with -52. The next closest is the Tigers with -24. And have you seen the Tigers’ infield? Defensive Runs Saved is a cumulative stat that builds throughout the season. A -52 would’ve been the second worst total in baseball in 2011 and the fifth worst in 2010. Just in case anyone needs to be reminded, we’re not even half way through June yet. If you look at the whole picture – pitching, defense, Coors Field – what we have is a team that is historically bad at run prevention, possibly the worst ever. Putting a team with this kind of defensive ineptitude behind a staff like this is a recipe for disaster and that’s exactly what we are seeing right now – an absolute disaster. Unfortunately, they are failing to recognize a huge part of the problem.
The fact that there is even discussion about playing Cuddyer at second proves that point. He’s already causing big issues with his defense in right field, why would you want to make things even worse by playing him at such a crucial position? It would be a total failure. Not only would they have the worst defensive third baseman in the NL, they’d also have the worst defensive second baseman. If you think it’s bad now, just cripple their defense up the middle and see what happens. It won’t be pretty. I can assure you of that.
If Tracy really wants to improve this team immediately, he needs to change his mindset every night. Maximizing offense should be a secondary concern. It is of utmost importance that the Rox start fielding their best defensive team every night. Salary and playing experience shouldn’t factor into the decision in any way whatsoever. It needs to be about saving runs. Period.
On a personal level, I like Cuddyer. He seems like a legitimately good dude and he’s a decent ballplayer. However, he’s a bad fit here. That’s all there is too it. He would be a nice asset for a lot of teams, but with the way the Rockies are currently structured, he causes more problems than he solves. Unfortunately, he seems to be the most untouchable player in the lineup every night – currently leads the team in games played. I’m not saying getting rid of Cuddyer would solve all their problems, but the way the Rox place him on a pedestal speaks volumes to their inability to effectively evaluate the problems they are currently facing. And that is the most concerning thing of all.