The Rockies continued their poor play, finishing the week at 2-4 on the road against Detroit and Philadelphia including a walk-off loss on a throwing error. In an attempt to improve the starting pitching without any actual personnel or coaching moves, the Rockies made a curious change in strategy by sending Jeremy Guthrie to the bullpen and electing to go forward with a 4 man rotation.This week, we discuss the potential impacts of the 4 man rotation on both Jim Tracy’s future with the club and the development of the young pitchers.
- True or False? Jim Tracy’s future with the Rockies depends on the success of this experiment.
Brendan:False. Tracy’s future is tied to O’Dowd and I don’t believe that even something as crazy as this puts DOD on the hot seat. There is a possibility that the 4 man rotation is such a monumental failure that the Monforts finally decide to clean house. However, any hint of success, no matter how fleeting, will likely reaffirm to ownership that DOD is a brilliant leader of men, and they will fall over themselves patting each other on the back. The whole situation stinks of desperation from Tracy and/or DOD, but neither one will be held accountable. The players will be blamed for not being “professional” if this fails and management will take all the credit if it somehow makes the team more competitive.
Kevin: In my world, Tracy’s future with the Rockies is nothing but an imminent and inevitable firing. However, the front office, for reasons unknown, continues to show the utmost faith and confidence in a manager who is nothing more than a lame duck at this point. After reaching the 2007 World Series, Clint Hurdle was fired after about 1.25 seasons of poor play. Tracy lost in the 2009 divisional series, and has been allowed to manage approximately 2.25 seasons of poor play. Why Tracy gets a longer leash than Hurdle is beyond me. Now, Tracy’s brutal management skills are not the main reason the Rockies are winning only 38% of their games, but they do consistently lower their chances of winning. It’s terrifying to think that Tracy might stick around if this experiment works, which almost makes me want to see it fail.
Ned:The answer is probably false. Tracy’s future is dependent on not “losing” the team, and I do not think this has yet happened. However, DOD’s future should depend on the success of the pitching without regard to the experiment. The starting pitching failure is squarely at the feet of the GM. This failure, together with the failure of the front office to draft effectively, has put this club is in a hole from which it will take years to climb out. We need a new front office, starting with the GM, to start that climb.
2. How will such a radical shift in strategy affect the development of the young pitchers?
Brendan:Very little. The change in routine is an injury risk, but adjusting off day activities should be feasible. Not having the option to work deep into games is a problem that is offset by additional starts. When the kids struggle, it is not as if they figure things out between pitches 75-100: they either get it going after about 30 or it is a struggle the whole outing. Another issue is where does Pomeranz fit into the rotation, and it should be right in Outman’s spot. Also, going into a start knowing that there are only 75 pitches to work with may encourage pitching to contact (and throwing more strikes), but I have a hard time believing pitch count influences how a pitcher attacks a hitter. The bottom line is that there is not much of a difference between getting shelled for 100 pitches or 75 pitches, and the 4 man rotation means each pitcher will get more starts to gain valuable experience.
Kevin:I don’t think it will have much of an effect at all. Everyone has already been throwing a maximum of four innings anyways, so this won’t change too much. One thing is that having only four rotation spots might limit the amount of starts for one of the young pitchers. However, this shouldn’t be a problem. The Rockies will remove Outman from the rotation when Nicasio returns from his rehab. Then, if Pomeranz is pitching well enough to earn a promotion, the Rockies could either expand the rotation to five, or they could put Pomeranz in the bullpen. I think the bullpen is a fine place for a young pitcher to gain MLB experience.
Ned:The shift in strategy will help the young pitchers. The sample is tiny, and I know they are not young pitchers, but we have already seen excellent performances from Guthrie and Francis under the new program. The strategy will hopefully take some of the pressure off the younger guys, and allow them to go all-out knowing that their pitch count is always limited. I look forward to seeing progress, but my middle name is Polly.
3. The 4 man rotation is _________________.
Brendan:A sideshow in an otherwise disastrous year. Let’s not forgot what forced this change: the worst staff in franchise history. This is putting lipstick on a pig while simultaneously building in an excuse for continued failure. This is a short term band aid – not a long term philosophical change – and is the final product of DOD’s terrible personnel moves: both in the last off season (Guthrie) and years of failures at developing home-grown talent. If anything, the change is already a success for the organization because it has taken the attention off of the underperforming players (and management) and placed it on unconventional strategy. With all that in mind, I actually think that this might make the Rockies more competitive, and I am very interested to watch how it plays out. (And yes, I’d love some more Kool Aid)
Kevin: An exception to the rule that Jim Tracy has no idea what he is doing. In fact, this might even be a smart move. The four man rotation will take pressure off the starters to get deep into the game because now the bullpen is more capable of handling the load. Without this pressure, the starters should be more relaxed and hopefully more effective. Also, the strict 75 pitch count hopefully will force the starters to be more aggressive in the zone. If they want to make it through five innings, they will have to start attacking hitters more, which would be refreshing to see. At this point in the season, the pitching has been so bad that the Rockies might as well try this experiment.
Ned: A bold move that runs contrary to conventional baseball wisdom. It is a radical move that responds directly and substantively to the repeated failures of the starters. Unlike LaRussa’s bird-brained idea of having the Cardinal’s pitcher bat in the 8 hole (which is mathematically moronic), the four man rotation is innovative and takes advantage of the Rockies’ very strong bullpen while easing the burden on the young starters. The difficult task for JT will be to adhere to the pitch-count rule when (and pray that this happens) one of the kids is making the opposing batters look like statues, and has a no-hitter going. I really like the idea, and am willing to give it time to succeed or fail. With a little luck, it will succeed and JT will be hailed as a baseball genius. Giving credit where it is due, Brendan first proposed this very same idea to me several years ago as a general concept. I liked the innovative nature of the idea when he first explained it, but thought no club would ever try it—well, now our Rox have done it.
Have a different take? Let us know in the comments below.
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