The Colorado Rockies are not a good baseball team. In fact, they are downright awful. As much as we enjoyed the story of a 49 year old pitcher making their starting rotation out of Spring Training, that should have given us some sort of clue that this was going to be a rough season. Moyer was jettisoned after ten starts and a 5.70 ERA to go along with his 1.7+ WHIP. But none of their starters have been any better. Now, they have announced a new plan: a four man rotation (which isn't the weird part) and a 75 pitch limit. Whuh?
So what this means is that the bullpen, supposedly a Rockies' strength, is going to be required to get at least twelve outs a game. Are they going to need fifteen pitchers to make this work? And how does that fix a Troy Tulowitzki-less defense that is last of all thirty teams in defensive efficiency? Preventing runs is not only the purview of the pitchers. And limiting the exposure of mediocre pitchers is not going to change the fact that their home ballpark will always be a problem.
How much of a problem? Consider that the Rockies have an ERA of 4.70 on the road. That's not great. But then bring those same pitchers to Coors Field and they have an ERA of 5.91 at home. The team has given up 31 homers on the road and 52 at home. Teams are batting .278 against this pitching staff on the road and .313 at Coors. They just don't have the right pitchers for that park...if there is such a thing. What Jorge De La Rosa (sorely missed) and Ubaldo Jimenez at least seemed to prove was that Coors Field requires power arms as power does not always depend on movement to succeed.
It also has not helped that Juan Nicasio and Jhoulys Chacin--two pitchers who have at least a fighting chance to pitch well--have been hurt. Will this current strategy change when those two return? The linked article from Troy Renck, the very fine beat writer for the Denver Post, listed the reaction from some of the pitchers such as Jeremy Guthrie and Jeff Francis as a positive. Jim Tracy seems to inspire that kind of loyalty. But a good player manager aside, you still need talent to win. And the Rockies do not have that kind of pitching talent. At least, not in that ballpark.
The Rockies have tried ten different guys in the starting rotation thus far. They have used twenty-one pitchers overall. That is a staggering lack of continuity. At least a four man rotation would hope to give you some of that continuity, but which four will it be? It won't be Jeremy Guthrie, who has been sent to the bullpen. The rest are young guys like Christian Friedrich, Alex White and Josh Outman. Those young guys have never pitched every fourth day...not in the minors, not in the majors. Is there a risk doing that to young arms? In light of that, you can understand the pitch limit, but even so, isn't this risky?
So what are the alternatives? They could scour the earth for pitchers. Livan Hernandez is out there. Ben Sheets has been holding workouts for teams to see. Find someone who can help this team. Secondly, find a way to limit walks. Only the Cubs have walked more batters in the majors this season than the Rockies. The last thing this staff needs is to allow free base runners. And while they are at it, how about calling for less intentional walks, Mr. Tracy? Only one other team has intentionally walked more batters. The last thing the Rockies staff needs is more base runners. Take your chances with pitching to opposing batters in those situations.
But again, can you ever field a decent pitching staff in Coors Field? It can be better than this one, yes. But that ballpark in that air will never be a benefit to the Rockies. How do you fix that problem? You can't. But this move seems desperate and a bit ridiculous. That bullpen is already overworked due to poor starting pitching. Now you are institutionalizing their overuse. This is not going to be pretty. But then again, it has been ugly all season.