Justin Verlander will not be walking through the Coors Field clubhouse next spring wearing purple pinstripes. Manager Jim Tracy probably will cringe when he realizes his most exciting potential starting pitcher next year, Drew Pomeranz, won a grand total of one game all season.
The Rockies have used 14 starting pitchers this season. From 49-year-old Jamie Moyer to 22-year-old Tyler Chatwood, age has not mattered in the rotation. No starting pitcher has been consistently effective, often times letting hitters salivate in the batter’s box.
Coming out of spring training, people knew starting pitching would likely dictate how many games the Rockies would win in 2012. Jeremy Guthrie, an expensive free agent acquisition, suffocated under the mental toll of Coors Field. Pomeranz, the centerpiece pickup in the trade last season with the Cleveland Indians, which dealt the Rockies’ former Ace, Ubaldo Jimenez to the Tribe, made little progress in a year where he was expected to blossom into a potential ace for the future. Jorge de la Rosa has spent nearly all season trying to fully recover from Tommy John surgery, while Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio have each had nagging injuries that have kept them out most of the year.
The starting pitching became so abysmal that the front office had to make a change. They implemented a four-man rotation. Starters were limited to 75 pitches until a “piggyback” relief pitcher would come in for two to three innings. Since the change, the starters have shown more effectiveness.
Coors Field has not been kind to Rockies pitchers this season. During a Colorado summer where the climate was hotter and drier than normal, baseball games in Lower Downtown have played similar to the way they were before the humidor was installed. The Rockies offense has been asked numerous times all season to score as many runs possible just to stay in the game.
Many fans have wanted the front office to step in and trade for an elite starting pitcher. The problem is no sane starting pitcher will want to agree to a long-term contract to pitch in Denver, let alone a top-of-the-rotation guy.
Next season, the Rockies offense will be one of the best in the National League. The Opening Day batting order should be: Dexter Fowler, Josh Rutledge, Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer, Tyler Colvin, Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosario. Todd Helton and Chris Nelson could also play three to four games a week. This group will be expected to outhit their opponent again more times than not next season.
Tracy has been mixing and matching starting and relief pitchers all summer. The Rockies manager must have a set plan for the four-man rotation next season. Just a few days ago, however, the club went back to a five-man rotation. Still, the starters have a limited pitch count of 90. The Colorado starting pitchers just are not good enough to be managed like the San Francisco Giants.
In 2013, de la Rosa, Chacin, Jeff Francis and Alex White should be the four starters. They should be paired with Josh Roenicke, Nicasio, Adam Ottavino and Pomeranz. If the Rockies decide to go forward with the more conventional starting staff of five, Pomeranz should also be in the mix. If these guys do their job, Tracy can hand the baseball to his dependable trio of Rex Brothers, Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt.
Fans should not expect Rockies’ starting pitchers to be among the league leaders in wins, earned run average or strikeouts next season. If the starters can last five innings while keeping the game close, the Rockies’ offense should be able to punish opposing pitching all season long.