The chicken-or-egg debate regarding the Rockies has begun in earnest – and in Colorado.
Is the pitching or the offense the real reason for the Rox nose dive, tail spin, belly flop?
Lines have been drawn; sides have been taken.
June was busting out all over for the Rockies. They won 8 of their first 9 in the month, with a season-high seven-game winning streak, then lost three in a row before reeling off six consecutive victories to go a club-record 21 games over .500 (47-26).
The club’s fanatical followers fantasized about first division championship in Rox 25-season history, the postseason, the World Series and 100-plus triumphs. The media were optimistic. (You can’t spell media without ‘’me’’ and “”I’’, so include moi.)
But a sudden shift hit the fans.
The Rockies have lost their past eight games, commencing with 16-5 and 10-3 blowouts at home against the Diamondbacks and continuing with series sweep debacles at Los Angeles and San Francisco – the most recent a pair of one-run losses.
Now, the Rockies end the trip in Arizona with three games, and 0-9 would be a catastrophe, a cataclysm and a calamity, Jane. The Rox were ahead in a terrific race in the National League West by 2½ games and could be in the third place 6 games, or more, behind before the weekend is out.
Talk about crawling home.
"The offense is awful."
"No, the pitching ain’t worth spit."
"It’s the offense’s fault."
"No, the pitchers are the problem."
The offense has scored 23 runs in 8 games – an average below 3 runs.
The defense has surrendered 66 runs during that nasty span – an average of more than 8 runs.
I submit that the responsibility for the fall from grace and first place is offense, pitching . . . and defense.
Over the eight games, the Rockies committed five errors, which isn’t alarming. But the defense has been weakened considerably by injuries to Gold Glove recipients Carlos Gonzalez and TJ LeMahieu. Their replacements are major (league) drop-offs, and Raimel was an E-9 waiting to happen in right. Manager Bud Black had to get him out, moving Tapiel to left and the bench. To be sure, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Mark Reynolds are doing their admirable jobs on the infield – and Nolan has been spectacular, as usual – but Ian Desmond is no great shakes in left, and Charlie Blackmon made a rare bobble.
So, the defense hasn’t been quite as reliable.
The offense has been shaky and substandard for most of the season. The Rox basically are a five-man offensive team – with Blackmon, Arenado, LeMahieu, Reynolds and catcher Tony Wolters, who is experiencing a very good season at the bat.
But Desmond hasn’t contributed much since returning from injury, and, as everyone knows, Story and Gonzalez have been Frick and Frack (.223 and .221). Neither has gotten untracked, and both left a major void in the middle in the lineup. Tapia has hit .271 since coming up, and Tom Murphy .063.
During the skein the Rockies have scored more than three runs only twice – and lost both games.
Runners In Scoring Position might as well be in the Witness Protection Program.
Four players have 59 combined home runs. The rest have a total of 31. Coors Field hasn’t been such friendly confines for the Rox hitters.
The Rockies keep waiting for CarGo and TreSto to be master blasters. Well, they may be Waiting for Godot, the fictional character who never arrived.
Or Gal Gadot, the actress. Wonder Woman is not saving them.
Which brings us to the pitching.
The Rockies’ four rookie starters were brilliant for 2½ months. They have been somewhat solved, especially by the teams in the division that often see the Rox. None of the quartet has a victory since June 17 (Kyle Freeland), and the Rockies’ starters are 0-6 since then.
And we witnessed the Adam Ottovino nuclear reactor meltdown. It doesn’t have to be discussed ever again. However, the relievers, other than the magnificent Greg Holland (25 of 26 saves converted), generally have traveled South for the summer.
As Troy Renck of The Denver Channel and I persistently recommend, the Rockies need solid veteran presences in the rotation and the bullpen. When the Rockies return home, they confront the Red and the White Sox, two teams heading nowhere. General manager Jeff Bridich should casually bump into the GMs of those two teams and seriously ask about starter Jose Quintana (Chicago) and relievers Dave Roberts (Chicago) and Drew Storen (Cincinnati).
In the meantime, blame the chicken and the egg, the meat and the potatoes.