Smooth Sailing in 2018, Rotation Has Faced Rough Seas in 2019's Encore
The Rockies made it official on Thursday, placing lefthander Kyle Freeland on the 10-day injured list with a strained left groin. It is the latest gut punch to a rotation that the Rockies envisioned being the foundation for success in 2019. It, however, has become the trap door in a season of disappointment.
Freeland is the poster boy for the Rockies struggles. After setting franchise records for ERA at home, on the road and overall en route to a fourth-place finish in NL Cy Young voting, Freeland dominated the Marlins in the Rockies' season-opening win, but has scuffled since. He found himself at Triple-A Albuquerque for a refresher course in the midst of a season that has now seen him on the injured list twice.
And just when the last handful of starts showed signs of Freeland getting back on track, the second injury sidelined him.
Freeland, however, is not an isolated case, just the most visible because of a following in his hometown of Denver and the impact he had a year ago, compiling a 2.40 ERA in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field, and a 2.85 ERA overall.
With Antonio Senzatela opening the season on the injured list, German Marquez is the only one of the anticipated primary starting pitchers who has made every scheduled start this season.
Anderson is the most serious. The type of knee surgery he underwent has never been performed on a baseball player before. The hope is he will be back at some point in 2020 -- if ever.
Gray's injury is a disappointment, but in light of the way the season has unfolded, his loss will not have a major impact.He had been arguably the most consistent starter in the rotation and showed a major growth in his ability to not let an inning get out of hand. The Rockies, however, are left to sort through the remaining pieces in the final games of this season, a third consecutive post-season invitation is not realistic.
Senzatela had the infected blister in his heel early, but then came a simple problem of getting hitters out. He has to develop a secondary pitch he can turn to in crucial situations. He has a wonderful fastball, but if big league hitters are sitting on fastball and the pitcher throws one the odds favor the hitter.
While the Rockies offense has struggled, and the bullpen has become the culprit in the eyes of many fans and some media, the truth of the matter is the unraveling of the rotation is at the root of the Rockies problems, underscored by the struggles of Freeland.
Freeland didn't need to repeat 2018, but if he had been somewhere in between his rookie season and last season, the Rockies rotation could have been set up with Freeland, Marquez and Gray in the 1-3-5 slots. That would have allowed manager Bud Black to slip an inexperienced pitcher such as Peter Lambert and Chi Chi Gonzalez into the No. 2 and No. 4 slots, and provided protection from overusage of the bullpen with the anticipation of one of the Big 3 starting at least every other game, capped off by back-to-back starts for whoever was put in the 1 spot and the 5 spot.
That, however, didn't happen. The Rockies have been forced to face the reality of what the season has become.
The important thing is they don't overreact to the situation. They have a base to build on. It doesn't need to be torn down.
The media and fans can scream for heads to roll.
But to build a solid base, cooler heads need to prevail.