Desperate Rockies go to 4-man Rotation

Rockies Manager Jim Tracy decided to shake things up before Tuesday's game in Philadelphia announcing that the club will be moving forward with an unconventional four man rotation. A puzzling move made purely out of desperation became even more confounding when Tracy explained his thinking. 

According to Jim Tracy, the Rockies are going to enforce a 75 pitch limit with all four starters. He also claims that this is going to save the Rockies bullpen. You may want to check the math on that one more time, sir. How exactly is a four man rotation—of Josh Outman, Jeff Francis, Christian Friedrich, and Alex White—going to save the bullpen when they're only going to throw 75 pitches? These guys haven't exactly been pitch efficient as White has the lowest BB/9 of the bunch with a 3.2 mark. In the first game of this doomed to fail and hopefully short lived experiment, Outman lasted only 4.1 innings before giving way to Guillermo Moscoso. Under the current plan, Moscoso and Jeremy Guthrie, who was pulled from the rotation just as he's been made available in trade (curious to say the least), will serve as the bridge in the middle innings. 

In a vacuum, I actually don't mind a four man rotation. It would certainly benefit some teams to have more starts come from their top four pitchers than the number five guy. Here's where the Rockies plan completely blows up as it's impossible to say who exactly is the best starter on this team right now.

The Rockies literally have a four man rotation full of number five starters (at best). Outman is truly unfortunately named. Jeff Francis wasn't a major league pitcher two weeks ago as he was toiling in the minors with the Reds. White is a home run waiting to happen at Coors Field and maybe has value as a young back end type outside of Colorado. Friedrich is in his first trip around the majors and despite some early success, he's clearly shown that he needs to work on his control issues in the minors. Moscoso had the highest fly ball rate of anyone in baseball last year. Guthrie hasn't been close to the same guy he was in Baltimore as he's been injured and very ineffective. 

The problem isn't that they're going to a four man rotation, the problem is they don't have the arms to fill out even a two man rotation. I joked on twitter earlier that the Rockies should call up lefty Drew Pomeranz, who threw six hitless innings in Triple-A last night and has a 2.61 ERA down there now, and go to a one man rotation. It was a joke, but still the sentiment is clear. There's really no excuse for trying something like this in a misguided effort so save the bullpen when the top pitching prospect in the organization is pitching like this and still toiling in the minors. I recently revisited the top ten prospects in the organization and I left off Pomeranz because he has pitched in the majors this year, but what is taking them so long to bring this guy back?

Going through this now has to hurt the Rockies even more as there are plenty of former Rockies starters having success elsewhere this season. Ubaldo Jimenez hasn't been great for Cleveland, but he's healthy and been in the majors all season and that's more than the Rockies can say about White or Pomeranz. Felipe Paulino, who had his contract purchased by the Royals in May 2011, has a 1.67 ERA in seven starts for Kansas City. Franklin Morales just shut down the Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball. Of course, Jason Hammel, who the Rockies gave up to get Guthrie, has a 2.87 ERA in 13 starts for Baltimore. That right there is a four man rotation of starting pitchers that the Rockies have given up on just in the past year. 

The organization would have you believe that this current rough patch is mostly the effect of injuries, but that is simply not the case. Sure, the Rockies have had their pitching injuries as Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, and Juan Nicasio are all still on the disabled list. But, that's what happens with pitchers. They get hurt. It doesn't change the fact that they've given up their share of valuable arms in the last year and not enough of their own have developed. 

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