Padres 13, Rockies 4 Plus: Bottom Feedin' with the Fish and the Blue Wave
by Mark T.R. Donohue
All right, what do we have here? Zach Day is unspeakably bad. I'm not sure why this didn't occur to management last year, but if a pitcher can't get anybody out in Washington, there's a fairly good chance that his fortunes will not improve much at Coors Field. (Although for a time at least, it seemed as if that very thing had happened to Sun-Woo Kim, but that's neither here nor there.) Day allowed a remarkable 15 baserunners in 3 2/3, and did his best to end the Rockies' chances of winning the game before they'd even come up to bat with an awful first inning that only ended due to an outfield assist and the pitcher's spot in the lineup. Zach, I have two words for you: unconditional release. Thanks for coming out. If Byung-Hyun Kim isn't ready the next time Day's spot in the rotation comes around, the Rockies still have better options: David Cortes, maybe. Or Ramon Ramirez, who still hasn't allowed a run on the young season. There's always unofficial BA mascot Mike Esposito. Can Eli Marrero pitch?
The Rockies have an interesting divide with their pitching staff as of this writing: they have no pitchers with an ERA that begins with a 4 or a 5. The good half of the bullpen, plus starters Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook, and Josh Fogg, are all under 4.00. Tom Martin (who, oddly, leads the staff in appearances along with Jose Mesa), Sun-Woo Kim, Day, Jeff Francis, and the rusty Scott Dohmann are all 6.00 or over. Martin was again miserable in garbage time yesterday, and Dohmann got hit a bit in his first start of the season after beginning the year on the DL with a viral infection. (With the return of Dohmann, Sun-Woo Kim takes his place on the disabled list. Kim has had a variety of complaints this season, including an unspecified illness and a hamstring pull, but this time around it's a sore right shin, which may or may not translate to "didn't pitch all March and now can't get guys out.") Clint Hurdle hasn't had his ideal staff all together at any point so far this year, with Mike DeJean, Dohmann, and BK unavailable, but his fixation on Martin is, to put it mildly, really weird. Martin is indeed lefthanded, but it doesn't seem to be doing him much good, as lefties have hit .308/.357/.538 against him this year. Nearly everyone else on the staff, save Day, Sun-Woo Kim, and Mesa, has done better. Thankfully, Ramirez seems to be forcing the issue, much as Marcos Carvajal did last year, and Hurdle will eventually figure out that you gain no platoon advantage employing a reliever who can't get anybody out. Of course, whenever Zach Day starts, all of these arguments are merely academic.
So what's the ETA on our unlikely sidearming Korean savior? BK has a 4.91 ERA and an encouraging 8 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings through his two strict-pitch count starts with Colorado Springs. Kim needs to be able to qualify for a minor league win before we can consider him for major league starts, so give him another week. The Rockies have a stretch of 20 games in 20 days coming up after the off-day today, so they'll have to think of a plan for the game against the Phillies next Tuesday. It says here they'll give Day one more chance, for which he will reward them with another brutal beating. But with any luck that will be the last one.
To inject a little positivity into another grim homestand, it's worth mentioning that the division-leading Giants haven't exactly taken advantage of the Rockies' sluggish play. They've lost two in a row to the Diamondbacks in Arizona and have allowed nine, seven, and ten runs respectively in the three games of the series. For what it's worth Colorado has its three best starters lined up to throw in the upcoming home series against San Francisco, although Jeff Francis has hardly looked the part in his first couple of outings. Jason Schmidt, Brad Hennessey, and Matt Morris will go for the Giants. Schmidt's days as the ace of the NL West seem like a distant memory. Hennessey didn't make the team out of spring training but pitched well in his first start after being called up to take the rotation spot of Noah Lowry (right oblique). Matt Morris has poor numbers in limited exposure to Rockies hitters and fits the classic profile of a flyball pitcher who will struggle mightily on Planet Coors. But, I do like his beard.
Zack Greinke has reported to extended spring training, which is happy news, but let's not gild the lily. The Royals are unspeakably bad. They've lost ten in a row and went 0-9 on their first road trip. Their offense is bad, their pitching is bad, and their defense, although better than last year, is still bad. They still have to play the White Sox, against whom they have gone 11-26 (.297) the last two seasons, thirteen more times. They don't even get to face the Rockies in interleague play this year, although they do get St. Louis twice, plus Houston and Milwaukee. You can be poor and still win in major league baseball. You can be stupid and win. But you can't be poor and stupid. Look at how their big free agent signings are faring in VORP: Mark Grudzielanek is the only guy with a positive number. It's 1.3. Reggie Sanders is at -1.6. Doug Mientkiewicz is at -5.1. Joe Mays is at -8.6. (Rockies part-timers Jason Smith and Eli Marrero are at 7.1 and 2.9.) I feel for Royals fans, I really do. But this team isn't even entertainingly bad. They're more the excruciating variety.
On the other hand, I've been making a point of watching the Marlins whenever I get the chance and this is an intriguing team. Yes, they are 4-10. Yes, they make the youthful Rockies look like the Giants. But unlike the Royals, they have any number of players who are worth watching. There's Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, of course. But it looks like their fire sale landed them a number of other keepers, even if many of them should by rights be playing in Double-A right now. Hanley Ramirez is the real deal. Josh Willingham and Mike Jacobs are going to hit. Miguel Olivo is a young catcher I've always liked who was bewitched by the deep alleys of Safeco Field last season but will get every opportunity to play for Florida this year. He hit a pretty convincing upper-deck shot yesterday. Granted, in Cincinnati, off of Aaron Harang, but it still impressed me. The air of ex-Cub hanging off of this team is impressive. Sergio Mitre! Todd Wellemeyer! Joe Borowski! Joe Girardi is the manager! The trouble I foresee for the Marlins is a problem the Rockies had early last year. Young hitters are one thing. If they're at all talented, they'll eventually hit wherever it is you put them. But young pitchers are considerably more fragile. Kansas City and Detroit have been running a clinic for several years on how not to promote young starters. The psychological effects of being an awful team seem to run down pitchers, and starters in particular, far more than they affect position players, whose counting stats don't depend on run support and reliable defense. Operating within the constraints of their (admittedly ridiculous) $20 million budget, the Marlins have made every effort to reinforce their kiddie corps with a veteran here and there, but the trouble is that Borowski, Matt Herges, and Brian Moehler have been worse than the rookies. I don't know what the answer for that is. In any event, you should make every effort to watch Florida games on TV when you can, if only because their in-game promos are hysterical. "Cabrera! Willis! WES HELMS! Marlins baseball -- get hooked."