Before this season began, most baseball people believed the Colorado Rockies would challenge for the NL West title. After a disappointing season marred with injuries, Dan O'Dowd, the general manager of the Rockies, spent money to improve the team. He tried bringing in Michael Cuddyer to strengthen the offense, but nothing has gone the Rockies' way, and they are fourth in the West and 17 games below .500.
Although the Rockies have more than half the season remaining, they will astonish the entire baseball world if they make it to the playoffs in October. On Thursday they learned one of their best players, Troy Tulowitzki, will miss an additional six weeks, at least, after undergoing surgery to remove scar tissue from his left groin area.
This season appears to be a rebuilding year for the Rockies. They have many young players who need more experience in the Majors before they will perform well. As the Rockies try to mature, the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers will battle for the NL West crown.
Everyone associated with baseball understands pitching at Coors Field is difficult, but the Rockies can't have the worst ERA in the league and expect to be competitive in their pitching-rich division. Other than Chase Field and Coors Field, all the stadiums in the NL West favor the pitchers.
Last year the Rockies had pitching problems, resulting in a disappointing 2011 performance. Nothing has changed.
The Rockies organization has shown a great amount of impatience with their young pitching staff. They've also shown an inability to detect and fix their pitcher's mechanical problems. This is a huge problem for the organization, and it must be solved before the Rockies can be considered an elite National League team.
After being a Cy Young award candidate and the toast of the Rockies organization, Ubaldo Jimenez struggled in 2011. He lost velocity and didn't have the same command of his pitches as he did in 2010, when he won 19 games. When he didn't respond quickly to instructions from Rockies' pitching coach, Bob Apodaca, O'Dowd traded Jimenez to the Cleveland Indians for more young pitchers.
Now the Rockies have an extremely young starting rotation. These starters don't have experience competing on the Major League level. Young pitchers don't usually know how to get outs with a minimum number of pitches, and this leads to overusing the bullpen. Although the Rockies used to have a decent bullpen, using it for several innings a game can make it ineffective.
Since releasing an ineffective Jamie Moyer, Jim Tracy has been using a four-man starting rotation, which tires out the bullpen even more. Apparently, the Rockies don't feel like they have a minor league pitcher who deserves promoting.
The Rockies still await the return of Jorge De Rosa, their projected ace. In May 2011, De Rosa suffered an elbow injury that needed Tommy John surgery. Although most pitchers who have such surgeries need about 18 months of rehabilitation, the Rockies expected De Rosa to return to the team after a year. De Rosa has suffered some minor setbacks during his rehabilitation assignment. No one knows when he will return.
Besides having subpar pitching, the Rockies have the 13th best defense in the 16-team league. Making errors doesn't help the struggling pitchers, and losing Tulowitzki, a Gold Glove shortstop, won't help.
Although the Rockies have less money then most teams, they have the best offense in the National League. Sometimes they waste scoring opportunities, but they have scored the most runs in the league, averaging five runs a game. The Rockies expected Tulowitzki to be one of their top run producers. He had a poor April, but about a month ago he was beginning to hit, before he injured his groin. The Rockies will miss Tulowitzki offensively, too.
The 2012 season doesn't seem like it will be the Rockies' year. As they try to make it more difficult for both the Giants and the Dodgers to win the division, their young players will get valuable experience. If the Rockies figure out how to solve their complex pitching problems, they could be a force in the NL West in future years.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.