This road trip serves as a litmus test for the Rockies.
It would answer whether or not the Rockies can sustain their excellent 5-1 homestand. That hasn’t been the case for them so far.
The Rockies are 1-3 on this road trip after taking a 5-4 loss to the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park last night. From watching the last three games, it appears the Rockies have reverted to doing things that have made them a bad team this season.
It’s four games already, but the Rockies have been so bad on the road that it’s hard to give them a benefit of the doubt. They are 22-41 on the road for a reason. They are not good enough to win away from Coors Field.
Intelligence and attitude are why the Rockies struggle on the road, and that has to change if they want to be a contending team on a yearly basis.
The Rockies have to get smarter with their hitting approach. They strike out often on the road, and they don’t get the big hit when they need to. They take poor at-bats at the plate.
Last night illustrated what’s wrong with the Rockies. They made Ethan Martin look like Cliff Lee as they mustered two runs and four hits off him in 6 1/3 innings he pitched. Keep in mind the Phillies starter has been mediocre at best prior to last night’s start.
The Rockies guessed by swinging at every pitch rather than make Martin work by fouling off pitches or knowing what pitch was a ball.
This is the same old story when they are hitting. It’s tough to watch.
It’s hard to create offense when guys are striking out rather than figuring out how to make a pitcher work by fouling off pitches. This has been a problem all year. It’s even worse when veterans such as Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer are doing it.
There’s no question Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette has spent time telling guys to be patient at the plate. With that said, it’s easy to wonder if he is getting through to them by the way they are playing.
Their plate discipline has to get better. It can’t be hard to foul off pitches. If those guys can’t figure it out, they shouldn’t be playing everyday.
Part of being in the majors is to know plate discipline. That has to be taught in the minors before hitters are called up. If a hitter is hacking, it’s easy to get him out. The Rockies can’t have this. These guys should know how to have good at-bats when they enter the majors. There is no excuse to not make a pitcher work.
The Rockies have had trouble hitting on the road by hitting .247 and scoring 219 runs (third worst output in the NL) on the road. There is a reason to it. They have not done what they should be doing in being effective at the plate.
Until the Rockies figure out how to take proper at-bats, the results will continue to be same on the road.
Attitude is another problem with the Rockies. It seems like they are always flat when they play on the road. They seemed to be defeated when the home team takes a lead on them.
Their attitude on the road has to change.
It comes down to confidence. The Rockies have to expect to do well on the road. They can’t let their struggles wear them down. They can’t let deficits make it a lost cause for them. They need to know how to be aggressive such as stealing bases or extending single into a double.
The talent is there, but it means nothing if the attitude is not there.
The Rockies have had good hitting teams over the years, but for whatever reason, it has not translated well on the road. Then-Rockies manager Don Baylor did all he could to get his hitters to believe they can be effective on the road.
The problem is the Rockies expect to lose on the road. They don’t have enough leaders that can show how it’s done, so this will continue until the mindset changes.
The Rockies have to figure out how to do well on the road if they want to be a playoff team or have a winning season.
They need to find players who can get it done. That will be the key.
It would also be nice if guys like Nolan Arenado, Corey Dickerson, Charlie Blackmon and Charlie Culberson can figure out plate discipline.
If the Rockies can figure out how to have a better approach and develop a better attitude, they can improve on the road.
They need to find players that know what to do for that to happen.
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BY LESLIE MONTEIRO
It was fitting Michael Cuddyer ended the game by hitting into a double play on one pitch last night.
That summed up the struggles by the Rockies at the plate, and that’s why they took a 3-1 loss to the Cubs last night at Coors Field.
The Rockies struggled to generate anything against a struggling starter in Jeff Samardzija, who gave up 19 runs in his last two starts prior to last night.
By only mustering five hits, they made Samardzija look like Mark Prior. That is pathetic.
This has been the norm all year. The Rockies have made inferior starters such as Chris Capuano, Ross Ohlendorf, Ryan Dempster, Bud Norris, Eric Stults and Wade Miley look better than they really are.
With Carlos Villanueva starting tonight for the Cubs, he should feel good about his chances of shutting down the Rockies.
At some point, enough is enough. This is getting old.
The Rockies have to start taking better at-bats. They haven’t, and that’s why their offense has struggled at times during the course of the season.
it seems these guys give in to the pitcher rather than create a big inning or foul off pitches. That defined what last night’s game was about.
It would be nice if guys like Wilin Rosario, Nolan Arenado and Cuddyer would grind out at-bats rather than swing at the first pitch and ground out. That was the case last night.
Rosario and Arenado can use youth as an excuse to swing at a first pitch. They are learning the game.
Cuddyer has no excuse. He has been in the majors for a long time to know how to grind out at-bats. He has to be setting an example.
Even Carlos Gonzalez is not immune from criticism. He tends to be swinging for the fences rather than settling for a walk or grinding out for a base hit.
That’s what makes last night’s loss frustrating.
It’s not about them not scoring much runs. It’s about their approach.
It’s easy to live with the losses if the Rockies were patient at the plate, but that’s not the case.
Blaming Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette does not make sense here. It’s about execution, and the players are not getting it done.
Bichette has been preaching his hitters to take better at-bats. It’s up to them to apply whatever they learned from him when the games start.
The problem is these guys are not listening.
Watching Rosario and Arenado have been tough to watch for a month now after not watching them hit or drive in runs.
They have become rally-killers by grounding out or striking out. They tend to be out after one or two pitches, which was the case in last night’s game.
It’s one thing for both of them to struggle, but it’s another thing where they are not taking good at-bats.
Rosario and Arenado were taught about plate discipline in the minors. It’s why they were called up. It’s frustrating how they have regressed in terms of not giving out good at-bats.
It may get to the point where Rockies manager Walt Weiss have to bench the both of them.
It sounds drastic, but both of them have to be held accountable if they are not taking good at-bats when they are batting. They can’t be out there if they are not doing the things that get them on base.
There comes a time where youth can’t be used as an excuse anymore for Rosario and Arenado.
It’s been going on for a good two months, and patience can only go so far.
The Rockies offense has to get better. There’s no question about it. Their on-base percentage is .283, which is not a good reflection about their approach at the plate. They are ranked last in the National League in runs scored.
It’s no wonder why they need to get a hitter during the trade deadline.
This is not going to cut it. For the Rockies to be a factor in the NL West, they have to perform well offensively. They need to generate big innings, and they have to beat up on pitchers they should be beating.
There are too many good hitters on that team to struggle.
It’s on them to make adjustments.
The least they can do is grind out better at-bats. If they can do that, maybe they can get something going offensively.
It can’t just be Dexter Fowler and Troy Tulowitzki taking good at-bats only. It has to be everyone in the lineup.
Improvements have to be made offensively if the Rockies are going to win games.
It has to be made soon. With three inferior teams such as the Cubs, Marlins and Brewers in this homestand, the Rockies have to improve offensively as quickly as possible.
If not, this could be the death march of the 2013 season for the Rockies.
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There has been chatter about Rockies third base prospect Nolan Arenado in the last couple of years.
The Rockies’ No. 2 overall prospect is getting a chance to show what he can do this spring training. He will be getting playing time, and he is a reason to watch spring training.
There has been talk about Arenado making the big club this spring, but odds are good that he will start the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs. There’s no way a prized prospect is making the club out of spring training. Not even Angels superstar Mike Trout made the team out of spring training last year.
Arenado has to work on his defense at third base. Playing at the hot corner is a vital position because a double play can be created or a hit can be robbed by a great catch. Plus, the prized prospect must work on his legwork when it comes to playing at third base.
The 21-year-old player needs to refine his hitting at Triple-A. He must have plate discipline for him to be successful with the Rockies. He has to foul off pitches in getting good at-bats. He has to cut down on his strikeouts. It’s the little things that he has to do before he can play in the big leagues.
After batting .285 with 12 home runs, 56 RBIs along with striking out 58 times at Double-A Tulsa, it’s clear he has work to do before he can go to the majors.
Still, spring training games are important for Arenado. It gives a chance for first-year Rockies hitting coach Dante Bichette to work with him as he is on his way to Triple-A. Whatever education Arenado receives, he will benefit from it.
These games also will give him playing time. This gives a chance for Rockies manager Walt Weiss to see what this phenom is all about. He wants to know if the kid is mature enough to be around major leaguers.
There’s no question Arenado is going to make an impression. He wants to be in the majors as soon as possible. He feels he is good enough to be in the Opening Day lineup against the Brewers on April 1. It’s the type of attitude Weiss wants to see.
Arenado mentioned how he is leaner and stronger. He feels he is in good shape to swing the bat and play third base.
It’s always good to see how prospects fare in spring training. They provide hope, and it gives a glimpse of things to come. The Rockies need to find stars within their farm system for them to have success, and that’s why all eyes are on Arenado.
There are many young players that are becoming stars for their respective teams. The Rockies like to find that dynamic player, and that’s why they have high hopes for Arenado.
Imagine Blake Street Bombers 2.0 with Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Arenado. That would be good enough to gets fans to watch them at Coors Field or on television. Nothing excites fans than watching that trio hit home runs or driving in runs.
A team can never have enough good hitters.
The Rockies need to develop pitchers, but if they can develop good hitters, it can’t be a bad thing.
Arenado’s talent is eye-opening. He has a good swing, and he can hit the ball at any direction. Think of him as Todd Helton. That’s how good he can be. It’s easy to understand why fans want him to be with the Rockies as soon as possible.
It’s hard to judge a player on spring training, but this is about how far Arenado has come and how much he has to learn to be a good ballplayer in the majors.
The Rockies are hoping their prized prospect flourishes in spring training, so that he can have some confidence heading to Triple-A.
One has to figure Arenado will be playing in the summer. The Rockies need to sell tickets this summer if the team has another awful season, so they have an incentive to call him.
Arenado should be okay when he plays at Triple-A. Once he gets his work in, he is going to be called up.
There are no ifs, ands or buts about it.
He was hired as the Rockies hitting coach this offseason. First-year Rockies manager Walt Weiss thought he would be a good influence with the young hitters.
For Bichette, this is a chance to start another career in baseball.
He wanted to work in baseball in some capacity, and he is getting an opportunity by being the hitting coach.
The former Rockie paid his dues by working with his sons’ youth and high school teams along with draft prospects. He received rave reviews from those that worked with him. That was why he was hired by the Rockies. It has nothing to do with being a fan favorite from his playing days at Colorado. It has nothing to do with the organization doing him a favor.
This is a good hire. Bichette was a good hitter in the majors, and the players can gravitate to what he has to say based on his body of work.
Bichette talked about how he loved to talk about hitting with the players. He feels he has everything to offer in working with young hitters.
One can’t help but think he wants to manage when he talks about how he wants to teach and communicate with the ballplayers.
Hitting coaches don’t take the job for the intent of being hitting coaches forever. They use that position to eventually manage one day. That’s why Bichette took the job.
He feels he has the attributes of being a manager when he cites about his love for teaching and being a baseball junkie.
There’s no question Weiss will lean on Bichette when it comes to making moves during the game. The Rockies hitting coach is a good sounding board for the manager, and he is a coach that Weiss trusts.
This is a good experience for Bichette. It will be another way for him to learn about managing when he works with Weiss in the dugout.
Bichette could also serve as a bad cop to the players. Weiss isn’t known to be boisterous, so there has to be a coach that will raise the riot act when it’s necessary. That’s where the Rockies hitting coach can play that role well.
Bichette has had experience of coaching kids, but working with grown men is a different experience.
This is where his development as a hitting coach has to come to play. If he can do well working with the players, he could eventually get a look from other teams when it comes to managing down the road.
For all we know, he could be the next Rockies manager if Weiss doesn’t have success.
Obviously, Bichette wants to manage for some other team. He wants his boss to do well as a manager, since it would mean he had a role in the Rockies’ success. If the team does well, other teams will certainly wonder about him.
Right now, Bichette wants to be the best hitting coach he can be. That’s a tough job as it is. Fans blame the hitting coach if the hitters don’t do well.
Bichette can teach all he wants, but his hitters have to make him look good by producing. That’s a tricky proposition. Hitting coaches can teach all they want, but it comes down to what the hitters do when the game starts.
Hitting is hard. If a player slumps, he can be mentally fatigued for thinking about his struggles. That’s on Bichette to get players focused by being positive. The Rockies feel he can do that as a hitting coach.
If the Rockies can hit, credit is going to go to Bichette.
It’s also going to come down to winning. The Rockies have to win for Bichette to get a chance to manage. No team is hiring coaches that are associated with an organization that loses.
Bichette is not talking about his managerial aspirations publicly. He is smart enough to know he can’t do that when he hasn’t proven anything as a hitting coach in the majors.
Still, with his personality and his intelligence, one can’t help but think he has more to offer than being a hitting coach.
Bichette feels that way, too. He did not get involved in coaching just to be content as coach.
Like most people, the new Rockies hitting coach has higher goals.