Well, it had to happen sometime. Colorado lost their first one run game in regulation last night, thanks to, as is the case with most close losses, a combination of momentary carelessness (Felipe Paulino's 3-0 pitch to Upton the Younger) and failure to execute in high leverage situations (whatever it was that happened in the top of the eighth). These things happen -- I'm not too worried about it in the grand scheme of things. I mean, the bullpen has been pretty consistently great this season and Carlos Gonzalez looks much more like himself at the plate again.
Then again, it's hard to ignore some of the similarities between this year's Rockies and last year's Padres, who unexpectedly ran the NL West for most of 2010 using a strong bullpen, decent starting pitching, good defense, and below-average offense only to fade at the end. Padres blogger and Baseball Prospectus contributor Geoff Young inferred as much in the title of his article comparing the 2011 April performances of each NL West team to their 2010 incarnations.
Obviously, there are a few key differences between this year's Rockies and last year's Padres, chief of which is talent level -- as in, the Rockies were a consensus plus .500 team coming into this year. That starts with the three O's and continues on down the line to pretty much the whole team. A lot has already gone wrong for the Rockies, but their depth of talent has enabled them to overcome these hurdles with relative ease. This team expects to win every game, and they should -- after all, they've got the talent to be favored in nearly every game they play.
Still the formula the Rockies have used to achieve their success so far has pretty closely resembled the script that San Diego used last year. And guess what, that's not a bad thing. I hope against hope that Colorado can follow that formula all season (though some more offense and good Ubaldo would be greatly appreciated). Despite their failures so far this year, the Rockies are playing good baseball and winning at an almost 2:1 rate. Given the Rockies' talent advantage over the Padres, I suspect that the likelihood that Colorado just fades away down the stretch, repeating San Diego's end game, is quite low.
In case you haven't heard, Francisco Liriano pulled a Ubaldo Jimenez, tossing a six walk no-hitter last night against the Wihite Sox. Liriano's 123 pitch no-no was definitely not pretty, but nonetheless congratulations are in order for the hurler, who has had a pretty rough start to 2011.
Oddly enough, both Upton brothers had go-ahead homers late last night, as Upton the Elder's bomb lifted the Rays to victory. Reaction from the manager:
"That was pretty cool," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That ball was properly struck right there."
Why can't Jim Tracy talk like that?
Two more pieces of bad news for Dodgers players and fans (and consequently good news for Rockies fans): one, LA doesn't have enough money for payroll in May. Two, it looks like if you struggle with attendance in April it's a very strong sign that attendance will struggle all year. Guess who has the biggest attendance decline in the NL so far? What a mess -- a mess that only an enemy fan could love -- which for the Dodgers is most baseball fans.
You absolutely have to read this piece from SBN blog South Side Sox, which details the psychology in baseball of Cascade Failure. It's definitely an interesting entrant into the discussion of both clutch and sports psychology.
In Rockies news, Juan Nicasio (RHP) and Bryce Massanari (C) have won the Rockies' April minor league awards with dominant early performances. Hitting .395/.460/.750 with seven homers in one month or going 4-1 with a 1.88 ERA and striking out 40 men while walking only 4 in 28.2 innings will usually win you awards, even if you may be a little old for the level.