LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 06: Drew Pomeranz #13 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on August 6, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
After Drew Pomeranz' interesting start of the shutout against the Dodgers on Monday night, a lot of people were wondering why Pomeranz wasn't given a chance to at least start the 5th. While Pom looked downright in control, striking out 7 Dodgers in his 4 innings of work, he also walked 3 batters, allowed 3 hits, and plunked 2, pushing his pitch count to 84 on the game by the end of the 4th.
This has been a major problem for the Rockies' rotation this season. It's simple enough to just say that they're bad, or that they're young, or that the weird 4-man rotation project is screwing with things, but the fact is that it's a young rotation (especially now, with Tyler Chatwood, Alex White, and Pomeranz all up) and pitch efficiency has made them look worse than they might otherwise be.
Right now, Colorado has the MLB-worse strikes-to-balls ratio, at 1.611 strikes through per ball thrown (Phillies are the best at 1.833). Colorado is also 3rd in the majors (in the wrong direction) in walks-per-9-innings, walking 3.6 batters per 9 (behind the Cubs and Padres).
Typically, a healthy MLB rotation has 1 or 2 young pitchers who struggle in this fashion - high pitch counts early in the game, too much nibbling at the corners, difficulty going right at the batter and getting the outs. These are all common signs of MLB inexperience and simply a need for seasoning in the majors.
This was also one of the major points of disappointment from Jeremy Guthrie, as we were expecting those veteran outings where his 100 pitches would carry him through 7 innings on a regular basis (much like his most recent start with Kansas City), as well as an extra blow from losing Jhoulys Chacin for most of the season. We're going to have to work through a lot of this when Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa return from the DL.
This also exposes Jeff Francis a bit for "what he is" at this point in his career: a back-end starter at best, and not really a workhorse. Despite having a BB-rate below 2 (which is fantastic), his 1.57 strikes-per-ball just adds to the team's problems with efficiency.
Again, this kind of stuff improves with time, as a general trend. Pitchers gain confidence, trust their own stuff more, and get batters to swing at their pitches. We've seen flashes of this at times, such as Pomeranz' first 2 starts returning to the majors and Alex White's 8/2/2012 start against the Cardinals. Now it's just a point of repeating.
Growing pains are rough, but growth can make it all worth it.