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Thursday Rockpile: Hurdle's job seemingly hovers on brink after fiasco

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Getting swept by the Dodgers at home has left this picture:

NL West Standings

Los Angeles 33 15 .687 0 Won 3
San Diego 24 23 .510 8.5 Won 1
San Francisco 23 23 .500 9 Won 3
Arizona 20 27 .425 12.5 Lost 1
Colorado 18 28 .391 14 Lost 3

(updated 5.28.2009 at 9:59 AM EDT)

And now it appears the day off lull in the schedule has led many to speculate that today may prove to be the day that the Rockies decide to change direction with their manager.

Patrick Saunders leaves that possibility open in his recap of yesterday's game, it seems that keeping an eye on the newswire could be warranted today. The Rockies players held a meeting prior to yesterday's inspiring performance. 

Troy Tulowitzki is pressing and his swing mechanics are at best a work in progress right now. The shortstop's zero for five day at the plate yesterday was evidence enough of that. Jack Etkin takes a look at the pressure he's feeling and is under in his latest.

On Inning Management:

Firing the manager will only begin to get into what this team needs to right the ship. What we've seen so far in 2009 is an inability to play innings effectively. To demonstrate, let's go to the basic objectives of the sport: each team has three outs to score as many runs as possible. Runs are scored by batters reaching base safely and working their way around to home. Outs are created by various methods, but some are in effect "conceded" by the offense giving the defense easy chances (or not even that in the case of strikeouts). Sacrifice bunts, GIDP's, strikeouts all to me fall into this category of outs that the defense has to perform only a little amount of work for. If in each inning your team is only given three outs to play with, each easy out looms very large.

On defense, teams can push their opponents into more outs than usual by having a defensive unit that either has excellent range or scouts the opposition well enough to be placed where outs are more easily made. They can also have pitchers that can provide extra strikeouts or more frequent groundball opportunities.

The Dodgers were in a GIDP scenario in the first inning yesterday after Mark Loretta walked with one out, it could have been one of those conceded outs I spoke of, but their offense was instead able to push Loretta to second and he scored on a James Loney single. The Rockies defense seemingly lacks range and proper positioning, making two out hits like that more likely.

This defensive issue is a big deal. Rockies pitching isn't getting killed this season by the homerun or extra base hit, but it's all the singles that are adding up. The Rockies are allowing just 28% of all their hits given up go for extra bases, the lowest number in the majors. Combine that with the highest BABIP allowed in the majors (and it's not just Coors Field, only Padres pitchers have done worse than Rockies pitchers in Denver) and the conclusion says that Rockies fielders are just not getting the job done. 

In the bottom of the first, Dexter Fowler was aboard with zero outs, but Troy Tulowitzki conceded an easy out GIDP, killing the Rockies scoring opportunity and hastening their race to three outs. 

Second inning, Ubaldo Jimenez is given an out after allowing two hits to lead off the inning, but makes a defensive error that allows a run to score. Not taking outs when they are handed to you on defense is as bad or worse than giving them away on offense.

And then there's that seventh inning. Rockies pitching time and time again this season will get two of the three outs but then wilt under the gun of getting that last one. Click on this link. It's how NL teams have done pitching with two outs and a runner on third this season. Rockies pitching can't close the wound.


How will a new manager change this? I could see some ways where one would help, but there are clearly issues here that are needing on field personnel changes as well as an off field shift. Whatever happens today or in the future with Clint Hurdle, it will only be part of the solution to the problems that face the Rockies right now.