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Monday Rockpile: Rockies "Rotation" Slowly Becoming A Rotation Again

DENVER, CO - JUNE 30:  Christian Friedrich #53 of the Colorado Rockies pitches in the third inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on June 30, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JUNE 30: Christian Friedrich #53 of the Colorado Rockies pitches in the third inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at Coors Field on June 30, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
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Drew Pomeranz' return to the majors on Sunday was impressive. Not overly dominating, as he walked 3 batters to only 1 strikeout, but he also only allowed all of 2 hits, featuring 1 groundouts to 4 flyouts. Pomeranz went 6 innings on 80 pitches (80? GASP), and generally did a good job of baseball things, despite taking the loss.

The night before, Christian Friedrich went 5 innings, punched out 5, allowed 5 hits, and as far as actual damage goes, only allowed a solo shot to Yasmani Grandal. He didn't walk anybody. It was a good start.

Friday night, Jeff Francis spun 6 innings of shutout ball, allowing only 3 hits, inducing 8 groundouts to 6 flyouts.

Leading up to this weekend, Francis had just pitched 5 solid innings against a very good Washington Nationals club, ultimately besting Stephen Strasburg and leading the Rockies to an exciting win. Friedrich, while nowhere near as nice, has shown signs of coming around as a MLB starter over his past 2 starts against Washingon and Texas. Pomeranz was coming off of 2 AAA starts against Tacoma and Salt Lake City, allowing 1 run over 12 innings with strong K numbers, questionable walk numbers, and very solid groundball rates.

There are a lot of caveats, obviously. For one, Pomeranz was indeed facing AAA competition, and the walk numbers certainly raise an eyebrow. Friedrich's good start came against the Padres, as did Francis' most recent start. There are still a lot of questions to ask and holes to fill in these 3 guys' games. Well, Friedrich and Pomeranz at least - Francis likely is what he is.

But it's something. It's a good starting point for a team desperately trying to rebuild their staff into something entirely new.

Josh Outman remains the odd man out in this rotation, and given his recent performances, is likely a candidate for that "long relief" position that so many Colorado pitchers are clamoring to be a part of. Unless something changes between the writing of this article and gametime, Outman will get another shot against the St. Louis Cardinals, the 3rd best offense in baseball. The obvious problem with this suggestion that Outman be demoted to the bullpen is that we don't have another starter to take the hill, unless we want to throw Jeremy Guthrie back in there and keep him at 50 pitches before relief.

But the point is more that the rotation is somewhat "anchored" by Jeff Francis, something we haven't been able to say in quite awhile - that is, the thought that ANY of our pitchers are "anchor" quality. It's starting to feel like Francis and Friedrich give us 2 halfway decent chances to win the games they start, and hopefully Pomeranz will be joining them sooner than later.

It's not much to go on, but given how abominable June was for Rockies hurlers, I'll take anything.

Off Topic

Carlos Gonzalez All Star for first time

This is pretty exciting news. Every team gets a player in the All Star game, but if anybody on the Rockies deserves this honor, it's Carlos Gonzalez. The guy is batting .337/.394/.604 with 17 bombs this season and has been one of the few bright spots among a team hurtling through baseball with seemingly no hope and no direction. Carlos Gonzalez makes Rockies games worth attending by himself.

Speaking of All Stars, Matt Belisle has been awesome this season. He's not a popular enough player to be named to the team, in my opinion, but a 1.88 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio approaching 5 (which is excellent) should be putting him at least into the conversation. For those who buy into pitching WAR, Belisle leads the majors among relievers with 2.3 bWAR and sits in 3rd in fWAR (1.3, behind Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel).

Rockies option Moscoso to Triple-A as Pomeranz starts vs. Padres
This isn't really news, but I wanted to take a second and talk about Guillermo Moscoso.

It's no secret that everything Moscoso has done with the Rockies has been pretty crappy. He couldn't make a decent start. He couldn't swing in long relief. Now he's been optioned to AAA, and really, who's surprised by this? All I can think about Moscoso is that he really needs to be whittled down to 1-inning reliever. But almost more importantly than that, Moscoso needs to learn to keep the damn ball down and to attack hitters with that fastball of his. Take a look at these heat maps. You can see that Moscoso works away from lefties pretty heavily, but his RHB splits are showing a LOT of pitches right in the middle of the zone. The dude has flat-out nasty stuff, as evidenced by a K/9 rate above 10. Stuff that nasty is hard to ignore, but what's even harder than that are pitches in the stands. The dude catches a lot of the plate with his 4-seam fastball, and very few parks will be as forgiving of that kind of pitch location as Oakland.

I do still believe there's value in Moscoso, but he really needs to take some time in AAA and figure out what it is he can do to help this ballclub win games. Until then, it's going to be "keep the damn ball down" practice in Colorado Springs.

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