Is the four man rotation an intrinsically flawed concept, or are the 2012 Rockies simply incapable of successfully implementing the approach?
Troy Renck says that it's the former, that the four man rotation won't work because the four relievers required for piggybacking will be too difficult to develop at the minor league level. I'm not buying his logic that this is bad because it requires pigeonholing pitchers into either starter or piggyback roles earlier in their minor league development. I actually think it provides young Rockies starters an MLB entry level position that they can use to develop into rotation members. Young relievers are converted into effective starters by well run MLB teams all the time. Chris Sale, for instance, has been one of the best pitchers in the AL this season after being a closer for the White Sox last year. It will be a lot easier for the Rockies to stretch out a two to three inning piggyback reliever into a four or five inning starter than it would be for them to stretch out a one inning closer.
Instead, I think the Rockies major issue this season has been that the pitching talent that they have is simply either unready or unworthy to start on an MLB contending team, or even on a mediocre team. The 2012 Rockies aren't failing because they're only as strong as their weakest piggyback links, they're failing because the whole starting chain is weak. When the Rockies have been successful, it's been because their whole pitching staff has been relatively strong. In 2007, the Rockies had 13 pitchers throw 40 innings or more, but just had one (Jeff Francis) throw over 166 innings, they also only had one (Josh Fogg) with an ERA+ under 100. Compare that to this season, when the Rockies again have 13 pitchers over 40 innings, but without any starters with an ERA+ over Fogg's in that 2007 season.
I also don't understand where Renck's coming from in targeting the piggyback portion of this four man rotation plan as that's been the most successful aspect of the plan to date. At least in Josh Roenicke (2.65 ERA,) Adam Ottavino (4.34) and Carlos Torres (4.38,) the Rockies three current piggyback pitchers are adequately performing their jobs, it's the starters (combined 6.23 ERA) and the lack of a fourth piggyback option that are failing this season. Given their rock bottom acquisition costs (Roenicke and Ottavino were selected off waivers, Torres was signed as a FA from Japan) and fungible nature, finding more pitchers like the above three seems like it wouldn't be that difficult.
The real issue remains to develop four starters who can regularly carve through an MLB lineup twice. As soon as that happens, as the three wins on this road trip against the division's top two teams have shown, the Rockies will become a competitive team.
More from the Denver Post:
Rockies call up Harris, put Escalona on DL - Geaux Tigers? Will Harris has had a long journey to the bigs, but he seems like he'll be another solid cog for the Rockies in the pen.
Between outbursts, Rockies manager stays positive- Tyler Kepner of the NY Times checks in on Jim Tracy.