Colorado Rockies: Walt Weiss' Most Boneheaded Moves of the 2013 Season
After a horrendous experience under Jim Tracy, the Colorado Rockies have undoubtedly upgraded this season with first-time manager Walt Weiss.
But like every manager new to the helm, there’s going to be some mistakes down the stretch. In Weiss’ case, these rookie mistakes—most of which occurred in the second half—may have cost the Rockies a shot at the division.
Similar to 2012, sporadic injuries to key players throughout most of the season have made Weiss’ first year a rather difficult one.
However, not all injuries are freak injuries. Some can be prevented through rest and smart decision making.
Here are Weiss’ most boneheaded moves of the 2013 season.
Limiting Rotation’s Innings
It’s always good to limit the innings of injury-prone starting pitchers when you have a deep, reliable bullpen to back it up.
The Rockies do not have that luxury.
Rockies ace Jhoulys Chacin has pitched masterfully this season. He owns an 11-6 record with a 3.18 ERA and 90 strikeouts.
In 23 starts this season, Chacin has only crested 100 pitches three times. The Rockies have lost six games when Chacin was yanked early through a quality start.
In those six starts, Chacin averaged about six innings and 94 pitches.
The Yankees Hiroki Kuroda has not only pitched deeper into games, but averages about 100 pitches a start. He’s doing that at the age of 38 and with a bullpen that ranks in the top 10 in ERA (3.37).
Chacin is not the only starter whose quality starts are being cut short.
The Rockies have an unprecedented pitching staff this season in terms of productivity. Three starters with ERAs below 3.30 make up a Rockies rotation that was the worst in baseball last season.
Tyler Chatwood, Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio have all had their innings limited through quality starts. Overall, the rotation ranks 25th in baseball in innings pitched.
That stat alone has left the Rockies’ bullpen tired and overworked, struggling mightily through the second half.
If Weiss allowed his starters to habitually crest 100 pitches there would be a larger risk of injury, yes, but the Rockies would also have a significantly higher number of wins to their name.
As a result of starters not being allowed to go deeper into games, much of the burden fell on the bullpen.
However, that doesn’t mean closer Rafael Betancourt should have been overworked, especially after being fresh off the disabled list.
In early June, Betancourt suffered from a nagging groin injury which eventually landed him on the shelf for about a month.
The Rockies closer was activated on June 28 and immediately was thrown into a game the following day. Then, just five days later, Betancourt would be called upon five times in a span of ten games.
Groin pain has been linked to appendicitis, according to a case study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Betancourt should have been eased off the disabled list by having Rex Brothers close some games.
That didn’t happen and Betancourt was sent back to the shelf with appendicitis 23 days after being activated.
Brothers has posted a 1.49 ERA with 49 strikeouts this season, including 10 saves in Betancourt’s absence.
There’s no telling what could of happen in this situation, or even if Betancourt’s injury could have been prevented. Nevertheless, there’s still a chance the Rockies might still have their closer if Weiss limited his innings post-groin injury.
Not Playing Culberson at Second Base
First-round draft pick Charlie Culberson has struggled since his late July call-up.
Weiss has not given the Rockies’ top second base prospect the consistent playing time at his position to raise his stats, prove his worth and showcase his glove.
After falling so far out of contention, Weiss needs to start getting Culberson comfortable at second base. The Rockies’ late season struggles offer the opportunity to experiment.
DJ LeMahieu has done well at second this month, batting .318, but he’s had the luxury of playing every day.
Culberson’s time as a tradable commodity is running out. The 24-year-old needs to be given the opportunity to showcase his talent and raise his trade value. By doing so, the organization could get much needed pitching in return and give the position to LeMahieu.
If the Rockies were still in contention, Weiss would be smart in starting MeLahieu every day, like he has in the last 16 games.
Culberson is six for his last 15 and could be finally starting to get it going with the bat. Weiss needs to realize a playoff berth is no longer in reach and begin alternating between Culberson and LeMahieu at second.
Not Starting Corey Dickerson
Speaking of showcasing prospects, it’s time Corey Dickerson’s name is injected into the everyday starting lineup.
In August, Charlie Blackmon has started more games than Corey Dickerson, who just happens to be the Rockies most coveted and productive outfield prospect next to last year’s first-round draft pick David Dahl.
Blackmond, 27, has batted .250 with a homer and two RBI. On the other hand, Dickerson has batted a crisp .344 with a homer and three RBI.
Dickerson’s production seems to be positively correlated with his playing time. Earlier this season, the 24-year-old outfielder started just eight games and struggled before he was demoted on July 10.
When Nolan Arenado was given the opportunity upon his call-up to play through his rookie jitters, he batted .303 in June with three homers and 13 RBI, slugging .505.
If Weiss started Dickerson upon Fowler’s injury in early July, he could have had a chance to string together some hits.
Weiss should put Blackmon on the bench and let Dickerson get the majority of the playing time in left.
Allowing Gonzalez to Play Through Injury
Since his injury early last month, Gonzalez’s production has been down and his strikeout total has risen. The finger was showing him obvious discomfort, but he continued to play through the pain.
Weiss should have recognized the problem early and allowed Gonzalez enough time to rest.
Finger injuries take time to heal and get considerably worse when subject to the stress of a baseball swing.
Just by the sheer look of the finger, Weiss should have placed Gonzalez on the disabled list and allowed him enough time to recuperate. The time off would have allowed the Rockies’ left fielder to come back after the All-Star break and gear up for a run at a division title.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, Weiss adhered to Gonzalez’s decision to play through the injury. It ended up hurting the team in the end.
The Rockies are falling out of contention and are now without their second-most productive bat.
Follow me on Twitter @cucch22