Colorado Rockies' Move to 4-Man Rotation Is Foolish Move by Desperate Jim Tracy

Ian Casselberry@iancassMLB Lead WriterJune 20, 2012

What is going on behind those sunglasses, Jim Tracy?
What is going on behind those sunglasses, Jim Tracy?Andy Lyons/Getty Images

These are desperate times at Coors Field. 

The Colorado Rockies have allowed more runs than any team in baseball. Consequently, they also have the highest team ERA in the majors.

That pitching staff may well have driven manager Jim Tracy to madness. At the very least, it can't be said that he's not trying to be creative in fixing his team's massive pitching deficiencies. 

As reported by the Denver Post's Troy Renck, the Rockies announced that they'll be going to a four-man pitching rotation. Jeremy Guthrie—who's been abysmal in his past six appearances—is being moved to the bullpen, and the four remaining starters will be on a 75-pitch limit to compensate for one less day of rest. 

"I felt we had to do something non-conventional," Tracy told reporters. "I was given the opportunity to tweak this. We are going to see what transpires as we move forward."

Well, this definitely qualifies as unconventional. The fact that it's Jim Tracy messing with the conventions of the game is a bit difficult to comprehend. If Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon was doing this, we'd probably be clapping our hands at his desire to zig when everyone else is zagging. Tracy probably felt he had nothing to lose with his "indefinite" contract.

However, Tracy's grand experiment is already showing some leaks. He says the Rockies are going to a four-man rotation because his bullpen is throwing too many innings. And he's right. Josh Roenicke's 41 innings are more than any other big league reliever has pitched. Matt Belisle isn't far behind him with 36. 

But how exactly will strictly limiting the pitch counts of his starters and asking them to pitch more often going to curb the number of innings the bullpen pitches. Won't the Rockies relievers actually end up pitching more because of this scheme?

Purple Row's Andrew Fisher also points out that the Rockies don't have an off-day until the All-Star break. Not great timing here. 

Drew Pomeranz has a 3.06 ERA with Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Drew Pomeranz has a 3.06 ERA with Triple-A Colorado Springs.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The puzzling aspect of Tracy's decision is that it doesn't seem like he had to resort to such drastic measures. The Rockies have plenty of young pitching that should get a look right now. Why isn't Drew Pomeranz with the big league club?

Christian Friedrich and Alex White are already in the rotation. Josh Outman is tailor-made for this 75-pitch limit as he stretches out from reliever to starter. Juan Nicasio is working his way back from a knee injury. Surely, the Rockies will go back to a five-man rotation once he returns. 

Yes, you could say that if those prospects had pitched well, the Rockies wouldn't be in a position to try something so wacky. But this season is lost. Colorado holds fourth place in the NL West, 16 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. They're 9.5 games back in the NL Wild Card race.

The Rockies' best player, Troy Tulowitzki, is on the disabled list, and could be out for a while as doctors try to determine the extent of his groin injury. It would be a shame to waste an excellent season from Carlos Gonzalez and solid numbers from Michael Cuddyer. But if the Rockies can't hold down the opposition, it won't matter how well those two hit. 

Yet as wacky as this idea by Tracy is, with the trainwreck fascination it's creating, it's something different. Fans often suggest that teams who can't find a fifth starter should try going to a four-man rotation. Manager sometimes contemplate going to a six-man starting staff. This usually gets shouted down as crazy, maybe stupid. And that's probably because such ideas are crazy and stupid.

This more than likely won't work for the Rockies. It could blow right up in Tracy's face and possibly cost him his job. But it certainly beats sending Jeremy Guthrie (or Jamie Moyer before him) out there every five days to get beaten like pizza dough. That would be the definition of mediocrity. 

It's little consolation to fans (or those dumb enough to pick Colorado to win the NL West), but if the Rockies are going to stink, at least they're going to make it interesting. 

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