Sunday, April 12, 2009

4/12/09 - COL 5, PHI 7 - "Even Keel"

I had just begun decelerating as the stretch of Wyoming highway became the main street of my town when Matt Stairs turned on a low fastball from Huston Street and hit it halfway to Broomfield, completing a Phillies comeback that sent the Rockies to a heartbreaking 7-5 loss. Listening to it on the radio, I reacted as I imagine most of you did – a few choice words directed at the Rockies new closer. They’re the first, but they surely won’t be the last if the amount of verbal abuse I directed at the on-screen image of Brian Fuentes for the previous four seasons is any indication.

Once I got out of my car, I got a text. It was a very good friend of mine: “Color me concerned about the Rockies bullpen.”

And here’s where this very strange instinct I have as a fan kicks in. I don’t mind being upset about a loss, or angry at the players who caused it (and make no mistake, this loss is on Manny Corpas and Street for giving up the tying and losing gopher balls). But when other people are upset, I have a tendency to try and talk them down off the ledge a little bit. If baseball’s taught me anything, it’s to never get too high on a single success or too low on a single failure.

My response to my buddy’s text: “After six games?” Were the 162-game grind expressed as one single game, we’re still in the top of the first. There’s a lot of ballgame left, so to speak.

My buddy’s reply was to ask, “Does Street look like a closer to you?”

Well, he sure looked like one with the A’s, and before that at the University of Texas. And he damn sure looked like one in the second game of this season, in which he picked up his first Rockies save. But that doesn’t all fit in a text window, and it’s a pretty smart-assed reply besides.

Street, and Corpas for that matter, have never fit the profile of the ideal closer. When you think great closers, you think swaggering flamethrowers with well over a strikeout per inning. The aforementioned Fuentes is about as close as the Rockies have ever been to having one of those guys at the back end of the bullpen. Street does have a career K/9 ratio of 9.1, far beyond Corpas’s 6.4. This is one of the biggest reasons I prefer Street at the back of the pen. In the ninth inning of a one-run game, you don’t want the other team to even pick up the scent of a possible rally. The best way to keep guys off the bases is to keep them from putting it in play entirely, and all things being equal, Street is going to do that more often than Corpas will, although still not often enough to provide the comfort that a Papelbon or Lidge provide in the final frame.

That doesn’t fit in a text window, either. So I replied “Neither Street or Corpas are big K guys. When they get beat, it’ll be ugly. But Street has a track record. He’ll be fine.”

This seemed to satiate my friend, as I didn’t hear back. Well, that or he thought I was full of crap.

The Rox lost two of three to a better team. It could have been the other way around with a little better relief pitching (well, that and a little offense past the early innings), but at this early juncture of the season you shake it off and go try and get the Cubbies at Wrigley. Lot of ballgame left, after all.

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