Rockies' Grand Experiment: The Sad Update

Josh Roenicke of the Colorado Rockies waits for manager Jim Tracy prior to being taken out of the game while playing the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit won the game 4-1. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Rockies are 10 games into a radical experiment with their pitching staff, and the early results aren't real encouraging.

There are three historically interesting things happening right now.

R.A. Dickey is throwing huge numbers of angry knuckleballs.

Mike Trout has a chance to lead his league in Wins Above Replacement, at 20.

And the Colorado Rockies are doing something with their pitchers that no team has ever tried: a "four-man pairing rotation" with the starters limited to (approximately) 75 pitches, and pre-set "piggyback" reliefers taking over, and those "understudies" limited to 50 pitches.

How's it going so far? From Troy Renck's studied treatment:

Through the first 10 games of the grand experiment, the Rockies' rotation, on a flexible 75-pitch limit that will grow if the starters become more effective and more durable, posted an 8.56 ERA, compared with a 6.28 ERA for the starters in the season's first 65 games. The relievers' workload has increased, as expected, with the bullpen absorbing nearly five innings per game as opposed to slightly less than four with the conventional five-man rotation.

1. It's only 10 games.

2. I'm surprised it's lasted 10 games.

I mean, in the face of such brilliant failure, most teams probably would have given up already. So I admire Jim Tracy and Dan O'Dowd for their tenacity. Or their stubbornness. Or whatever you want to call it.

The Rockies do have three things to lose here:

- games
- credibility
- pitchers, to injuries.

Well, also pitching coaches and they already lost their first pitching coach. Now they have two of them. It's just another part of the Experiment, I guess.

They were already losing games and didn't seem likely to stop losing games, regardless. Which is exactly when you should try something different.

If the Rockies do become a laughingstock, it will matter in the long run only if the owner loses confidence in Tracy and/or O'Dowd. But it sounds like he's on board with The Grand Experiment.

Will pitchers be more susceptible to injuries throwing 75 pitches ever four or five days instead of 100 pitches every five or six days? I don't think anyone really knows. How could anyone? Nobody's ever tried it before. If Alex White and/or Drew Pomeranz -- the Rockies' top pitching prospects -- were to get hurt in the Experiment, there'd be hell to pay. Fairly or not. But there's no reason to think that's likely. Pitchers are going to get hurt. Young pitchers are going to get hurt. They'll probably get hurt a little more if you let them throw 150 pitches. They'll probably get hurt a little less if you don't let them throw more than 75 pitches. But everything in the middle, and even those things, are open to debate.

I admire the Rockies for trying something different. They're probably wrong and the Conventional Wisdom is probably right, because the Conventional Wisdom is usually right.

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