Loss of Tulo set tone for Rockies' tough year

Loss of Tulo set tone for Rockies' tough year

The Rockies finished with the worst record in their 20-year history in 2012, and maybe that was inevitable given the weakness of their starting pitching and a year-long string of injuries. But in the midst of the losing, manager Jim Tracy saw hope.

Colorado eclipsed its previous team record for losses in a season -- 95, set in the inaugural 1993 season and matched in 2005 -- but after losing much of their lineup to injury, the Rockies showed signs of life during a 16-13 August.

Following a sweep at the hands of the Dodgers during the Rockies' final road trip, Tracy warmed himself with thoughts of the team's only winning month.

"All you have to do is go back and look at our month of August -- you're really into the dead part of July, where we've had from four to seven rookies on the field," Tracy said. "We had a 16-13 month of August. We had a period of 18 games when we had 10 one-run ballgames, and unfortunately, we only won one of them. I've learned a lot that's real good about them.

"When you bring them here to Los Angeles and play them against a club of that magnitude, we're not quite up to speed just yet. But there's a lot of youth on this club. There's a lot of vitality on this club. There's still a lot of growing to do."

Despite the effort the team showed at a time when it was clear its record would be poor, the season exposed many troublesome spots.

To be competitive, the young pitchers would have to take major steps forward. That didn't happen.

2012 season wraps
2013 outlooks

Part of the problem was injuries. Juan Nicasio was hurt early and never returned. Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa, a veteran whom the Rockies hoped would give the team a midseason lift, missed more time than expected due to injuries.

But Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, picked up last year from Cleveland for right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, were nowhere near impact pitchers. Tyler Chatwood, acquired in an offseason trade with the Angels, needed remedial work on his command before becoming a late-season contributor. Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman, who had pitched well with the Athletics before joining the Rockies in an offseason deal, spent much of the season in the Minors.

Beyond the Rockies' pitching issues, the young roster was exposed time and again, especially against contending teams. Numerous defensive mistakes and miscues on the bases were often the difference between winning and losing close games.

Record: 64-98, fifth in NL West

Defining moment: It actually may have happened during the first series of the year, when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki tweaked his left groin in Houston. It led to a slow start and some unusually rough games defensively, but Tulowitzki is known for overcoming slow starts. However, a more extensive injury that Tulowitzki sustained during a home doubleheader with the Astros on May 30 effectively ended the season for him and all but eliminated the Rockies' chance for a turnaround. Without Tulowitzki in the lineup, All-Star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez rarely had good pitches to hit. It was part of a trend.

What went right: Several players made the most of a chance to prove they could be solid big leaguers. The Rockies enjoyed big second halves from third baseman Chris Nelson, who had his healthiest season, shortstop Josh Rutledge, first baseman/outfielder Tyler Colvin, second baseman DJ LeMahieu, outfielder Eric Young Jr. (before he suffered a season-ending injury) and multiposition player Jordan Pacheco, who hit for average all season. Offensively, catcher Wilin Rosario was a force. For all of their pitching woes, the Rockies made some strides in the bullpen, with right-handers Josh Roenicke and Adam Ottavino and left-hander Rex Brothers looking as if they can handle important roles in the future.

What went wrong: Based on the way this club finished, there's no way to ignore a string of injuries that was extensive, devastating and at times downright weird. But ultimately, the Rockies' starting pitching was so ineffective, they made the unusual decision of shifting to a four-man rotation with restrictive pitch counts, which led to a near-daily reliance on a bullpen that inevitably showed wear and tear. The Rockies' rotation was in a tough position from the start, due to a handful of factors -- the inability of right-hander Jeremy Guthrie, acquired in February from Baltimore but dealt to the Royals in the middle of the season, to adjust to pitching at Coors Field, numerous younger pitchers not being ready and the club needing to begin the year with 49-year-old lefty Jamie Moyer in the rotation. Despite its strong overall showing, the offense struggled on the road, as it has throughout the Rockies' 20-year history. So much went wrong with pitching and health that the defense -- hampered by errors and often a lack of range -- went largely overlooked but must improve. Reducing Rosario's high total of passed balls and wild pitches allowed would be a good place to start.

Biggest surprise: Rutledge was not in Major League camp and had not advanced as far as Triple-A Colorado Springs when the Rockies promoted him from Double-A Tulsa, starting him on July 13. Rutledge ultimately displayed power potential, speed and some natural defensive ability. The Rockies are intrigued about the possibility of having him play second base, with Tulowitzki at short.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.