Rockies Preview – Are they for real this time?
The Rockies play host to the red-hot Dodgers as they try to keep claim to 1st place in the Western division. The Rockies handled the World Champion Cubs pretty good taking two of three. Before that, they knocked off the Diamondbacks two of three.
2014 – On May 7th they were 22 – 14 and in first
place. That would be the last time they were in 1st place
They ended 2014 with a horrific 66 – 96 record. The one time they made the postseason wasn’t based on a fast start but a torrid finish.
The one time they made the World Series wasn’t based on a fast start but a torrid finish when they went 20 – 8 in Sept of 2007 winning fourteen of their last fifteen games.
Right now they are 22 – 13 and are in first place. Will things be different this time?
Probably. This is a good team but they have the same Achilles heal they have always had. The rotation. The arms are better than in the past but these are baby arms. So many rookies are helping fuel the Rockie ascent, but can these baby arms handle a full year of Coors? It rarely happens and right now they need three of these baby arms to handle that load.
I see this team in two lights. One light is what they are now, and the second light is what they can become by upgrading the rotation by trading assets. The first light is very bright on May 11th, but will eventually dim because historically the load is simply too great for young pitchers, old pitchers, any kind of pitchers. The second light is too far in the future because we can’t gauge what moves they will make, we can only look at the team as it stands right now.
Let’s look at the current bright light:
Mark Reynolds, what an NRI signing. Usually when your big free agent signing breaks his hand in spring training that is trouble. For the Rockies, it was the best thing that could have happened. That injury allowed Mark Reynolds to make the team and become the starting first baseman. He has been the MVP of the team so far. They have three players with 1 WAR already in Reynolds, Blackmon, and Arenado.
They needed Reynolds to hit like he’s never hit before because Carlos Gonzalez is hitting like he’s never done before but in a negative way. Look at that chart. Cargo is dead last in wRC+ for the Rockies. He’s probably dead last in baseball in RF. Yup, using Fangraphs, Cargo is dead last. He’s so bad the player in front of him at 29th has twice as much wRC+ as Cargo. That is bad. That is horrifically bad. That would be like Chase Utley being your cleanup hitter every night. Every night.
At this time last year Trevor Story was the talk of baseball but this year he is struggling. Last year at this time Story had already hit eleven home runs with a .924 OPS. His OPS right now is .685.
Ian Desmond just got back off the DL and is now playing in the outfield instead of 1st base. Desmond hit two home runs his 3rd game back. Has not had an extra base hit in the next seven even with six of them at Coors.
Yet, they persevere. So watch out, because if the Rockies can win regularly while Cargo is the worse hitter in baseball and Story scuffles, they might have monsoon of offense coming their way when they get going.
I’ll admit to not knowing half of the Rockie rotation before the season started. I rarely pay attention to Rockie starters. Jon Gray sure, he has great stuff and the chance to be one of the better historical Rockie pitchers before Coors claims his arm. Bettis because of his cancer issues. Chatwood because he was so good on the road. Tyler Anderson because he showed some promise. But NL Rookie of the Month Antonio Senzatela. Nope. Kyle Freeland Nope. German Marquez, I had heard of but didn’t pay much attention to. Now I will, he looked great last night. Brilliant even. Dodgers won’t be facing Gray who is still on the DL or Marquez but they will face three of the four below. Freeland will be replaced by Jordan Lyles making his first start of the season.
The bullpen, however, is where the Rockies have excelled this season. The starters are 6th in the NL but the bullpen is second with only the Dodgers keeping them from nabbing the top stop. Greg Holland has been everything the Rockies could have hoped for. They love him. They love him so much they might kill him before the all-star game. Holland has saved 14 games already. He has been in 15 of the 35 games which isn’t that crazy a pace except the man didn’t pitch all of last year. They didn’t ease him into the closer role they shoved him, and they shoved him hard. Holland has plenty of help in lefty Jake McGee who rediscovered the ability to get outs, hard-throwing Adam Ottavino, lefty Mike Dunn, and lefty Chris Rusin.
Yup, they got a boatload of effective left-hand relief pitchers.
But can any of them contain Chris Taylor?
To answer the question, are the Rockies for real in 2017?
I think so, while the pitching will regress, I expect the offense to pick up the slack with the additions of Desmond/Dahl, and Cargo getting back to normal. This won’t be a repeat of 2014 when they went from 23 – 16 to 66 – 96. I won’t commit to the Rockies being in the postseason in 2017 but I will commit to them being a better than .500 team.