Team Profile – Colorado Rockies
Established in 1991, and opening play in 1993, the Colorado Rockies were an expansion team meant to give both the American League and National League a new team. The A.L. got Tampa Bay, and the N.L. Colorado. The Rockies put together winning seasons almost immediately, making it to the NLDS in 1995, but that was the only playoff luck the Rockies had before 2007. 2010 looked promising, when Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history, but the Giants were just a cut above the rest of the N.L. West. Now, it’s 2012 – the Rockies traded Jimenez in last season, and thanks to a torrid start by the Dodgers, currently find themselves 11.5 games behind in the division. So what can the Rockies (and the rest of the N.L. West, for that matter) do to find success before season’s end?
Like many teams during the first third of the season, the Rockies have been plagued with inconsistencies from its starting rotation. Through 50 games, Colorado has already used eight different starting pitchers, only two of whom have been pitching for the entire season thus far. By far the average number of starts for a pitcher in this rotation has been five. This has been due in large part to pitchers being on a very short leash when it comes to control and success. While Jhoulys Chacin is on the Disabled List right now, Guillermo Moscoso and Drew Pomeranz are no longer with the big league club, and Jamie Moyer has been designated for assignment (though, at 49-years-old, he shouldn’t feel bad about anything). That leaves Juan Nicasio, Christian Friedrich, Jeremy Guthrie, Alex White, and reliever Josh Outman as the starting rotation for the Rockies.
The choices for the rotation, at this point, are likely still tentative at best. Even though he’s now in the minor leagues, Drew Pomeranz holds the lowest ERA among the starters at 4.70. Of those currently in the rotation, Nicasio has the lowest at 5.11. If an ERA over five is your best, then your team is not likely to find much in the way of success, especially when a third of the season has gone by. Despite a 5.59 ERA, Friedrich is finding himself with a lot of run support through five starts, as his record currently stands at 3-1. I’m sure the other starters would love to have run support near six per game, especially Alex White (as his ERA is over six through five starts). Overall, this is not a good rotation for Colorado, and they could be the true key to the demise of this team – if their chances of success haven’t already dwindled to zero.
The Rockies’ offense is led by left fielder Carlos Gonzalez (or CarGo, as they call him in Denver). Gonzalez is currently hitting .323, with 13 home runs and 41 runs batted in. CarGo is the definition of “offensive threat,” and proved it just last night, when he blasted three home runs in the Rockies’ 13-5 win against the Houston Astros. Behind Gonzalez are Jordan Pacheco and Troy Tulowitzki, each hitting .287. Further down in the order are Michael Cuddeyer, former all-star power hitter (and alleged steroid user) Jason Giambi, and Marco Scutaro. All three are veterans that often put up decent numbers, and so far this season their numbers haven’t been too terrible. Unfortunately, when you play for a team that has such dreadful starting pitching, “decent” quickly turns into “average,” which turns into “below average.” With all three barely hitting above .250, none of them are providing the offensive pop that the Rockies really need in their lineup right now.
The Colorado bullpen has been the pitching bright spot this season, with relievers Zach Putnam and Adam Ottavino at ERAs under 1.00. Josh Roenicke, Carlos Torres, Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt currently sit under 2.50, with the rest of the bullpen doing worse, but not too terrible given the number of games and/or innings that they’ve appeared in thus far in the season. It’s a shame that the efforts of the relievers have to go to waste, though, including the work of Rafael Betancourt. Betancourt currently sits at a 2.37 ERA, and is 9/10 in save opportunities. He’s a stellar closer, and his pitching is speaking for itself amidst the lack of success for the team.
The only problem this bullpen has faced thus far is a lack of consistency from some of the middle inning and situational relievers. The Rockies have already used twelve different bullpen pitchers this season, taking the pitching total up to 20 for the entire team. When you’re constantly rotating players in and out due to lack of success, you’re unable to build winning momentum, and morale starts to dip. Before long, you’re out of the division race before it’s even truly started.
Keys to Success
Success is quickly slipping away from the Rockies this season. At 11.5 games behind the Dodgers already, it’s going to take a lot of work to climb back into the division. And any work that they do accomplish is likely to be undone if this starting rotation doesn’t pick it up in a big, big way. Someone has to start pitching like their career depends on it. Because if these five starters don’t get even a hair better, then this season is over. The offense is producing, the bullpen is pitching very well, and it’s all up to the rotation to pick things up. Now’s the time, too, as the Dodgers are likely losing Matt Kemp (again) for a while due to a hamstring injury. So now is as good a chance as any for the teams in the N.L. West to make a move.