Springtime Storylines: Do the Colorado Rockies have enough offense?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2011 season.  The latest: The … punchless Colorado Rockies?

The Big Question: Do the Rockies have enough offense?

That may seem like a strange thing to ask given that they were third in the NL in runs scored, but with this team, in their home park, the sheer amount of offense doesn’t tell us much. The question is whether they even have a rough approximation of balance, and the answer in 2010 was hell no: only 291 of the Rockies’  770 runs were scored on the road last year, and that lead to a putrid 31-50 record outside of Colorado.

The Rockies didn’t make any big splashes to address the offense from a personnel standpoint — unless I missed that big Jose Lopez welcome party that shut down the city of Denver for a few days — and they seem content to hope for more plate appearances from Troy Tulowitzki and overall improvement from their younger players.

The whole home/road split thing has been vexing Rockies hitters since 1993. I’m not sure that there are any answers to it, really. If Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith, Ian Stewart and Chris Iannetta continue to be overall average-to-below average offensive performers, however, this team isn’t going anywhere.

So what else is going on?

  • I dig this pitching staff. The 1-2-3 punch of Jiminez, De La Rosa, and Chacin only pale only when compared to the couple of otherworldly rotations the Giants and Phillies are sporting. The back end of the rotation is more in flux with Aaron Cook’s recent injury, but the rotation is no cause for concern. How many times have we been able to say that in the history of the Colorado Rockies?
  • The bullpen is solid too, with Huston Street, Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt anchoring things.  There are some concerns about how the Rockies match up against lefties in the late innings, but I’m not Tony La Russa so those sorts of things don’t keep me up at night.
  • Holy crap, before looking at their 2010 results at Baseball-Reference I had forgotten that they lost 13 of their last 14 games. Really, they were a game behind on September 18th before that hell-skid began. I don’t think this has any bearing on anything, but anyone who gets on that “the Rockies are a streaky team” kick you hear so often should point out that the streaks go both ways.
  • It should also give pause to those who look at their 83 wins form a year ago and say that it’s just too much ground to make up on the Giants.  That win total was a bit deflated by some bad luck and a late season disaster that may not be indicative of their true talent level.

So how are they gonna do?

Like I said in the Giants recap, I’ve been toying with the idea of picking the Rockies to win the west. Like I did last year!  But the closer I look, the more I worry that this is really a team made up of two stud position players — one of whom still needs to prove that he’s more well-rounded than some past Coors Field creations — an ace and a lot of guys who just can’t carry the day.  The challenges of playing at altitude have changed for Colorado in that the biggest question is no longer “how do we build a pitching staff?”  They have one.  But what I’m not convinced they have are enough bats to justify calling them contenders. Which isn’t to say they won’t contend. Just that, if they do, it will be because, like, five guys all turn up their offensive game at once to help Tulowitzki and Gonzalez out.  And it’s hard to count on something like that.

I’ll give the Rockies the nod for second place in the NL and a place in what looks to be a pretty crowded National League wild card hunt.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Indians 12, White Sox 0: The Indians gave Corey Kluber 12 runs of support which, c’mon, that’s a bit of overkill, innit? To make it fair they should be forced to begin all Corey Kluber starts with, like, negative three runs. Or make him pitch with his left hand or something. As it was, he allowed one hit over seven shutout innings. Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez each homered and drove in three. The entire Cleveland team was then referred to The Hague for crimes against compassion.

Yankees 7, Mariners 5: Seattle had to feel pretty dang good being up 5-0 after their half of the fifth inning. They shouldn’t have. New York clawed back with two on an Aaron Judge RBI single in the bottom half, got one more with a Didi Gregorius sac fly in the seventh and then Gary Sanchez tied things up with a two-run shot in the eighth. Then, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and extras looming, Gregorius reached base and Giancarlo Stanton reached for the lumber:

Ballgame.

Note: if you get annoyed at the concept of who is a “True Yankee” and who is not a “True Yankee” or the larger notion that players who join the Yankees don’t really become part of the team until they’ve delivered some sort of signature moment, you may want to avoid all coverage of the Yankees today, because it’s only 6:30AM and I’ve already seen like five different articles and video features playing that jazz.

Blue Jays 5, Braves 4: J.A. Happ‘s audition for contending teams continued, as he wins his fifth straight start, almost going the distance in doing so. He wasn’t sparkling — he allowed four runs and six hits — but he didn’t walk anyone and struck out eight dudes. Between that and the long start, it’s as if Toronto is showcasing him in a window display with the words “traditional workhorse, nothing flashy but built solidly” written on the glass. “Go ahead, take him for a spin,” the salesman says. “I’ll be talking to my manager to see if I can get you his best deal!”

Phillies 4, Cardinals 3Odubel Herrera hit a go-ahead solo home run off of Cardinals reliever Sam Tuivailala in the bottom of the seventh inning and the bullpen actually showed up to hold that lead, allowing the Phillies to go home with the W. Herrera has now homered in four consecutive games and in five of his last six. Which, if my experience with Philly talk radio is still up-to-date, means that only 60% of the callers will be complaining about Herrera’s “work ethic” and “hot dogging” today instead of the usual 85%.

Cubs 4, Dodgers 0: Jon Lester was fantastic, twirling seven shutout innings. Kyle Schwarber went deep and a couple of RBI singles and a fielder’s choice later this one was in the books. Javier Baez had two doubles and a triple, scored a run, stole a base and flashed some decent leather. He just needed to get hit by a pitch and, I dunno, sing the National Anthem to fill up every column of the scorecard. They have that on the scorecard, right?

Reds 5, Tigers 3: The Tigers led early and held the Reds to only two singles for the first five innings, but back-to-back homers from Scooter Gennett and Eugenio Suarez, followed by a later dinger by Adam Duvall, put Cincy over. Tyler Mahle won his fourth start of the month. It’s not a riveting competition, but he’s been the Reds’ best starter this year.

Athletics 12, Padres 4: Petco Park in San Diego is known as a pitcher’s park, but the ball flies there during day games before that marine layer rolls in. That was the case yesterday as the A’s hit five homers, going back-to-back twice. Franklin Barreto, Josh Phegley, Mark CanhaMatt Olson and Jed Lowrie all went deep for Oakland. Barreto and Phegley went back-to-back in the second, each hitting their first dinger of the season. Canha and Olson went back-to-back in the third.

Giants 6, Marlins 5Brandon Belt had three hits Gorkys Hernandez hit a two-run single during San Francisco’s five-run sixth inning and no one threw at anyone and no benches cleared. How refreshing. The Marlins behaved themselves and it’s almost as if the Giants realized that it’s not worth getting players injured just to protect the misguided notions of honor espoused by notorious red-ass Hunter Strickland.

Orioles 3, Nationals 0: Andrew Cashner and four relievers combined on a five-hit shutout and Mark Trumbo hit a two-run blast. There was a long rain delay here which chased Cashner after four and, if it had been longer and wetter, might’ve washed out the game entirely before it was official. The Baseball Gods have not smiled on the O’s much this year, but they at least did them this one solid and let this one resume.

Twins 4, Red Sox 1: Lance Lynn allowed only an unearned run in five innings and four relievers allowed the Red Sox bupkis over the final four. Max Kepler hit a two-run homer, Robbie Grossman hit a solo shot and Brian Dozier doubled in a run. The Twinkies have won four of five.

Astros 5, Rays 1: Charlie Morton allowed only an unearned run in six innings and three relievers allowed the Rays bupkis over the final three. Jose Altuve hit a homer, Jose Altuve also hit a solo shot and George Springer and Alex Bregman each homered. The Astros have won four of five.

Yeah, the games sometimes blend together for me. Sorry.

Rangers 3, Royals 2Austin Bibens-Dirkx — pitching to similarly hyphenated catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa — pitched excellently into the seventh inning and Rougned Odor homered to give the Rangers their fifth straight win. The Royals lose for ninth straight time.

Rockies 10, Mets 8: Same score as Tuesday night. In this one New York led 3-0 at one point but such leads are meaningless at Coors Field, especially early. After blowing that they led once again — 8-6 in the fifth — but Ryan McMahon‘s three-run homer put the Rockies back on top to stay. These two teams have combined for 50 runs in three games. They still have one more to play in this series today. Everyone be aware of the location of your nearest fallout shelter.

Brewers vs. Pirates — POSTPONED:

The rain is falling through the mist
Of sorrow that surrounded me.
The sun could never thaw away
The the bliss that lays around me.

Let it rain, let it rain,
Let your love rain down on me.
Let it rain, let it rain,
Let it rain, rain, rain.