Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Colorado Rockies Early Schedule May Not Be Such A Bad Thing
The Major League Baseball schedule makers must have been laughing when they penciled the Rockies in for 10 of their first 13 games on the road. The three home games were against the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, and the road games include two series at Arizona, one at Los Angeles and the other against the Chicago Cubs.
The first 13 games of the season are not the only issue. If the Rockies do not have at least a formidable April, they may be in severe trouble if they plan on contending in the National League West.
After finishing a the current two game series in Chicago tomorrow, the Rockies play 19 games in a row against the N.L. West, 11 of which are on the road.
The schedule is particularly trying for manager Clint Hurdle, who is in the last year of his contract. The last time a Rockies manager entered the final year of his contract without quickly receiving an extension was in 2002 when Buddy Bell was only around to see the Rockies start 6-16 before being shown the door.
Although on paper it looks as if the schedule is a disadvantage to the Rockies, there is more than one way to look at it. If the Rockies can hold their own in the early going, they will have put themselves in a good position to make a move later in the season. The majority of games from that point forward will be at home, which historically has been a huge advantage for the Rockies.
Also, the April weather in Denver has proven to be extremely bipolar. The Rockies going on the road early and playing games in warm weather cities such as Phoenix, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the team has a chance to avoid games like Monday afternoon's, in which the team played in a steady drizzle with whipping winds in 38 degree weather. The Rockies were shutout and only had one hit.
April has historically been a good month for hitters, as pitchers still are building up arm strength and have not quite found their grip on pitches. Playing a large bulk of games against the N.L. West early and games on the road also could be a good thing for the Rockies.
The team typically struggles with the bats in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Drawing the likes of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Chad Billingsley, and Jake Peavy early, before they have found their rhythm could bode well for an offense that showed early how dangerous it is going to be.
Playing these teams early on the road means that they will get games with them later at Coors Field, where even the best of pitchers have seen their ERA's rise to astronomical levels.
The key for the Rockies is to tough it out through the early, difficult schedule. If they can hold their own and be somewhere close to .500 by the middle of May, they may be a force to deal with throughout the rest of the season.
If they do not start out well, they may be so far buried that it could look eerily similar to the 2008 season in which the Rockies finished April and May with only 20 total wins. They were so far out of the race that they were unable to mount a comeback.