Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Prediction Time: Colorado Rockies have a chance

Opening Day will come to Coors Field on Monday.
It is that time of year for baseball fans. Christmas might come in December for the rest of the country, but for baseball fans, Christmas comes at the beginning of April every year. Opening Day is upon us. After a long offseason, baseball is finally back. For Rockies fans, Friday's opener in Houston, and the home opener on Monday cannot come soon enough.

Go back and look at previous seasons. Every expert makes predictions, and nearly all of them are dead wrong.

A year ago, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports missed five-of-six when it came to predicting division champions. Only the Phillies lived up to his expectations.

Basically what that means is simple. Preseason predictions mean absolutely nothing.

A season after being billed as one of the best teams in the league, the Colorado Rockies have fallen below the radar. The revamped clubhouse is expected to do very little. In fact, very few are giving them a chance to land anywhere higher than fourth place in the National League West.

The experts don't believe that a pitching staff that features 49-year old Jamie Moyer can compete in a pitching-rich National League West. Like always, they expect the Rockies to hit, but the pitching is going to be the leak in the ship.

The Rockies, however, are being overlooked.

Make no mistake. If this Rockies team has any chance of competing, there are several things that are going to have to go in their favor. One or two breaks here and there are not going to make this team compete. It is going to take everything going right.

The thing is, all of those things can, and just might, happen.

There is very little doubt that this team will hit. A lineup that consists of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez is always a threat. Throw in a guy approaching 2,500 career hits and a 14-year career batting average of .323, along with some acquired veteran talent and the Rockies lineup should produce enough runs to give the pitching staff some breathing room.

That staff, particularly the starters, are the biggest question mark for this team. Many question how good a rotation anchored by Jeremy Guthrie, a pitcher who led the American League in losses a season ago, and is rounded out by a 49-year old coming off of Tommy John surgery who throws as hard as the average 8th grade starting pitcher  has a chance to do anything at all.

The problem is, everyone is looking at history instead of talent when they judge this team.

It is easy to write off Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio and Drew Pomeranz. It is easy because they are young and haven't done much at the big league level. They are big question marks. However, all three pitchers have the talent to not just be good in this league, but be great.

Chacin is a question mark. He looks like he has the talent to compete, then battles himself by giving up walks and trying to get the strikeout. The day he realizes that it is easier to get a guy to ground out then to try and strike everyone out is the day that he will be on the path to the All-Star Game.

Nicasio shouldn't have to prove anything to anyone. The fact that he is walking, let alone playing Major League Baseball is a testament to the determination and lack of fear that this kid has. Couple his courage with his mid-90's fastball and forget about having to grow up on the big stage. Nicasio is as mature as anyone could hope for him to be.

Pomeranz may be the best of the bunch. From the looks of it, the Rockies might have received the better end of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade if they had simply swapped the two pitchers straight up. The young left-hander impressed in his four-outing cameo at the end of 2011. Consider that he was down for two weeks in the middle of the trade, then had an emergency appendectomy, yet still made his debut and looked extremely relaxed and the Rockies might just have something.

If two of these pitchers can take the next step. If they can figure out how to pitch at the Major League level and play a season or two above where they should be. If Chacin can consistently stay in the strike zone. If Nicasio can continue to pitch with confidence, and if Pomeranz takes the mound like he belongs at this level, the Rockies have a chance to prove everyone wrong. 

It definitely is going to take many things going in the right direction, but the talent is there. 

The Rockies are also being judged by their performance from 2011. It became even more clear on Sunday that baseball was far from that team's mind. There were clubhouse issues that effected the entire team. The attitudes underneath the stadium had a huge negative impact on the way the team played on the field. 

With a rebuilt roster, and an attitude that seems intent on playing to win, not playing for a contract, or playing for themselves, this Rockies team could surprise some of the experts who give them no shot to do anything.

Based on the feeling from around the state, it sounds like they might have a chance to surprise many of their own fans as well.

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