Thursday, April 10, 2014

What we know about the 2014 Colorado Rockies through 10 games

Can Troy Tulowitzki stay healthy for the Rockies?
There is a phrase that baseball fans hear over and over in April. Small Sample Size.

The idea is that fans shouldn't overreact to good or bad statistics from a player or a team because a six month season has a way of evening things out. Often times, the sports radio host who only talks about the Broncos will bust out the stat about someone hitting .450, or about a former player who is tearing it up somewhere else and use it to credit their points. Rarely do they come back to it down the road when things have balanced themselves.

Ten games into the 2014 season, there are plenty of stats that can be chalked up, both good and bad, to small sample sizes for the Rockies. For instance, Charlie Blackmon is currently hitting .471 with an OPS of 1.178. Blackmon has shown promise that he can be an everyday outfielder. However, no one should expect numbers anywhere near the output through the first 10 games.

On the other side is Jorge De La Rosa. The 16-game winner from a year ago is currently at 0-1 with a 8.31 ERA. There is little doubt that his numbers will return to what he has shown in the past. De La Rosa was the pick to open the season for a reason. His stuff is good enough to be an ace, and it is likely that he will return to dominance soon.

Through 10 games is tough to make a judgement on things, but there are a few things that we know about the Rockies.

1. The bullpen is going to be a big question mark all season long. 

While the rotation seems to be as talented it has ever been, with reinforcements on the way both from the disabled list and the minors, the Rockies bullpen might be as questionable as it has been in many years. Matt Belisle was Mr. Dependable until June of 2013. At that point, it seems that the wear and tear of overuse finally caught up to him. For years, Belisle gave the Rockies a guy who they could go to every night. Many times he would pitch mulitple innings and come back the next day and do it again. As dependable as he was, even with a recent good outing, it seems that his best days may be in the past.

The fact that the Rockies had Wilton Lopez pitching in big moments is a sign of how depleted the bullpen was to begin. For whatever reason, the Rockies continued to have faith in Lopez all throughout 2013 despite his struggles. They paid for it all year long. Finally, the team sent him packing to Colorado Springs to fix his issues, but probably more realistically, to get away from the roster.

With the struggles of Lopez, others have been forced to step up. Chad Bettis is one of those guys. He was a starter when he came up in 2013, but the Rockies want to take a good look at him out of the bullpen. His stuff profiles him as a solid 7th inning guy, but early on, he has done nothing but struggled. With a lack of depth, there really isn't anyone who can come in and be a more reliable option at this point.

2. The lineup has the potential to be very good.

With all due respect to Todd Helton, the addition of Justin Morneau may provide an added bat to the lineup that the Rockies simply haven't had in the past three seasons. Michael Cuddyer, coming off of a batting title, has picked up right where he left off. Factor in improvement from Nolan Arenado and the raw power of Wilin Rosario and the Rockies are a solid bunch. That hasn't even factored in the duo of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, who are arguably two of the best 10 offensive players in baseball. This team has no excuse to be bad at the plate.

3. It is a matter of when, not if, Troy Tulowitzki will go on the disabled list.

This one should open up the can of debate. Tulowitzki's injury history and days off comes with great debate. His supporters take it as a personal attack against his character when fans get upset with Tulo for taking a day off or leaving games early.

The problem is, at this point, with his history, how can anyone suggest that there isn't an issue? How can anyone suggest that they think it is possible for Tulo to actually make it through a season healthy? Already, through 10 games, Tulowitzki has missed two games and come out of two games early. While the games that he has come out of early shouldn't be a concern, the issue should be the games that he has missed and the reports of tight quads.

It is frustrating because it seems that nothing is being done to combat the injuries. With consistent issues with leg muscles, from the groin to the quads, is it oversimplifying it to suggest that Tulo's stretching or workout routine? It would be slightly more understandable if Tulo was having these issues in July, but right out of the gate doesn't give Rockies fans much hope. This team is built around Tulo, and for him to only be dependable for 100 games simply won't work.

4. If things go well for the Rockies, they could make a run.

If. It is the most overused word in sports. Of course if everything goes right, any given team could be better than expectations. However, this Rockies team is very good on paper. The lineup and starting rotation gives this team and their fans hope. In fact, if Tulowitzki and Gonzalez can find a way to stay healthy, this starting rotation may be deep enough that the Rockies could use their top prospects, Eddie Butler and Jon Gray, out of the bullpen, much like the Cardinals do, down the stretch. Those two could plug the holes that the Rockies have and keep their hope afloat.

There are a few things that we know about the Rockies. However, there is plenty that we still have to figure out. A road trip through San Francisco and San Diego should go a long way to show the true character of the Rockies and whether or not they can truly compete. One thing is for sure, the first 10 games of the 2014 Rockies season has been much more enjoyable than the final three months of the 2013 campaign.

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