Sunday, May 11, 2014

Despite Sunday loss, Colorado Rockies still exceeding expectations at quarter mark

The Colorado Rockies have given lots of high fives in 2014.
Twenty-three. It's a random number, but it is a number the Colorado Rockies should be proud of on May 11th.

At essentially the quarter point of the 2014 Major League season, the Rockies have racked up 23 win. GO back in time and ask 100 hardcore fans what they believe the number of wins would have been at this point in the season and not even the most optimistic fans would have said 23.

The reality is, two years removed from barely avoiding 100 losses, and one year removed from nearly losing 90, the most purple-bleeding Rockies fan would have been very content with a .500 record. Baseball isn't the NFL, where a team can be terrible one year and contend for the playoffs the next.


The Rockies lost on Sunday, their only run coming off of a Charlie Blackmon solo home run, but despite the series loss, they head to Kansas City for a two-game set and a chance to come home with a winning road trip.

Skeptical fans are still pointing at the date. May 11th is usually about the point where it all falls apart for the Rockies. They may pretend to be in contention when June rolls around, but traditionally the swoon starts in May. The dagger usually comes when Troy Tulowitzki goes down for an extended period of time due to injury.

Optimistic fans point to better depth, a team full of hard working players with talent, 1-25. They also point to a lineup that might be the best the Rockies have ever fielded, which is a bold statement considering the firepower that traditionally comes with a Coors Field lineup.

What is the real key to the Rockies early success? The answer to that question isn't anything definitive, but there certainly are a few key differences that the 2014 Rockies have over the two teams that came before them.

The 2014 Rockies are much deeper. Look at the options that this Rockies team has on the bench. Unconventionally, the club went with six outfielders out of spring training. The reason was that Brandon Barnes, Corey Dickerson, Blackmon and Drew Stubbs were all too talented to leave one off of the roster.

Barnes is a gym rat who plays with high energy. The Rockies have missed that attitude in recent years. He isn't a guy who will play every day, but he wants to win. That is evident in the way he plays the game. Dickerson and Blackmon are hitters. Despite minimal big league at-bats, both of them seem comfortable at the plate. They seem to understand what the pitcher is attacking them with and they both make solid contact on a regular basis. The strikeout factor is low with both of them and they have the ability to move once they get on base.

Stubbs has plenty of speed as well, and he also provides a bat that gives pitchers a slightly different look. He struggles against righty's, but he provides just one more option for the club. Dexter Fowler was a talented player, but the reality is, he was a guy who didn't understand who he was as a player. His occasional pop was fun, but he didn't make enough contact. He was often times swinging for the fences instead of getting on base. He never learned to steal bases, and while his defense was good, every now and then he would get caught showboating a little too much. The four outfielders who essentially replace him couldn't be more different.

The Rockies are also getting significantly more production from the both first and third base. Arenado is the same guy who started the majority of games for the Rockies at third last year, but he isn't the same guy at the plate. He certainly wasn't bad in 2013, but with his rookie year in the rearview mirror, he suddenly looks like a savvy veteran at the plate. Pitches that used to be swings and misses are now doubles down the left field line. His approach is far better, evidenced by his 28-game hitting streak.

Justin Morneau also provides a boost. The love for Todd Helton will never die, nor should it, as he was the first true home-grown hero this franchise ever developed. However, Morneau is a younger version of Helton. He isn't necessarily a home run guy, but he smacks a ton of doubles and plays great at first base. He adds a dynamic to the lineup that the Rockies have missed over the past few seasons.

The Rockies might fade. No one has ever earned a playoff spot at the quarter mark, and every year there are surprising teams who quickly fall back to where they belong. The thing is, this team may not perform at the level that they have been, but they are better than they have been in the past. They are fun to watch. They play baseball with the energy that they should be playing with and they are giving fans hope that someday this team won't be a bottom-of-the-barrel franchise.

The reality is, no one predicted 23 wins at this point. They are far better than anyone expected, and even if they fade, they have given reason for belief that the ship might be headed in the right direction again.

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4 comments:

  1. Totally agree that so far this season, the Rockies are performing way above their talent level.

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    1. Their offense has the talent level of a 100 win team. Their pitching remains questionable, but with the offense the way it is, pitching can be someone questionable.

      They are performing above expectations on everyone in baseball, but not above their talent level.

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  2. Excellent column. There are a few other points of course and you've touched on them before. Here's hoping that Rosario can get going when he comes off the DL. I think that his Latin American background helps him play better in warmer weather, but obviously he's worked his butt off to get better behind the plate. He really does remind me of Yogi Berra, even including the fact that he's somewhat of a "bad ball" hitter.
    Also, they've had this good start without Cuddy and getting him back will do nothing but help them because of his professional attitude. Obviously, the pitching has to stay at least competitive (particularly in the bullpen) and I worry that both Belisle and Brothers are already worn out. One problem I DON'T think they are going to have is depleting their starters. I fully expect Anderson and Chatwood to get back and for Chacin to get better. They also have promising young pitchers in the minors. The best thing about this team seems to me to be that this is a team that plays they way Walt Weiss did as a player. I was hoping that would happen when they hired him.

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  3. Very good insight...totally agree the later innings relief has been shaky, but if we can keep the offense rolling and 6+ solid innings from our starters we will be contenders all year

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