Relax Rockies fans, it is not time to panic. The Colorado Rockies have safely navigated nearly half of the season playing on the plus-side of .500 baseball, much to the surprise of every expert and Keith Law. And now, even as the team has seemingly plateaued and injuries continue to pop up out of nowhere, they sit only 1/2 a game outside of the division lead. Do you think there is a coincidence that the greatest theatrical fighter of all time shares his name with our baseball club? These guys continue to take blow after blow and yet somehow manage some to put out some great baseball night after night.
After 71 games of professional baseball the Rockies have to be one of the biggest surprises in baseball, next to the Boston Red Sox (for the same reason) and the Washington Nationals (for the opposite reason). Until last night’s hard-to-swallow loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rox were leading the National League in runs scored and have posted the fourth highest run differential in the NL — a strong indicator of a team’s potential. The heart-attack pitching staff has somehow kept it together and posted an extremely respectable 4.05 ERA, even with several key pieces spending time on the DL, and no I don’t count Jeff Francis as a key piece. Beyond that, the staff has thrown up a 3.70 FIP (fielding independent pitching) which indicates that their middle of the road ERA could be even better. There are plenty of reasons to believe that this team and their unexpected start are much more than a fluke.
Take for instance Wilin Rosario and his much improved catching defense. Through over 100 games last year Rosario allowed over 20 past balls. This year through half as many games he has only 7 past balls, and two of those came in one game during an apparent mental breakdown. And there is much to be said for Rosario’s offense this season as well. Even with a mediocre batting average he has contributed 35 RBIs off 11 timely home runs.
Look 90 feet up the third base line and you see a kid that should end up being an All-Star at third base in Nolan Arenado. While his offense has been low-key, if not only average, as he finds his way through a major league season, it has been his glove (or bare hand) that is making fans “ooh” and “ahh”. At least once in every game there is one play that you absolutely have to rewind and watch again, just to admire the pure skill that Arenado possesses. It makes a person think back to 2007, to a young rookie named Troy Tulowitzki, and to all of the jaw-dropping plays that he would make just 50 feet to the left of where Arenado now stands. There is no way that you can put the young third basemen into the same league as Tulo yet, but with a .987 fielding percentage and only 2 errors in nearly 400+ innings it shouldn’t be long until the Rockies are touted as having the best defensive left infield in baseball. Possibly the best left infield, period.
On out in left field is Carlos Gonzalez, having yet another ho-hum season. So far in 2013 the replacement to Matt Holiday (who?) has put up 56 RBIs, scored 57 runs, hit 20 home runs, and hit at a .311 clip through the first half of the year. On top of those impressive, All-Star worthy offensive stats he continues to flash leather on his march to another Gold Glove. Cargo has 112 put outs, including 8 outfield assists which leads the MLB.
The breakdown of breakout players on the Rockies roster this season could continue all around the diamond. From Dexter Fowler (10 home runs) and Michael Cuddyer (.342 batting average) to the old reliable Tulowitzki (.347 BA, 16 HR, 51 RBIs), these Rockies seem to be the real deal. So even with the injuries over the last month the Rockies have more than kept their heads above water, and after pulling out yet another series win (their 11th of the year) over the Phillies in Denver on Sunday, can not be counted out of a playoff race. Even the weary and overloaded bullpen has kept it together long enough to get the starters rolling, and with the latest outings of Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa it’s possible that a groove has been found. Insert the much-anticipated debut of Roy Oswalt, who has a 2.18 ERA in 5 starts at AA Tulsa, into that rotation and who knows what could happen. And we can’t forget the return of workhorse closer Rafael Betancourt to the bullpen, a likely welcome sight for Matt Belisle who then could shed 8th inning late game stress to shoulders that want/like it.
So again, let’s just all relax. The Rockies are on the mend, not on the slide, and the time to panic is….. maybe tomorrow.