The MLB season has stretched across it’s halfway point, and considering the circumstances the Colorado Rockies are in a pretty comfortable spot. They’ve set completely new expectations after jumping out to a hot start in April and have at least been included in conversations for surprise team of the year. And though the Rockies have limped into All-Star weekend they still sit just 4.5 games back of the NL West lead and have a modest record of 45-49. They’re run differential of 0 indicates they have hit a little bad luck along the way (as they ideally should sit at 47-47), but as a Rockies fan you can’t be too upset given that in 2012 the 45th win for the Rockies was recorded on August 16th. So as the Rockies enter the mid-season Classic, let’s look back on how this season has reached this point and who got it there. It’s time to give out the mid-year clubhouse awards, it’s time for The Clubby’s.
Rookie of the MY (Mid-Year): Duh. Nolan Arenado. Rockies fans could go on and on and on about how this kid has blossomed as a major leaguer, but I’ll spare you all of that. All Nolan Arenado has done in 70 games is hit .250 with 7 home runs and 27 RBI’s. But it is his glove that is really creating the stir. Arenado is 7th in the NL in Fielding Percentage and only has 6 errors. He trails only David Wright in put-outs and trails Wright plus Pedro Alvarez in assists. Oh yeah, Wright and Alvarez have more errors (9 & 16 respectively) and lower fielding percentages (.967 & .934) than Arenado in nearly 200 more innings. Arenado is not only the Rookie of the Year for the Rockies, but if he continues to play at the defensive level he has been so far, he will be in consideration for a Gold Glove. Hmm.. It seems like I might have left something out…. Oh hey, that’s right. Nolan Arenado leads ALL NL 3B in UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) with an 11.2 and in Defensive Runs Saved Above Average (14). I guess I didn’t spare you anything.
The Bench Warmer Award: This Clubby goes to the one player on the Rockies that has been on the 25-man roster all year, played the fewest amount of games, and still contributed to the overall success of the Rockies. While several players could fit this bill, the award goes to Yorvit Torrealba. He was basically just brought back to Denver to help mentor the young Wilin Rosario, but in limited opportunities he has shined. Playing in only 38 of the first 94 games Torrealba has hit .295 with 9 RBI. Not bad for a tutor. He also had that one 12th inning walk-off against the Braves where he drove in fellow catcher Rosario… which segues perfectly into the next Clubby.
Gutsiest Call: Yorvit Torrealba had played exactly 3 innings at first base over his illustrious 13 year career when manager Walt Weiss inserted him there in extra innings against the Atlanta Braves on April 24, 2013. I chewed off several finger nails watching the old backstop grind through 2 innings of high pressure baseball at an unfamiliar position. But Torrealba was fantastic and even took the opportunity to record a put out. And then what did Yorvit do? He rewards Weiss by ripping a single to drive home the winning run. Walt, hold this Clubby high above your head. That was an insane use of personnel.
The Cookie Award: Oof, this is a cruel award. But Aaron Cook holds the record for most games won by a pitcher so the Clubby for the best pitching has to be the Cookie Award.
Ironically, cookies are exactly what most Rockies pitchers throw best (Rockies pitching has allowed 3719 home runs in 20 seasons so far). This year the best pitcher and the most consistent pitcher has definitely been the young Tyler Chatwood. In 11 starts he has a 5-2 record and a 2.74 ERA. He has been a bright spot among some struggling young pitchers and really gives reason to hope that the Rockies can finally have a solid staff. With Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacinseeming to find a groove the Rox could have a nice three-headed monster for the second half of the season. Or they could not. It’s really a 50-50 guess right now. But Chatwood has been spectacular so far; come collect your hardware young man!
The Charlie Hustle Award: Pete Rose, forgetting his glaring scandal, was one of the hardest playing baseball players — ever. Now a days you are more likely to see a guy walk to first base on a routine ground ball or pop fly but isn’t it refreshing to see a guy run all out, all the time, like he is getting paid millions of dollars to take nothing for granted?? Since arriving in the Rockies clubhouse Michael Cuddyer has been that guy. Even while battling injury, Cuddy has one speed — all out. He will dive for any fly ball that is close, and if I had a nickel for every time that he about face planted while legging out a single… well I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this story, that’s for sure. That all-or-nothing attitude is contagious and has got to wear off in the clubhouse a little bit.. so this is my simple way of saying “Thanks!” for making the Rockies better. Oh and uh, enjoy your time in NYC and a well-deserved spot in the All-Star Game, sir. Just leave a little room in your suitcase to take along your newly awarded Clubby.
Sir Walks-A-Lot: This award should be as loved as the MVP but it’s not. Because walking, unless you’re a Victoria’s Secret model, is not sexy. But think about it for a minute. If every player on your roster walked you would win your game due to death in the 1st inning with a score of infinity to zero. Players that are selective with pitches walk, and walking gets you on base, and being on base gives you a great chance of scoring a run, and runs win games. And winning is sexy. On top of the asinine idea that everybody walking would yield you infinite runs let me drop this on you: If the pitcher knows you won’t swing out of the zone he is forced to throw strikes. Strikes can easily become hits, which get you on base, and being on base gives you a great chance of score a run, and… ok you get it. The guy for the Rockies that walks the most? Dexter Fowler. Now I’ll admit that Fowler’s “break through” during the last half of 2012 did not make me a believer. However the fact that he has continued to shine in 2013 does. Dex has been THE MAN this year at the top of the lineup, crushing 10 home runs and stealing 13 bases. And he walks over 12% of his at-bats. That all adds up to a nice shiny on-base percentage of .385 and 50 runs scored. To say he has been missed over the past couple of weeks is an understatement. Walk on Dex, walk on.
Mr Consistent: There are three things you can count on as a Rockies fan: taxes, death, and Carlos Gonzalez roaming left field in Coors Field. But it didn’t always seem that would be the case. Back in 2008 when the Rockies received a great closer (Huston Street) and a rising young outfielder in exchange for the established veteran Matt Holliday, Rockies fans went into an uproar. “Why would you trade Matt Holliday!?! HE’S MY FAVORITE PLAYER!!! HE’S SO CUTE!!” Blah, blah, blah. The first thing I ever read about Cargo was an article where he claimed he would basically make all Rockies fans forget there ever was a Matt Holliday. Mission accomplished. I remember muttering to myself, “Great, another cocky outfielder to rot in the minors”. Well, I was wrong. Since joining the Rockies Gonzalez has (buckle up here) hit .308 with 120 homeruns, 387 RBIs, 30 triples, and 97 stolen bases. In 2010 he won the NL Silver Slugger award, was 3rd in MVP voting, and won his first Gold Glove. In 2012 he won his second Gold Glove. He only has had one year hitting below .300 (2011 when he hit a measly – HA! – .295). The guy is a workhorse, playing in more than 125 games each of the past three seasons and is on track to do the same in 2013. Oh and he has earned two trips to the All-Star game, including being selected as a starter for the 2013 game while pulling in the 2nd most votes. I actually added this award in hindsight because, well, you can’t have two MVPs.
Most Valuable Rockie: This Clubby is pretty obvious, and even though he seems to have this rotten injury bug plaguing him year after year Troy Tulowitzki is hands down the most valuable player on the Rockies squad. Tulo is a three-time All-Star, has two Gold Gloves, two Silver Sluggers, and has been in the top-ten in MVP voting 3 different years. While shoring up the left side of the infield (and displaying a .986 fielding percentage with 71 Defensive Runs Saved Above Average) Tulo has hit .296 with 146 home runs and 522 RBI’s. And in 2013 he is making a case, as long as he can stay healthy, to be the MLB MVP. Tulo has hit .338 with 16 home runs and 52 RBI’s in just 63 games so far in 2013.
Who do you feel was left out, RoxPile faithful? Who would you have given a Clubby to? With nearly 70 games left in the season there is still a lot left to be decided. Can the Rockies make a run on the Dodgers and Diamondbacks for that elusive NL West division title? It is still not out of the question. Can Tulo and Company stay healthy enough to keep the offense clicking? Will the Rockies make a move for pitching? Stay tuned for what is sure to be an interesting rest of the season. Go Rockies!