Apr 18, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies second baseman D.J. LeMahieu (left) forces out Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) but cannot turn a double play in the third inning during the game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Believe it or not, April is over, and the Colorado Rockies finished the month with a winning record, despite dropping their final two games in Phoenix.
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I know, I can’t believe it’s May, either. I don’t want May to come, mostly because it’s absurd that it was just the start of Spring Training, like, yesterday, and now the Colorado Rockies are already 1/8th of the way through their season. Like, what the hell is going on?
But really, I don’t want May to come because we all kind of intuitively know what happens to the Rockies in May. They do, um, not so good. Yeah, let’s call it that. Not so good.
Anyways, let’s grade out how the club did in April, and along the way, maybe we can all collectively figure out if there’s reason to be optimistic this May or if, well, it’s going to be a disaster like it always seems to be for the Rockies.
April record: 11-10 (.524)
Overall record: 11-10 (2nd place in NL West; 2.0 GB in division, 0.5 GB in Wild Card)
One thing the Rox did well: You can credit the offense here, as players like Corey Dickerson, Nolan Arenado, Justin Morneau, Troy Tulowitzki, Nick Hundley, and of course, DJ LeMahieu had very solid April results at the plate. But, we’ll talk a lot about the offense below, so let’s give some credit to the effective (but overworked) bullpen. The relievers had some rough patches (LaTroy Hawkins against the Cubs, Scott Oberg in Los Angeles), but by and large, the ‘pen held strong and gave the Rockies the chance to win several different games when starters failed to go deeper than five innings.
The downside? Well, I can’t imagine the bullpen can withstand another month throwing as many innings as they did (10 guys combined for 76.1 innings across 72 appearances in 21 April games) at the same level of effectiveness. If the starting rotation can’t start to go deeper into games, the bullpen will get burned out very quickly, despite the added depth this year.
One thing the Rox did poorly: The starting rotation obviously “wins” this category, but it’s just the failure of going deep into games, it’s the walks. In 21 starts, the rotation walked 58 batters and hit seven more, allowing 65 free passes in 110.2 innings. That’s 5.3 walks per nine innings across the month of April. That is bad. Sure, starters only averaged throwing about 5.1 innings per start for the month, which is bad enough, but it’s doubly worse when they’re constantly dealing with traffic on the bases. If the rotation can walk fewer batters, they can (a) allow fewer runs when they give up hits (crazy, right?!), and (b) go deeper into games, which is what they need to be doing in the first place.
Best game of the month: It has to be Opening Day, right? Everything was free and easy, everybody was optimistic, the Rockies were undefeated, Kyle Kendrick tossed a seven inning shut out, and the offense ripped off 10 runs and like, I can’t even remember, 97 doubles or something. Ahhh, those were the days. That whole series in Milwaukee. Take me back…
Worst game of the month: This could be a toss-up between the final two blowouts in Arizona on the 28th and 29th, and the Sunday afternoon game in the Rockies’ home opening series against the Cubs that LaTroy Hawkins blew in the ninth inning (and, maybe you have another one altogether). I’m going to argue it’s that Hawkins blown save in Denver against Dexter Fowler and the Cubs, only because the Rockies were literally one strike away from a victory and a series win, and Hawkins allowed the go-ahead home run on an 0-2 pitch. So close.
April MVP: Arenado and Dickerson surely made their cases, and Lyles was making his case until his bad start in the final game of the month, but how do you not say DJ LeMahieu?! LeMahieu ended the month second in all of baseball in hitting, holding a cool .406 batting average, .446 on base percentage, and a 5:8 BB:K ratio in 20 games. That’s not bad.
April Least Valuable Player: I know you guys want me to say Drew Stubbs, because it seems like he’s 0-for-eternity, but in his defense he wasn’t really expected to do a lot (assuming health of the main three outfielders…). Yeah, I mean, striking out all the time is really bad, but Stubbs isn’t as visible as Kyle Kendrick, who I’ll give the collar to in April. Kendrick had a very bad month, and besides his brilliant Opening Day start, completely failed to keep the Rockies in games across his April outings. Something has to change fast in May, or I can’t imagine him being in the rotation by June 1st.
Underrated star of the month: There are a lot of guys to choose from here, but I really like the way Nick Hundley has played. He’s hitting well (.317/.369/.450) and has worked well with the pitchers, bringing along guys like Eddie Butler and Tyler Matzek as the everyday catcher. Kudos to, well, most of the everyday lineup for their good work in April, and you can make a case for a lot of guys in this slot, but I felt Hundley’s value with the pitchers and his good start on offense earned him the nod.
One thing the Rockies need to change moving forward: See above: rotation, starting.
One thing the Rockies should maintain moving forward: Um, good health? Everybody stayed on the field and nobody had a serious injury yet! Yay! Aside from that, I really like the Rockies hitting a power guy in the second spot of the order. Whether it’s Dickerson, Tulo, or CarGo, I think Walt Weiss is best served playing the hot hand of those three in that two-hole (and yes, the pitcher hitting eighth is fine, too, I guess).
OVERALL GRADE: A-
Look, I know the month ended on a sour note with some blowout losses in Arizona, and there are some red flags overall (starting pitching, bullpen fatigue, hitting on the road, etc., etc.) but any month where the Rockies can finish above .500 is a really, really good month. We’ll take what we can get from this club above .500, and 11-10 is phenomenal. Now, let’s see if they can do it again in May…