After a seemingly endless offseason (made even longer by the Broncos’ irrelevance in football last year), baseball season is already more than a third of the way to its completion. The proverbial dead horse has been thoroughly beaten in Denver concerning the curious season taking shape for the Colorado Rockies. Despite offensive numbers that are frankly hard to look at through the first two months, the Rockies are seated exactly where they want to be … at the head of the National League West table.
While it can certainly be argued that the Rockies’ lead in the West should be larger, it’s hard (for most of us, anyway) to complain about being the three seed in the National League heading into June.
Today, I’ll be diving into a couple of reasons I’m as optimistic as ever heading into the middle third of the year, as well as a thing or two that make me nervous about the direction the team is headed. I like to finish positive, so I’ll start with the concerns.
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As an example, raise your hand if, before the season, you guessed that Brooks Pounders and Harrison Musgrave would have higher Wins Above Replacement (WAR) numbers on June 1 than Jake McGee, Scott Oberg, Mike Dunn, Bryan Shaw and Chris Rusin. That’s not a knock on Pounders and Musgrave — we could consider their success a positive in and of itself — but the Rockies need their regulars in the pen to get back to 2017 form if they want to be successful as a club long-term.
Is the NL West a sleeping dragon?
You’re never upset to be in first place, but something about the NL West makes me … uneasy.
It appeared early on in the year that the DBacks had the inside track to run away with the division and be the pace car of the race. Losing 14 of 16, however, ended those ideas quickly as the snakes tumbled back down to the pack.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, seem to be having the opposite season. They started off slowly and, with the return of Justin Turner, seem to be hitting their stride. The Rockies and Giants have both been pretty consistent in their successes and failures to this point.
So who is going to be the one to catch fire and run away with it? You have to think that the winner of this division will be the one who roars out to the front of the pack in this middle third of the season, because right now, it’s anybody’s ballgame. Let’s make it us this time, and let’s do it now while everyone is still middling around .500.
It comes as no surprise to those who watch all the games that the first inning is often a stomach-clenching affair for the Rockies. Opponents in the first inning are hitting .304 with a .912 OPS. That’s ugly. Contrast that to the second inning, just 15-20 minutes later, where opponents are hitting .210 with a .533 OPS.
Playing from ahead is extremely important for any team, but especially a team who plays at Coors Field. Falling behind in the first inning consistently forces Colorado pitchers to nibble and hitters to try to do too much. If the Rockies can eliminate the first inning woes and play from ahead more often, the win/loss record will almost surely improve as well.