Rockies Report: Anything but a Rocky Start, but Will it Last?
Heading into the last day of April the Colorado Rockies sit four games ahead of second place in the NL West; The division which boasts the defending World Series Champion Giants. The Rockies, at 16-8, are a half a game shy of the best record in the majors (behind the Phillies and Indians). All of this with their MVP candidate Carlos Gonzalez batting .216 with just a single Homerun and their breakout Ace, Ubaldo Jimenez, sporting a 6.75 ERA in just 3 starts. Once the Rocks get back to full strength they should be practically unstoppable, right?
The Rocks jumped out to a quick start in the National League proving that they are a team that should be taken seriously. But how good is their start? Let’s break it down. Taking 4 of 4 from the lowly Mets, 4-1 against the already under 500 Cubs, a 2 game sweep over a chaotic Dodgers organization, 3-2 against the worst professional team in North America (Pirates), and a 1-1 split versus the D-Back who win about as much lately as Mark Grace does during their version of the Sausage Race. The two series the Rockies lost were against the defending champion Giants and the red hot Marlins. I’m not beating up on Colorado; you have to play who is on your schedule. I get it! But let’s just be pessimist for a second. Cargo and Ubaldo aren’t exactly the models for proven consistency. If and when they get going someone else will fall into a slump, that’s baseball. And is their starting pitching deep enough to make a run when/if they win the division? So far that’s the good news with De La Rosa starting 4-0 and Chacin holding a sub-three ERA. Whether it can be sustained throughout a run into and through the playoff has yet to be proven.
If there is one thing fans love about April baseball it’s getting to project the way all of the numbers will play out, and which trends with hold up. With some it is easier than others; Chipper will get hurt and hover around .300, that’s a given, Mariano Rivera hasn’t lost the cut fastball yet, obviously, and Ozzie Guillen will be reprimanded by MLB. It’s a matter of trusting what you know until you are proven wrong. The hard part is believing that all of the parts will fall into the right places and form something you know can exist but hasn’t quite yet, that’s the 2011 Colorado Rockies.
After all coming into the season you would be hard pressed to find a more interesting team than Colorado. One of the most exciting pitchers in the National League,
Ubaldo Jimenez; one of the best hitters at a position where there is no offense, Troy Tulowitzki; and a breakout multi-tooled threat, Carlos Gonzalez. The one problem with potential is it inevitable comes with inexperience. As optimists we like to think these youngsters can only benifit from their early success, but with expectations inevitably brings pressure, and exposure. Baseball at its core is a game of streaks and adjustments. This can work as an advantage to a nieve young hitter, but as we have seen from CarGo this year, it can also work against a upstart batter. As pitchers learn the holes in a slugger’s swing, the effects can snowball all the way below the Mendoza Line. I’m not suggesting panic is the way to go, but by lowering the ceiling we set may help to take some of the sting out of “sophomore” slumps.
All things considered it’s better to be atop the division after April than playing from behind. Seth Smith and Jonathan Herrera are off to better starts than you would have expected. Seriously, who had the money line on Jonathan Herrera leading the team in OBP? Not me. And Huston Street with 9 saves, none blown, and a WHIP touching 1.00! Not bad either. It was only last October when Cody Ross, aging Edgar Renteria, and a hint of a “Rage Against the Machine” version of 2010 Brad Lidge, lead their team to a World Series. Role players are essential for a late run in October, but the Rockies need their superstars to get them there. The Rockies are feeling comfortable were they are but the expectation have been lifted beyond a nice April. After all the Rockies are an early postseason exit away from becoming the Capitals or Mavs; a regular season scoring machine that doesn’t translate to the postseason. Nobody remembers a 16-8 start if your studs don’t begin to lift your team to the next level.
About the Author
Written by Ken Heinrich
I have been a sports fan ever since I was just a kid watching games with my brother and father. I took pride in knowing as much as possible about every sport and team I could find. The only thing that has changed is now I enjoy sharing that passion with readers of my blog and those who listen to my talk shows on Sports Talk 790 the Ticket in Miami, Fl. Feel free to contact me to disagree or just chat through my blog or on twitter (@KenHeinrich).