EDITOR'S NOTE by RUSS: Promoting this to the front page since it's the All-Star Break. Look for an All-Star Game thread later tonight.
To call this season a disappointment as we head into the All-Star Break would be an understatement - save the Mariners, Nationals, and Padres, we are the worst team in the majors. In every cloud, however, there's a silver lining, and this year is no exception. In fact, I think there's a lot to be happy about. So here's my list:
1. Chris Iannetta. Iannetta is everything we wanted him to be last year. His average is hovering around .280, he has nine homers, and he's called some excellent games behind the plate. He's done all of this while splitting time with Yorvit Torrealba, who catches more games than he should. Last year Iannetta struggled in the majors and looked like he could use more seasoning. Now he's come of age and he's our catcher of the future. He's also only 25 years old.
2. Clint Barmes. After being crowned our shortstop of the future, getting injured, coming back, playing terribly, and being left for dead, Barmes has evened out somewhere in between his too-hot-to-be-true 2005 and his underwhelming 2006 and 2007. With Tulowitzki emerging as the true shortstop of the future last year (yes, this is still true), Barmes takes over second base for the next few years. Our weakness has always been up the middle. If Tulo comes back and plays as he should, we have a very solid infield, especially up the middle. Now we just need to wait for Dexter Fowler.
Find the rest after the fold. . . .
3. Ubaldo Jimenez. Okay, he leads the majors in walks. Yeah, he is 4-9. But look at how his ERA has dropped month-by-month:
April - 5.90
May - 4.85
June - 3.60
July - 1.86
U-Ball is turning into a very good pitcher. Let's be generous and assume that Aaron Cook remains great and Francis returns to form. U-Ball suddenly becomes the best #3 pitcher in the NL West, hands down. Or maybe he becomes our #2. Or maybe he becomes our #1. He's 24, and his name is Ubaldo, which earns him style points.
4. Aaron Cook. This is pretty obvious, so I'll keep it short. Aaron Cook is pitching great, and I think he'll keep it up because he's actually been this good for a few years. I think we might lose track of the fact that he's 29 and will be good for several more years. Again, imagine a rotation next year that starts with Cook, Francis, U-Ball, and Reynolds, and you have an encouraging rotation.
5. Low Minors. We have some very encouraging signs in Tulsa and Modesto, especially now that Jhoulys Chacin has been moved up. Chaz Roe, Casey Weathers, and Chacin (the Machine!) are pitching great, among others. Dexter Fowler is playing very well, which is especially encouraging to me because I really want a new centerfielder (even though I have a soft spot in my heart for Ryan Spilbourghs). Oh, and it also looks like we had a good draft.
6. High Minors, or the "Iannetta Effect". This one may seem a little more surprising, especially because our high minors prospects are either playing because of injuries or were so bad when they did play that we sent them down. But I'll call this the "Iannetta Effect" - rookies who play below their expectations are often just adjusting, and they'll play much better after they have a subpar year in the majors. This applies cheifly to Greg Reynolds, Franklin Morales, Ian Stewart and (even) Jayson Nix. They've gotten some good experience this year and we might be mistaking their disappointing performances with quality growth.
6. Attendance. Because of last year, we have the best attendance since 2002, and that is in spite of having a terrible record. Remember last year, when people in Denver didn't know who Matt Holliday was and still thought of Todd Helton as the face of our franchise? Now people have something good to think about when they think of the Rockies.
Injuries have been the real thorn in our side the year. Overall, I prefer being a bad team due to injuries than underperformance, although we have seen some underperformance this year as well. I never bought the claim that our success last year was a freak occurrence, and I still think we have the talent behind a very good team. It's frustrating that we are so bad in a year where we could win the division by being mediocre, but I think we have a lot to be happy about.
Feel free to add things I missed or tell me why I'm wrong.