Thursday Rockpile: Strength up the middle and pitching driving Rockies so far in 2011

DENVER, CO - APRIL 20: Dexter Fowler #24 and Carlos Gonzalez #5 of the Colorado Rockies celebrate their 10-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field on April 20, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Don't read much into Giants winning series at Coors Field - we are now 1/9th of the way through the season, and there's still a lot of baseball to be played. The Sporting News reminds us that any one series really won't tell you that much about a team, no matter who it's against and where. Having said that, 13-5 after 18 games beats the 9-9 mark we had in 2010, and certainly it beats the 7-11 mark we had in 2009. It's much easier to think about pleasant scenarios for the rest of the season from this position than it was from either of those previous two.

Alright, Jeff went over some of the concerning positions with the team yesterday, let's look at the other side of the coin today. For a contending level at a position, I think you have to be among the top five in the league in value. To measure this for right now, I'm just going to go by FanGraphs WAR and I'll put the positions we're getting that level of production from in bold:

So the four positions where the Rockies have had contending level production from their current starters also happen to be the four up the middle positions. Building up the middle strength is often cited as a key for building a contending team, and with the Rockies start, you can see how that's justified. It could be argued about how sustainable that level of production's going to be from Iannetta, Herrera and Fowler throughout the season, but for right now, those three along with Tulo are driving the Rockies success on the offensive side. Among pitchers, the Rockies have two starters (Jhoulys Chacin, ninth, and Jorge De La Rosa, 13th) in the NL's top 15 and three relievers (Matt Reynolds, fifth, Huston Street, ninth, Matt Lindstrom, 12th) in the league's top dozen, meaning a total of nine of the Rockies 25 players can be considered elites in the NL thus far. It's likely not going to stay that way, but I can pretty much guarantee the Rockies will walk away with the best record in the league if it did.

Jim Armstrong cites the timely three run homer as another key to the Rockies success thus far.

Dexter Fowler cites his OBP focus as the reason he's off to a better start this season. I think the turnaround for Fowler actually started late in 2010, but it got overshadowed by the finishes of Tulowitzki and Gonzalez.  On base percentage is also driving the success of Herrera and Iannetta thus far, with Herrera, Tulo and Iannetta all ranking in the NL's top ten in OBP. Despite Iannetta's success here, the Post's Armstrong lists him among the hitters "struggling to keep their noses above water."

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