PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 12: National League All-Star Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Colorado Rockies looks on during batting practice before the start of the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Traditionally, the day after the All-Star Game is one of the slowest sports days of the year. There's just not a lot going on at all. Of course, if the NFL and the NBA don't get their act together, this sports-less landscape could extend well into the winter (for those of us who aren't hockey fans). Regardless, the baseball stretch run this year should be pretty darn entertaining, but for now I'll take this opportunity to review what I believe to be the primary reason for this season's underwhelming results.
Before the season started I put forth some 2011 predictions. On the whole, they look pretty good until you look at the NL West. Unfortunately, Colorado's division has been my biggest blind spot thus far. Despite a very good year on the whole by the pitching staff (above my expectations as a unit, anyway), the Rockies are 5 games below .500. The primary culprit in my eyes hasn't been that Colorado hasn't scored enough runs -- Colorado is 6th in the NL in runs -- it's that they've been scoring them very inefficiently, they've been wasting good pitching, and that they haven't been scoring runs at all on the road.
Let's address the first point. Colorado has scored fewer than 4 runs in 48 of their 91 games. Guess how many losses the Rockies have? In those games, Colorado has gone 10-38 (.208), meaning that when Colorado scores at least 4 runs in a game they are 33-10 (.767). In 2010, Colorado only had 66 such games all season -- this year, they're on pace to have 85 of these games. 19 more games where your chance to win is a little over 1 in 5 doesn't give a team a very good chance of making up ground. Obviously this has to stop soon if Colorado wants to get back in on the race.
The Rockies are scoring on average 4.34 runs per game -- yet they've scored 3 or fewer runs in 53% of their games! Basically, this is because Colorado has had 19 games when they've gotten tacos, going 15-4 in those contests. Typically in a data sample, you'll find that a large number of data points congregate around the mean, but in the Rockies' case they've scored 4 or 5 runs in only 14 games. In comparison, the Giants (mean of 3.61 runs) have scored 3 or 4 runs in 28 games (and have had only 10 "taco games"). The Rockies tend to either boom or bust, and more often than not this year it has hurt their chances.
That brings me to my next point:All this offensive futility means that Colorado has wasted good pitching many times: in the 38 games where the pitching staff allowed 3 or fewer runs, Colorado is only 24-14 (.631). This means that the Rockies have lost over a third of games in which their pitching staff has turned in a quality start. The 2010 team was 58-14 (.806) in these games -- Colorado would have to go 34-0 in such games in the second half to match the underacheiving 2010 team. If the Rockies had won at 2010's clip this year, they would have gained 6.6 games in the standings.
Compare this to the Giants, considered by many to be paragons of offensive futility, who have had 52 games in which their pitching has allowed 3 or fewer runs. They are 39-13 (.750) in those games. They've also had 55 games in which they haven't scored at least 4 runs, but they have managed a 21-34 (.381) record in those contests. Guess what -- the .173 difference in winning percentage between the two teams in less than 4 runs scored game is almost twice as great as the .092 difference in the overall standings.
The main problem within this scoring issue is the pitiful showing thus far on the road by Colorado. At home, the Rockies have scored 237 runs in 44 games (5.39 runs per game). On the road, this total dips to 158 runs in 47 games (an awful 3.36 runs per game). Yes, Colorado's offense on the road has been .26 runs per game worse than the Giants this year.
The home batting line (.274/.349/.443, 117 sOPS+)) has been pretty solid, even when you consider the Coors factor, but the away line (.229/.298/.365, 91 sOPS+) has been putrid. That's right, the Rockies have a sub .300 OBP on the road this year. If it makes you feel any better, the line in 2010 was worse (.226/.303/.351, 85 sOPS+). Unfortunately, the home line isn't good enough to make up for the road futility.
Now that I've depressed you all thoroughly, I'll inform you that on a positive note I'll be attending at least 3 of the 4 games against the Brewers this week, so you can probably chalk those games up as victories right now.
Hey NL managers, players, and fans -- the NL is 2-0 when Troy Tulowitzki is selected to the All-Star team. Keep putting him on the squad please. Tulo enjoyed his experience thoroughly. Troy Renck has a nice article on Tulo, All-Star starter.
Renck also writes that Ubaldo Jimenez isn't trade bait. I couldn't agree more, in that it doesn't make sense for me that the Rockies would trade an incredibly talented pitcher who they have under contract for three more years -- at a point in time where they are very close to contending status.