Because this horrific train wreck that has been the last few weeks of Rockies baseball has given me more than enough material to write a worst of 2011 epoch, I decided that I didn't want to depress myself more than I absolutely had to -- especially since it looks pretty much like a sure thing that Jim Tracy will be back in 2012. I could write at length about the myriad ways in which Tracy has failed to put the Rockies in the best situation to succeed, but I'm sure that others around these parts will be happy to do so.
Instead, I'm going to look at some of the better individual months by Rockies hitters. Ground rules: this is for calendar months only, 50 PAs minimum, best is judged mostly by statistics but both context and nefarious hidden agendas play a role. Without further ado, the five best months by Colorado Rockies hitters in 2011:
5. Dexter Fowler's September (and July)
Here are Dexter Fowler's stats in the 1st half of the season: .238/.340/.348, 96 sOPS+ -- in other words, a below average hitter with a distinct lack of power. Since the All-Star break: .290/.388/.508, 145 sOPS+ and 32 XBHs in 60 games. September has been the best of the post All-Star months for Dex, as he's hitting .295/.403/.574 (166 sOPS+, .426 wOBA) with 9 XBHs in 15 games going into last night's game. No wonder Jim Tracy put him the 3 hole -- Dexter has been the Rockies' best hitter this month.
It's worth noting that Fowler was just about as good in July as well if not better (.361/.443/.557, 170 sOPS+, .435 wOBA), but as you'll see in a minute, he wasn't the best hitter on the team in July. If you made a sandwich with these two great months with a slightly above average August in the middle, you would have a legitimate sample size of great play from Monsieur Dex. I'm certainly expecting above average hitting from him next year.
4. Troy Tulowitzki's April
Remember April? Back when Colorado was the toast of MLB? One of the major reasons the Rockies were among the crème de la crème of the Show was the play of their All-Star SS. Troy's .298/.385/.617 (178 sOPS+, .411 wOBA) 15 XBH month was all the more remarkable considering the fact that he was getting a little unlucky in the process (.266 BABIP). FYI, this was Tulo's 3rd best month in 2011.
3. Troy Tulowitzki's July
As if Dex's July offensive onslaught weren't enough, Tulo decided that he would go crazy again -- but this time, the Luck Dragon was on his side, as Tulo was able to ride a .397 BABIP month to a batting line of .352/.404/.615 (180 sOPS+, .435 wOBA) with 14 XBHs. Despite these heroics, Colorado went only 12-15 in July.
On that note, before I mention the insane Augusts that CarGo and Tulo had, I need to say that Colorado went 13-16 in the month. Sigh.
2. Carlos Gonzalez's August
After a sub--replacement level April, CarGo had four straight months in which he had a sOPS+ of at least 157. August was the best of these months, when Gonzalez hit .340/.418/.691 (195 sOPS+, .471 wOBA) and 16 XBHs. The only thing that keeps this off the top of the list was the fact that he didn't play in as many games in August as the player with the top hitting month of 2011...
1. Troy Tulowitzki's August
Yes, Tulo was stellar in August. How stellar? Well, he hit .356/.438/.673 (197 sOPS+, .462 wOBA) and 16 XBHs. His 12 PA playing time advantage was enough to tip the scales in his favor over CarGo.
Let's reflect on Tulo's season briefly. Besides a May in which he had a criminally low .196 BABIP, Tulo's worst month was when he hit .311/.376/.500 with 12 XBHs in June. Since the All-Star break, Troy has hit .364/.435/.652 (194 sOPS+) and 31 XBHs in 54 games -- in other words, he's maintained a pace very similar to that August over the last 3 months.
I guess the lesson to take away from this exercise is to remember that the Rockies do have some pretty serious talent in the middle of their order. Add Fowler plus above average hitters Chris Iannetta, Seth Smith, and Todd Helton and you've got a six man lineup that ranks pretty well against almost anyone in the NL.
Add a full season of Mark Ellis (the one free agent bat/glove really Colorado should be targeting) and it's easy to see a good lineup taking the field in 2012. Of course, the pitching is going to be a hot mess, so I won't get my hopes up too much, but it could be much, much worse.