Troy Renck points out the daunting task ahead of the Rockies in 2013, taking the Rockies 2012 record a little too much for the face value of the club, but otherwise he seems pretty solid in his analysis. The division's pitching remains well ahead of the Rockies pitching, with yesterday's start by Juan Nicasio providing further evidence on that front. Nicasio was throwing a lot of strikes, but still wound up giving up four runs in three innings because of no secondary offerings to keep opponents off balance.
While it won't help much in terms of division competitiveness, I do think that the Rockies will fare considerably better with just marginal rotation improvement (whether that improvement happens internally or via trade) in part because the team's bullpen remains a hidden strength that only got stronger over the offseason. One veteran of the Rockies' pen, Matt Belisle gets profiled by Patrick Saunders. Belisle has to be one of the more underrated players in baseball right now, and is behind only Rafael Betancourt, Jhoulys Chacin and Ubaldo Jimenez in pitching r-WAR for the Rockies over the last three seasons. That's a testament to how bad our starters have been the last couple of years as well as Belisle's effectiveness out of the pen.
That bullpen won't allow many leads to flip, and allow the offense to come back from behind in many other cases, which is why even a bit of an improvement in the rotation could be magnified greatly in the W/L record of the team. It's simply a matter of handing more leads or ties over to that bullpen come the sixth or seventh inning, but I know that, much like Woody Paige's column this morning, is something that's easier said than done.
I also want to add that I don't know if people realize how hard it is for an MLB team with the Rockies payroll to be bad enough to lose close to a 100 games two years in a row. I'm not saying that it's not possible, or that the team's rotation isn't capable of taking us there again, but it's a lot easier for me to see them adding ten wins and losing 88 than it is to see them approaching 100 losses again. Why this matters is that expectations for management and the front office shouldn't be lowered artificially due to the 2012 record. An 88 loss team is still awful and it's still what this F.O. has built, but there's a big difference between looking at it and seeing a 10 win improvement as something management has done to fix things and that the Rockies are going in the right direction, versus seeing it as where the team's natural talent/capability is right about now.