Wednesday Rockpile: Fun facts about your first place Rockies

Doug Pensinger

The soft bigotry of low expectations has made this April's success one of the more pleasant surprises in Colorado Rockies history.

Through 14 games of the 2013 season, the Colorado Rockies sit alone atop the NL West division. If you had told me that before the season began, I would have thought it was plausible given Colorado's soft early schedule - but I would have thought it was more of a function of the rest of the division struggling. Instead, the NL West has a 38-31 record to start the season - best in baseball.

Fun Fact #1

The Rockies are leading the best division in baseball through April 16th - a crown the NL West usurped last night by virtue of Colorado's doubleheader sweep against the NL East's (previous leaders in the best division clubhouse) New York Mets to improve the Rockies' record outside the division to 4-1 on the year and 10-4 overall. In fact, no other team in the NL has a winning record against the NL West.

Fun Fact #2

The Rockies are bringing it on both sides of the ball. The team ranks 6th in batting fWAR (with 2.9) and 7th in pitching fWAR (with 2.2). Heck, the team is even showing positive value defensively after occupying the cellar in those metrics last year.

In terms of conventional statistics, Colorado does pretty well too. Their 5.9 runs per game on offense places them 4th in MLB, while Colorado's team batting line of .286/.358/.481 would put them in the All-Star game. On the mound, the team's 4.19 ERA to date might be only 17th in the league, but it represents a massive improvement over 2012's 5.22 ERA.

Fun Fact #3

As much (deserved) press as Dexter Fowler has gotten for his hot start, his teammate Carlos Gonzalez is quietly having a fantastic (and even better) start to 2013, with a hitting line of .380/.467/.740! That's good for a weighted on base average (wOBA, which is explained here by Andrew Fisher) of .501 (3rd in MLB). To give you some perspective, any wOBA over .400 is superstar-caliber play.

The line is also rated at 205 wRC+. wRC+ is a park adjusted offensive metric that scales league average performance to 100 - so CarGo has thus far been more than twice as potent as a normal offensive player, ranking him 5th in MLB. Similarly, Michael Cuddyer (179 wRC+) and Troy Tulowitzki (132) are also quietly having very strong starts to 2013.

Fun Fact #4

The bullpen is killing it, ranking 2nd in fWAR with 0.9. Some of this is because Colorado's relievers have thrown the 3rd most innings in MLB, but a lot of it is because pitchers like Edgmer Escalona (as well as the usual suspects in the back of the bullpen) have really had great starts to the year.

Outside of Jeff Francis, the starting rotation isn't so shabby either. Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, Jon Garland, and Juan Nicasio have all returned to form nicely, with Chacin in particular being impressive. If they keep this up, this April hot start might become much more than that.

What it all means

It's a long season and this hot start likely won't amount to much (Baseball Prospectus has the Rockies' playoff odds at 10.7%, just above the 4-8 Brewers), but it's pretty clear to me that 10-4 is a heck of a lot better than 4-10. Nothing major about the last two weeks of Rockies baseball screams fluke to me - Colorado has earned those 10 wins fair and square.

Coming off of the worst year in franchise history, expectations for this team were arguably at a record low. That's really what makes this great start so pleasantly surprising.

Los Links!

Troy Renck writes about the effort to get the field ready for play in yesterday's doubleheader. It was not the most well-thought out endeavor. Here's a pretty good photo of the effort.

Grant Brisbee of Baseball Nation writes about why baseball players in fact are not paid too much. The URL is particularly precious.

OFF-TOPIC.

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