Now that we're nearly 25% of the way into the Rockies season (we'll officially get there on Thursday), the picture of where they stand is starting to come into focus.
A) At this point, I feel pretty confident that the Rockies will be playing meaningful baseball well into the summer.
B) However, what I don't know about this team is if they can truly play with the big dogs yet. (More on this in a moment, but first, let's quickly go over a few of the biggest factors behind that first statement.)
Jorge De La Rosa: While I don't want to ignore Jhoulys Chacin's importance to this team, Jorge De La Rosa is very close to becoming an ace for the Rockies. His velocity continues to creep closer and closer and closer to where it was before the Tommy John surgery and the movement on his pitches over the last few starts have been downright filthy. Perhaps the most encouraging sign of all though is that De La Rosa has now thrown six or more innings without allowing a run in four of his last six starts.
Lineup Depth: I touched on this subject last week in the video segment and it should really come into play as we move into the large sample size of summer baseball. The 6th, 7th, and 8th best hitters in Colorado's lineup on any given day are generally not going to roll over and create an easy out for the opponent. It's not just about having Cargo and Tulo in the middle of the lineup, it's also about making the lineup deep enough so that other teams have to pitch to them in RBI situations.
In addition, the Rockies also have players like Corey Dickerson and DJ Lemahieu at AAA Colorado Springs killing the ball and ready to fill in if they are needed. These things don't make Colorado's offense slump proof, but it should allow them to shorten their valleys and extend their peaks, making them one of the better offenses in baseball over the course of the season.
Rotation Depth: While the bottom of the rotation has issues right now, the Rockies have two arms in Tyler Chatwood and Drew Pomeranz who can fill in if needed. The club is being patient and doesn't want to relinquish rotation depth in May, but both Tyler Chatwood and Drew Pomeranz could be a big part of anchoring down the bottom half of the rotation before the season is over.
Bullpen Depth: This one can go under the radar but it's easily one of the most important aspects of how this team is currently constructed. Right now, the Rockies bullpen includes Rafael Betancourt, Rex Brothers. Matt Belisle, Wilton Lopez, Josh Outman, Adam Ottavino, and Edgmer Escalona. None of them have an ERA above 4.19 and Walt Weiss seems to trust all of them in meaningful situations. This is key for a team that's limiting innings from its starters, not just because they can receive strong pitching performances late in close games, but also because they can spread the bullpen workload around evenly among all seven guys and keep them a little fresher as we head towards the second half of the season.
Now as far as that second statement goes, the Rockies have not figured out how to beat good teams yet. So far, Colorado has played six opponents (22 of their first 37 games) against teams with winning records and they have a losing record against every single one of them. Here's the frustrating reality...
- D"backs (3-4)
- Braves (1-2)
- Giants (0-3)
- Rays (1-2)
- Yankees (1-2)
- Cardinals (1-2)
That comes to a total of 7-15 or a .318 winning percentage against teams with a winning record.
On the flip side of that coin, they have absolutely destroyed teams with a record of .500 or worse...
- Padres (6-0)
- Mets (3-0)
- Brewers (2-1)
- Dodgers (2-1)
That comes to a record of 13-2 or an .867 winning percentage against teams without a winning record.
This pretty much makes them the baseball version of Denver's football team who last year went 11-0 against teams with a record of .500 or worse as they beat the Chargers (twice), Chiefs (twice), Raiders (twice), Browns, Steelers, Panthers, Saints, and Buccaneers but went just 2-4 (a .333 winning percentage) against teams with a winning record as they lost to the Texans, Patriots, and Falcons while beating the Bengals and splitting a pair of games against the Ravens.
Unfortunately for the Rockies though, the N.L. West is much, much tougher than the AFC West and they will have to play a larger percentage of their games against teams over .500. In fact, the Rockies are in the middle of a stretch of games right now where they play 29 out of 35 games against teams currently over .500.
It began back on April 19th against Arizona when the Rockies were 11-4 having played 12 of their first 15 games against teams that currently have a losing record and will conclude on May 26th in San Francisco. The only six games in that stretch against teams with records of .500 or worse were the three at Dodger Stadium as April turned into May and the three coming up next against the Cubs in Chicago.
Once this stretch of games is over, the Rockies will have already played half of their games (19 of 38) against the D'Backs and Giants and 19 of the 36 games on their schedule against teams currently in first place in their division. This is a stark contrast to just the 9 games (out of 38) they will have completed against the Dodgers and Padres and the 6 of 39 games on their schedule against teams against teams currently in last place in their division.
In short, it would be really nice if the Rockies could play excellent baseball over the next couple of weeks for two reasons. One, they would prove that they could stand up for themselves against against two good teams in Arizona and San Francisco, and two, they would be in or very close to first place in the division with what right now looks to be the hardest part of their schedule behind them.
Lee Panas recently completed a project analyzing the best ground ball pitchers in baseball. Check it out to see where Jhoulys Chacin ranked.
Patrick Saunders has more on Jorge De La Rosa's start yesterday.
He also has more on Troy Tulowitzki's and Charlie Blackmon's home runs.