With a gutsy win over the Los Angeles Dodgers last night, the Colorado Rockies secured a California road series win and brought their overall road record to and even .500. If either of these trends hold up it will be a very good year for the Rockies. Troy E. Renck over at the Denver Post writes that the twittersphere is ablaze with questions about whether or not the Rockies can contend. He argues that the realistic answer is no mainly due to the lack of quality starting pitching. There are certainly some troubling indicators.
Juan Nicasio's struggles last night, especially with command, were frustrating but he has yet to lose a game yet, largely by not allowing his miscues to turn into disasters. While it is true, as Renck points out, that the team has no ace and really nothing that close to one, it is also true that the Rockies formula for success is to have pitchers keep them in the game, not win the game for them.
According to baseball-reference.com the Rockies most valuable starting pitcher is Jhoulys Chacin. Second? Tyler Chatwood. With Chacin spending time on the DL and Chatwood just getting his feet wet in the big leagues (again), this might not seem like a recipe for success. On the other hand, if you are waiting for the Rockies to succeed on the strength of a feared rotation anchored by a true ace you could be waiting quite a while.
It seems to me there are two basic roads of thought to travel down when it comes to the Rockies 2013 season.
One way says that teams will eventually make the Rockies pay for all that mediocre starting pitching by putting up big enough numbers that even the Purple Bombers offense can't overcome it. The bullpen won't be able to keep up this amazing stretch (another 5 innings of 0 ER last night) either because it's just ridiculous to begin with or because bullpens wear down, especially after so much use. And, of course, this offense will have to cool down eventually.
The other road to travel, however, is one paved with healthy empirical optimism, purple kool-aid, and OPS+. History would suggest that the Rockies' true keys to making the playoffs are having a pitching staff that can keep you games and having a lineup that puts you over the top. Well right now, when Eric Young Jr. is in the lineup the Rockies have only one player (Josh Rutledge at 70) with an OPS+ lower than 100. By the way, just for fun, Tyler Chatwood has an OPS+ of 247.
Dexter Fowler continues to play at an All-Star level. Not only is he stroking the baseball but his defense has been incredible including last night when he took 3 runs away from the Dodgers off of a potential home run from Adrian Gonzalez. Dexter and Michael Cuddyer seem the most obvious candidates for regression, but are they really more likely candidates to regress than Josh Rutledge or Nolan Arenado are likely candidates to break out?
Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are both having very good years but are only slightly above their career averages which could be due to having the strongest lineup around them as they've ever had. Can you imagine Cargo taking those two early walks last year without Tulo in the lineup? It may not look exactly the same all season, but it isn't a foregone conclusion that the Rockies offense will regress. Which begs the question: how much pitching do the Rockies really need to contend?
the New York Yankees acquired Chris Nelson for cash and a player to be named later.