The 2014 Colorado Rockies began the year 22-14 after a 9-2 victory over the Rangers on May 7th, one game into a six game road trip. That date seems like a clear high water mark for 2014 from a division contention standpoint, given that the Rockies have been a dreadful 12-23 since that day. A lot of stuff has to go wrong for a major league baseball team to go 12-23 - especially for a major league team that had arguably been under-performing its record at 22-14.
To wit - even after all of the bad baseball we've seen over the last month plus, the Rockies still have a +10 run differential. The Rockies really had been playing excellent baseball over those first 36 games, which makes their performance over the last 37 contests that much more disappointing. Hopefully the triumphant, magical road sweep over the Giants this weekend will provide the boost the Rockies need to get back on track again.
The fact remains that despite all that has transpired, the Rockies are only four games out of the second wild card spot at 34-37. Then again, the team they're chasing in that second wild card position is the sleeping giant LA Dodgers, who have too much talent to languish around .500 as they are doing now.
It's been a series of unfortunate events that have gotten the Rockies into this predicament (and plenty of bad baseball too). Here's Colorado's current disabled list:
60 Day DL
15 Day DL
I'm going to briefly discuss these players and determine what, if anything, those players will be able to contribute to a Wild Card run for the Rockies as the season progresses. First, the 60 day DL pitchers:
Tyler Chatwood's base-running mishap and elbow injury
In a sign of things to come for other Rockies, Tyler Chatwood injured his hamstring legging out a triple in his final spring training appearance:
Chatwood was a strong performer in 2013, accumulating 3.4 rWAR in 111 1/3 innings last year. Hopes were high for him to build on that success in 2014, but that injury combined with the elbow injury he suffered in his April 29th start have limited him to just 24 innings of 4.50 ERA pitching this year.
That elbow injury is the big blow, of course. Chatwood underwent Tommy John surgery in high school and is hoping to avoid a repeat performance in 2014. Chatwood threw a bullpen session last week and will be eligible to come off the DL at the end of the month. I don't think the Rockies can expect him to be back before the All-Star break though - and the team will continue to be very cautious with that elbow. If he does return to form though, the Rockies will take a big step toward respectability from the starting rotation.
On the bright side, Chatwood's injury opened up a roster spot for Jordan Lyles, who pitched very well in the beginning of the year until...an unfortunate event occurring later in this column.
Brett Anderson breaks finger from bat vibrations
When he was acquired from the Oakland A's this offseason in return for Drew Pomeranz, Brett Anderson was expected to be a big contributor to the club's success in 2014. A big lefty who is efficient and induces plentiful ground balls, Anderson appeared to be an excellent fit for Coors Field and the Rockies. Of course, there were injury concerns aplenty for Anderson, who had spent plenty of time on the DL over the last few years.
None of those DL stints have been initiated by an event as strange as the one that placed Anderson on the 60 day DL back in April - in which Anderson broke his finger after hitting a ball off the end of the bat against Madison Bumgarner. It's this injury and the long-term absence of Chatwood that has put the Rockies into the rotation merry-go-round purgatory they find themselves in now.
Anderson, who is eligible to come off the DL whenever he's ready, appears to be on a similar recovery path to Chatwood - throwing a bullpen session last week. Unlike Chatwood (really don't trust that elbow), I feel pretty good about Anderson returning and contributing to the rotation for the rest of the season. Like Chatwood though, that might be after the All-Star break.
Nolan Arenado suffers mallet fracture on slide
This one hurt the most. Nolan's injury against Atlanta last month seemed like a turning point for the season. The Rockies are finding that a world without Arenado's elite defense and swiftly improving offense (.305/.333/.489) is one in which they would not like to live.Since that fateful slide, the Rockies are 8-16 and have been resigned to trotting out Charlie Culberson at third base on a regular basis.
Arenado's injury shortened Colorado's lineup and decreased the effectiveness of their defense during a long road trip in which they were sorely needed. Arenado is another player the Rockies could expect back around the All-Star break. It's a shame, because if he hadn't gotten hurt Arenado might have been starting in the Midsummer Classic.
One might also argue that Arenado's injury led directly to...
Michael Cuddyer's shoulder fracture
Playing third base, a position he hadn't played since his Minnesota days (back in 2010), the 2013 NL batting champ dove for a ball and fractured his shoulder. Cuddyer, who was already on the shelf for a month with a hamstring injury earlier in the year, will be out until late August at the very least. It's another tough blow for a Rockies lineup that needs all of the dangerous bats it can get.
Cuddyer had been hitting .317/.366/.500 at the time of the injury, but I'm really not sure what to expect out of him when he does come off the DL. The Rockies might think twice about extending Magic Mike after this year, a sentiment they've expressed because they love his clubhouse presence and his bat, because of Colorado's outfield glut and Cuddyer's advanced age/injury history.
Carlos Gonzalez's tentacled tumor
CarGo when healthy has arguably the most athleticism of any player in baseball. That CarGo is a five tool terror, smacking towering homers, spraying line drives, flying around the bases, and striking down would-be tying runs with his laser rocket arm. That's why it's been so disappointing watching the 2014 version of CarGo struggle through persistent knee tendinitis and a mysterious finger injury that exploratory surgery revealed was caused by a "tentacled mass" of a benign tumor in his finger.
Gonzalez should be back in action around the All-Star break as well (sensing a theme?) and if he's right in body and mind CarGo will bring a huge jolt back into Colorado's lineup and defense. If not...well, the Rockies will be in real trouble in terms of playoff contention.
Jordan Lyles breaks hand in play at the plate
He was the seventh starter on the depth chart coming into the year, but injuries to Chatwood and Jhoulys Chacin forced Jordan Lyles into action right away. Lyles made a splash for the Rockies early on, pitching brilliantly in 36 2/3 April innings in particular (2.70 ERA, 1.06 WHIP).
Lyles had been a controversial addition to the team, coming over along with Brandon Barnes in exchange for fan favorite center fielder Dexter Fowler in the offseason, but he showed why the Rockies coveted him early on. He had shown some signs of struggling in the few starts leading up to his June injury, suffered while tagging a runner on a play at the plate, but at the very least Lyles had proven his value as a major league starter to the Rockies.
He'll be back sometime around (you guessed it) the All-Star break, and the Rockies will hopefully have some hard decisions to make with respect to which pitchers to keep in the rotation at that point. I'm looking forward to seeing if Lyles can regain his April form - Colorado's playoff chances may hinge upon it.
Boone Logan's inflamed elbow
The Rockies signed the big lefty to a three year, $16.5 million contract in the offseason knowing that Logan would be coming off of surgery and was something of an injury risk. Sure enough, Logan needed to start the year on the DL due to an elbow injury. When he came off the DL in mid-April, Logan was lights out for a time, striking out 15 in 9 1/3 April innings with a 2.89 ERA. Unfortunately, Logan was markedly less effective in May, allowing opponents to hit .364/.409/.950 against him in the month.
Logan was then moved to the DL with elbow inflammation again earlier this month and there is no timetable for his return - I'm just going to assume All-Star break like everyone else. The Rockies brought in Logan to solidify their late innings relief, but unfortunately it hasn't quite worked out that way for Boone. A healthy and effective Logan would be a boon (sorry) to Colorado's imploded bullpen down the stretch.
Eddie Butler and the painful rotator cuff
There were quite a few who decried the early call-up of Butler, one of the best pitching prospects the organization has ever had, just two weeks ago. Unfortunately for everyone who is a favor of awesome pitching, Butler got knocked around in his debut and was placed on the 15 day DL soon thereafter with rotator cuff pain.
Initially it appeared that Butler would be back pitching with the club after a minimum DL stint when MRIs on the shoulder were negative, but the Dodgers team doctor advised caution after Butler threw off the mound yesterday. As a result, I'm just going to say that Butler will return at the All-Star break as well (can you imagine all of the transactions that would have to happen if everybody got healthy at once?).
Obviously a healthy Butler has the ability to become a top of rotation starter for the Rockies, and I don't know of any team in baseball with playoff aspirations that couldn't use another one of those. Fingers crossed.
The Rockies have been hit hard by injuries. That much is obvious. It's also not terribly unexpected given the length of the season and the spate of pitcher injuries we've seen in MLB. Ok, maybe a little unexpected in terms of how some of the injuries have happened (bat vibrations, tentacled mass). Either way, the Rockies have quite a bit of talent on the shelf currently. Yes, there's been quite a bit of bad baseball that has gotten Colorado into the deficit it now faces, but injuries to several top players hurt quite a bit.
By that logic, a reason for hope from a fan's standpoint really does lie in a return to health from the above players. One could argue that each of the above players will contribute significantly to the success of the Rockies in 2014 as they strive for a playoff berth. Something to keep in mind as we watch Charlie Culberson, Brandon Barnes, Christian Bergman, Ryan Wheeler, and company try to keep the Rockies in contention.