With what seems like half the team expected back from injury in July, can the once promising 2014 Colorado Rockies bail water from a sinking ship long enough to get all hands on deck for a second half push or are they already sunk? This is a team that as recently as a week ago was a game below .500 and had just swept the division leading Giants on the road. However, the past week of finding new ways to be on Sports Center for all the wrong reasons has many doubting the team's wherewithal as all the teams they face over the next 15 games have winning records. Today, I will look at position players still missing from the team, when they are expected back, and how much or little their replacement(s) has given and is likely to give until the return of the starter.
Regular - Nolan Arenado (broken finger), ETR: post All-Star break
Effect - devastating
The Rockies should look into just forfeiting games in Georgia from now on. They usually don't win in Atlanta and this year Nolan Arenado added injury to insult by breaking his finger on a headfirst slide. As a team, Colorado seemed to have better depth this year than ever before but, as Murphy's law tells us, they received a bad injury at probably their weakest organizational position. The team was 26-21 before that fateful day and has only won eight games since while losing nineteen. The team has slightly missed Nolan's bat but it is the loss of his gold glove at the hot corner that makes this injury truly devastating. The team has tried to replace him with just about everybody and watched the errors, and even injuries, increase because of it. In hindsight, the Rockies may have been better off promoting Rafael Ynoa and letting him struggle with the big league club. It would have saved the embarrassment of errors and maybe the injury to Michael Cuddyer.
While Nolan had a surprising seven errors this year (in 49 games), Rutledge cannot be used to replace him when he averages an error every other game and playing in an unnatural position seems to hurt his approach at the plate (SSS). Culberson doesn't have a bat to help the team with and apparently neither does Ryan Wheeler at this time. The best bet seems to be DJ LeMahieu based on the current roster. It definitely does not fill the hole in the lineup but it gives Rutledge the chance to be more successful at second base and helps the pitching with better defense.
Regular - Carlos Gonzalez (finger tumor), ETR: post All-Star break
Effect - surprisingly little
Normally, losing Cargo in any given season is a harbinger of the end. However, this year, he has had a down year due to having a tumor (really?!) in his finger. Add to that the fact that Corey Dickerson has more than replaced Cargo's 2014 offensive production and Cargo is really only being missed for his arm at this point. Without other outfield injuries making the matter worse, Cargo's absence would have not effected the team at all. However, getting a fully healthy Cargo back in this lineup will make a huge difference and could remove a lot of holes in the lineup.
Corey will never have the arm to throw people out at the plate due to a high school injury, so he may eventually become a first baseman or a designated hitter for an American League team. His bat, though, means he needs to be in the lineup even when Cargo returns. Early in the season, Corey was mostly platooned out against lefties, but in the last two weeks against lefties not named Clayton Kershaw he has gone 2 for 3 with a walk. Even against Kershaw, he was the closest to getting a hit and the only guy to get on base. Barnes is a good right handed utility outfielder, while Charlie has had a good season but struggled of late which includes his time in left field. Walt Weiss needs to let Corey continue filling Cargo's shoes to see how he fits until Cargo can get back healthy.
Regular - Michael Cuddyer (broken shoulder), ETR: August or September
Effect - hard to determine
This is Michael Cuddyer's second stint on the disabled list this year and it is interesting to note that the team is better off without him, at least in wins and losses. When Cuddy has played, the team has gone 11-20 while they have been 23-20 when he isn't in the lineup. I think this is more to do with other injuries than with Michael himself, as a reigning batting champ who has good season statistics is obviously valuable. However, those numbers surprised me and I thought they deserved mention. As stated with Cargo above, this team would have been fine with one injury in the outfiled and it really is the combination of Cargo and Cuddy both being out at the same time that effects the outfield defense and the lineup. The team also loses its best sub for Justin Morneau. The worst part for me is that losing Cuddy a second, and longer, time was completely avoidable, as even he stated he shouldn't be playing third before that fateful day.
Despite the error, Brandon Barnes is the only one of the three that grades out positively as a defender (dWAR). While Charlie has done well replacing Cuddy this year, it means that he is not playing center field and it also weakens that position, at least offensively. The two injuries in the outfield have given Weiss less matchup options and decreased the strength of the bench for giving rest to regulars, playing the hot bat, and for pinch hitting. For this reason, Cargo and Cuddy getting hurt individually have not hurt this team, but combined I think they have had a similar, if not as dramatic, effect on the team as Nolan's injury.
The leadership, defense, and pop to the lineup that these three players bring to the team is being missed, but only Nolan Arenado is proving to be irreplaceable for this team, this year. I originally was going to look at injuries to pitching in this article but it is already too long so that may by in next week's edition. As I talked about last week, pitching is really the catalyst for this team and the injuries on the mound may be the biggest reasonf or this up and down season. Please vote below on what injury you think has hurt the team the most.
To talk about something good for this week I have to go all the way back to Sunday. In their third comeback in three days, the Rockies decided to break the Giants' hearts in the eighth instead of waiting until the ninth. I thought that the series in San Fran showed the team was resilient, and then the rest of the week happened. The good, though, was Troy Tulowitzki shaking his slump against Madison Bumgarner and going 3 for 4 with a home run in the game.
Any of the games in Los Angeles could qualify, but the 4-2 loss against Zack Greinke gets my vote because it was the best chance the Rockies had to win a game and have a winning road trip. The team had 15 runners reach base but only scored two of them. Specifically, the Rockies had the bases loaded in the sixth (zero outs) and the bases loaded in the seventh (after already scoring a run) and only managed one run.
The three-run wild pitch will go down in Rockies' history for futility. I cringe at having to go to work tomorrow where my friends know how much of a Colorado fan I am. I hope to never mention this play again and the players involved have a lot to do to return themselves to the good graces of Rockies fans everywhere.