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Virtual reality

In my series overview yesterday, I pointed out that the Colorado Rockies' offense has improved this season. It's improved by quite a margin, actually, and last night was more evidence of this. Still, we can't seem to buy any love from the only place it really matters: Big Media. Oh, they love Barry Bonds and his pathetic season, they love the Yanks and their rubber-band rotation, they even love the Brewers "(mostly)", but the Rockies?

The verdict: Not for real
Except for some tweaks to the supporting cast, these Rockies sure do look a lot like the same team that finished last in the NL West last year -- only older. Which is a good thing if you ran 19 rookies out there the year before, as the Rockies did. There is promise here. And there is talent in the system. But is this team going to go from 67 wins to the playoffs? Sorry.

"I think they just had a good week," said one front-office man. ... "On paper, I can't get too excited about that team," said an NL GM, "even though 85 might win that division."

Here we start to see some of the problem. These execs and Jayson Stark are looking at the Rox without any sort of historical context, which is a shame since Stark has so many reference boys (reference minions?) around to provide him with that sort of thing. It's not just that the Rockies had a good week, they had a great week, on the road. Of course they've proven remarkably ineffective at protecting the home fires thus far, but we'll skip that point for now since it doesn't help my argument. Here are five  certain things I can tell about the Rockies already that are clearly different this year from last year:

  1. Our bullpen is more effective at protecting leads from the start. It wasn't until the middle of May last year that we had any sort of stability in the pen. This year is another story as we've only had one blown lead, and that had more to do with poor defensive judgment than poor pitching.
  2. Brad Hawpe has found his power stroke. Last year, Hawpe's swings were generally tentative, it seemed like he would come to the plate not wanting to look bad rather than looking for his pitch, and then he got injured and he just never was able to show the talent he's showing now.
  3. Matt Holliday has matured as a batter. This happened sometime during the middle of last season, I think, but Matt's become more consistent and less prone to streaks.
  4. The team has depth. Jamey Carroll notwithstanding, the team actually has replacement level replacements.
  5. Aaron Cook for a full season (alright, maybe not so certain). Not that he or Jennings are a true anchor to the rotation, but the pair combined certainly do provide steady innings when we need them.
Anyway, it's way too soon to write off the team as out of the playoffs, but I think we should expect this sort of talk at least until August, then the bandwagon will start to roll.