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Sunday Rockpile: Jonny Ballgame defying odds, proving us doubters wrong

Jonathan HerreraOdds-beater, and a big reason the Rockies are world-beaters on the road this season, I might add, as his .440/.550/.613 line away from Coors leads the team in average and OBP and is second in slugging to Troy Tulowitzki. The Rockies formula for offensive success away has been a classic two on base guys and a pair of sluggers strategy with Herrera and Dexter Fowler setting the table for Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez to knock them in. Troy Renck's article gives some more background on the Rockies sparkplug and Herrera's emergence as a legitimate everyday player, despite many of us giving him the utility label, and he has a notes column which includes a bit on Gonzalez's recent struggles at the plate.

Catcher Chris Iannetta is battling a back strain, giving Jose Morales a couple more starts this weekend. Iannetta has been an on base machine this year, despite his low batting average. He leads the National League in pitches seen/plate appearance and in walks/plate appearance, getting more free passes per time he's up than noted sluggers like Tulowitzki and Joey Votto. Iannetta, Tulo and Fowler are all in a tie for fourth in the NL (with Orlando Hudson) with 14 BB's, Herrera's one behind with 13. I'm not sure why Jim Armstrong keeps harping on the low batting average, as Iannetta's never going to be that guy. It would be like asking Herrera to provide more power. Neither player's going to be a complete package at the plate, but we shouldn't expect them to be. As long as they provide positive contributions based on their skills, we should be happy. So far, so good on this front.

Morales, meanwhile, has been a boon as well. His skills at the plate are more or less like Herrera's, mixing good contact and patience without the power that somebody like Iannetta has. The Rockies are in good hands with him behind the plate, and while the Rockies being undefeated in his starts is coincidental, that they'd do well in them is not. The Rockies catchers have been flipping the lineup getting on ahead of the pitcher with their OBP, and 

Josh Johnson wanted Ubaldo Jimenez's autograph before last season's All-Star game. Johnson's well on his way to earning a second bid to the midsummer classic, Ubaldo better shape up fast to join him again. Starting today would be nice, Ubaldo. Still, it might be Jiminez who's asking for the John Hancock this time around given that Johnson's challenging Tim Lincecum for the best pitcher in the NL honors right now.

Some (mostly coming from the San Francisco region) have complained about the Rockies easy schedule early, but seem to be missing the point that Colorado's road prowess has gone beyond what we'd expect of good teams playing against weaker ones on the road, and put enormous pressure on the rest of the division to duplicate their success in similar opportunities, and so far, it hasn't happened. The Rockies swept the Mets in New York in four games, while the Diamondbacks stand to get swept in the same location if they lose today. The Rockies need to continue to play well, but these road series wins could add up to a huge difference later in the season. Adding another series win today in Florida will just put that much more pressure on NL West rivals.

Ah yes, the pressure:

NL West Standings

Colorado 14 6 .700 0 Won 1
San Francisco 10 10 .500 4 Lost 3
Los Angeles 11 11 .500 4 Lost 1
Arizona 8 11 .421 5.5 Lost 3
San Diego 8 13 .380 6.5 Lost 3

(updated 4.24.2011 at 10:10 AM EDT)

Beautiful, isn't it? Keep on pushing until they're all buried, Rockies.