OK all you true believers, we are just a few hours away from the 2013 season and even with all of the analysis and in-depth research, the Rockies are a bit of enigma wrapped in a riddle. The team was ridiculously bad last year, only three years removed from the postseason, but how much of that was due to skill and how much was due to some of the worst injury luck ever seen?
Can our purple clad warriors compete in a division with the World Series champion Giants and the Giant-killing Dodgers who have now fully awoken from their three year hibernation due to ownership issues? I think they can compete and surprise a lot of people doing so. But if they are going to compete, the month of April will be key and it will also be a good measuring stick to see if we will watch exciting baseball in August, or be looking forward to prospect call-ups.
Last year was so abysmal that this team needs a good month of baseball to forget their demons of last year, or even the last two years. Winning under new manager Walt Weiss will also get players, fans, and ownership to buy in to him. In the past, winning in April hasn't been a key for the Rockies to do well in the season. Their last two playoff years they went 8-12 and 10-16 in the month of April.
The last year the team had a winning record in April was 2011, when they started 17-8 before a disastrous May made it all for not. Even last year the team started 11-11 for the month of April, their third best start in the last decade. Injuries doomed that team and it is one reason for optimism. That leads me to my list of reasons why this team can do well in April and things to look for: health, schedule, and Jonathan Herrera...being in Colorado Springs soon.
It has been mentioned by many of my fellow writers numerous times already, but the Rockies couldn't get off the bus last year without someone going on the 60-day disabled list. Only three Rockies batters had enough plate attempts to qualify statistically by the end of the season with one of them, Jordan Pacheco, not even having an everyday position. Compare that to 2009 when there were six players with over 425 plate appearances. Starting pitching was even worse.
While Jorge De La Rosa started the season injured, the projected 'A' team starting rotation of Jeremy Guthrie, De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio, and Jamie Moyer combined for just 53 starts...12 less than Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain combined for in SF last year. What's worse, the Rockies replacement hurlers only threw 13 quality starts in the 109 games they started. Coming out of spring training, the team is fairly healthy and therefore should have at least as good of an April as they did last year.
The Rockies also have to take advantage of the schedule MLB handed to them for the first month of baseball. Only 11 games against teams with winning records from last year in the first 28 means that Colorado is playing against teams comparable to themselves. Six games against San Diego and seven against Arizona also mean that we will find out quickly where the Rockies are going to rank in the NL West.
While there are more away games than home games in April, all but three of the home games are in one big home stand so the team should be able to go out on the road and get used to curving curve balls and games with scores in the single digits. This breaking up of the first month (after the initial away and home series) into a home stand sandwiched between road trips, gets me to my final point for spring starting off well, the status of Johnny Herrera.
The aftermath from Jeff Aberle's article Saturday on Tyler Colvin getting sent down to the Springs can still be seen on the Purple Row. For everyone ready to tear up their tickets and send hate mail to Dan O'Dowd, I say be patient. Remember that the team has stated that they plan on having an extra reliever join the team when they are at home. This takes a lot of strategic thinking due to the rules of how long players must stay down in the minors once being sent down.
I think that Tyler Colvin may have a swing issue that the team wants him to work on. I also think he is a slight victim to the schedule. I think the Rockies will go with this roster until they return home to face the Mets on the 15th of April. Then, I see a roster move bringing an additional pitcher up and sending a utility infielder down to AAA. When they leave to go to Arizona on the 25th, I predict that Colvin will be back with the team, replacing a relief pitcher and making all of the rules work out.
While not a popular move, and maybe not tactically sound with a weak bench, the strategic thinking is critical to having the right players at the right time to do well in April. Injuries or hot streaks might mean this does not come to pass, but I will be surprised and disappointed if Herrera is still with the team on the 25th and Tyler Colvin is not.
I look forward to talking with all of you Purple Rowers today in the game thread and the numerous overflows as well as throughout the season. Lastly, but most important, GOOOOOO ROCKIES!!!!