The Colorado Rockies have had a bit of a roller coaster ride this year. They started off the season largely exceeding expectations, leveled off a little bit, and then right as they started to surge again, they were hit by the injury
bug Mothra. While certainly in a good position at this point in the season, the Rockies need to regain momentum before another team in the division becomes hot. Looking back historically, this team reminds me a lot of the 2008 team that was unable to meet expectations but had a decent year.
The 2008 Rockies finished 10 games out of first with a record of 74-88. They had many similar story lines as this year's team and were at least as streaky as this team has proven to be this year. For example, they ended June on an eight game losing streak but then turned around to win five in a row to start July. The offense, pitching, and even injuries proved to be of a similar nature.
The 2008 Colorado Rockies featured a strong offense, but not as dominant as in years past. With Todd Helton missing half the season because of injury, Matt Holliday carried the team for much of the season. Fellow veterans from the 2007 Rocktober, Brad Hawpe and Garret "Double Play" Atkins, helped keep the offense formidable. A young third baseman, Ian Stewart, was given a lot of playing time as Atkins took over first base duties with Todd being out. Meanwhile, Troy Tulowitzki has a good season, but only played in 101 games due to an injury in May/June.
Fast forward to this season. The left and right outfield duo is keeping the Rockies offense going with Tulo having a pre-All Star break injury. There is also the pink elephant in the room of a veteran that will likely not be here next season (although Helton's stats this year do not compare to Holliday's 2008). Add in Wilin Rosario playing Chris Iannetta's role of a young, intriguing catcher and Nolan Arenado being the young third baseman getting a lot of playing time (hopefully this does not curse him) and there is a fairly similar look to this team offense.
On the pitching front, the 2008 team had two strong starters, a May call-up that was successful, and problems filling the final two spots in the rotation. The bullpen was a mixture of great, good, and bad but overall was a positive part for the team. It was also the last year for Brian Fuentes as closer for the team.
The strong pitchers for the 2008 team were a mixture of experience and youth (Cook, Jimenez), as is the 2013 top end of the rotation (De La Rosa, Chacin). It is hard sometimes to remember that Chacin is still only 25. In 2008 it was Jorge De La Rosa who was called up in May and he had a nice season, going 10-8. Tyler Chatwood is this year's early season promotion and he could surpass Jorge's first season with the team.
In 2008, Jeff Francis started and ended the season with the team, but was not around for July. For 2013, with Juan Nicasio being the odd man out, for now, he could get things together in the minors and be ready to come back and help the team later this season. To try and take Francis' place in 2008, the Rockies promoted Greg Reynolds. Drew Pomeranz is this year's promising young pitcher coming up to join the team and hopefully he will have a better outcome. In both seasons the fifth spot in the rotation was a fairly constant turnover with the team trying veterans and youth to fill the breach.
As already mentioned, injuries played a factor in both seasons, most notably to Troy Tulowitzki. However, nagging injuries to both Cargo, Michael Cuddyer, and Dexter Fowler have kept the offense flawed much like the effect of Todd Helton being injured in 2008. The pitching staff of 2013 has had a few injuries as well, similar to the time Francis spent not being on the club in 2008. With only half of the season gone, how healthy this year's team can stay the rest of the season will be a determining factor in the end result.
While there are lots of similarities, this year's team still has a chance to exceed the 2008 season's final results. The pitching staff has a good chance of being better and there seems to be more organizational depth. Also, the team already has eight more wins than the 2008 team did at the half way point. They definitely put themselves in position to do something this season, but we will have to wait and see what they can do with the opportunity.
On to this week's Good, Bad, and Ugly:
Both Michael Cuddyer and Jhoulys Chacin have been on amazing streaks in June. As I am sure everyone knows, Cuddy has set the Rockies' record for consecutive games with a hit and is still going. Chacin turned around a few bad outings after his return from injury and has been dominant. In his last three starts, the Machine has pitched 23 and 2/3 innings with two earned runs.
The Bad-Road Trip
The Rockies need to break out of their road funk before their next trip. The recent 2-7 trip would have sunk them in the standings if the rest of the NL West had done well.
The Ugly-Matt Belisle
This team needs Matt Belisle to get it together. Luckily, with Rafael Betancourt coming back, he does not have to be in a high pressure row. Belisle was directly responsible for one loss on the road trip and partially for one other. His ability to bounce back will determine the bullpen's effectiveness.