After reading Jay's piece on how Nolan Arenado is the key to 2014 and listening to the triumphant return of Purple Row Radio, I got to thinkin', "what's the one aspect of the game that can or will impact 2014 the most for the Rockies?"
My question is not about players, but about phenomena that surround the game. So I thought of a few and figured I'd use one of my lifelines and ask the audience as well.
The Rockies road offense has a well documented history of being as frustrating as being stuck in two inches of Atlanta snow. I think this is one place where the addition of Justin Morneau will really help the team. I haven't heard a good reason yet why his good road numbers (and low strike out rate) won't maintain in Colorado.
It seems to me like improving on road offense was a major factor in acquiring Morneau (and trading Dexter Fowler) because if the Rockies can improve in this area I think they have a decent shot at contention.
Pitching is on everyone's list for the entire history of baseball. You can't win without pitching and apparently if you are the Colorado Rockies, you can get historically good pitching from the top three slots and still lose. If the young guys in the rotation continue to improve rather than regress the Rockies may have one of the best rotations they have ever had.
If things play out more evenly though, and there are struggles with consistency and/or injuries, the Rockies may need to call on their depth (Lyles, Gray, Butler) which could either see a dramatic loss or spectacular gain depending on how things play out.
With the team making it's home at Coors, the Rockies aren't likely to win a lot of 1-0 games in 2014. They've had offenses that could keep the team afloat despite bad pitching before. If the rotation comes out mostly bad, can the Rockies survive? If the rotation comes out mostly good, can the Rockies contend?
Beating the division
You can only win the games right in front of you, so all other things aside the Rockies must beat up on the NL West. The Dodgers may be able to buy the division but they can't buy both Wild Card spots too. I'm not yet convinced that the Giants or Padres are anything to worry about yet and I didn't like the Diamondbacks off season.
With the added depth on the club, I feel the Rockies are less likely next season to drop as many "we could have stolen that game!" games. Against teams with mediocre talent like San Francisco and San Diego, this should lead to more wins that count twice (kinda) since they are divisional.
If the Rockies can dominate inside the division (maybe go .500 against the Dodgers) everything else could fall into place.
You know it. I know it. They know it. Injuries have killed the Rockies the last few years. Call it excuse making if you like, but if the Rockies could get full seasons from their two highest paid players, they would probably win more baseball games.
Bad health could derail another year. If in June we are talking about when Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson and Jorge de la Rosa are all coming off the DL, then we are also talking about a team with very little hope. Conversely, if all those guys (especially the first three) give us healthier than normal seasons, well then all bets are off.