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Tuesdays With Mitch: Breaking down the first portion of the Rockies' season

The first third(ish) of the Rockies' season neatly breaks down into three distinct segments.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the seventh Purple Row edition (and 112th overall) of Tuesdays With Mitch, where we should all be ditching work and enjoying two baseball games. Commitments are stupid. Let's get into it...

The Rockies will take the field for their 50th and 51st games today and while the big 5-0 isn't exactly a round number when it comes to the MLB schedule (54 games represent one third of the season), it still feels significant enough to take a look at the baseball we've seen so far in 2015. This young season is quickly maturing into a full-grown adult.

For me, the already-completed portion of the 2015 season breaks into three distinct segments. It's impossible to look at this team's stats and trends-- particularly when it comes to wins and losses-- without separating the year into these subsets.

1) April 6th - April 15th (9 Games, 7-2)

The Rockies came out of the gates hot, which is something we've seen before. Road sweeps of the Brewers and Giants were sandwiched around a series loss at home to the Cubs. This is the smallest sample size of the three subsets I've selected, so the numbers might not mean a whole lot, but the Rockies were indeed playing some excellent baseball. The team hit .301/.331/.475 during this stretch, which is way, way, way above the 2015 league average of .251/.313/.391 in each category. DJ LeMahieu led the charge, hitting .514/.528/.571. Nolan Arenado was also mashing. He hit .324/.395/.735 in these nine games.

The pitching was good, too. The team ERA was a minuscule (by Rockies' standards) 2.41, well below the 2015 league average of 3.84.

So above average pitching and a nasty lineup that looked like it could be the best in baseball led to an exciting and fun 7-2 start.

But nine games does not a season make.

2) April 17th - May 13th (21 Games, 4-17)

You know, if it wasn't for this stretch of baseball, the Rockies would be having a really good season. So I asked MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred in an exclusive interview this week* if the Rockies (and by extension, MLB) could ignore these 21 games. He said he'll get back to me.

*This is not a true statement.

Anyway, this stretch of baseball was... Brutal? Unbearable? Horrendous? Taxing? Foul? Gross? Depressing? Relentless? Not fun?

How about all of the above?

This stretch of baseball took the Rockies' from five games over .500 to eight games under .500, which represents a remarkable turnaround in less than four weeks. If the Rockies spend the rest of 2015 out of contention, these 21 games will be impossible to overlook as a big reason why.

Naturally, the first place to look to assign blame is the pitching. During, this ungodly, hellish stretch of baseball, the team ERA was... 6.66. Seriously. I promise I did not make that up. Some other pitching numbers during this stretch:

  • 6.97 strikeouts per nine innings
  • 4.06 walks per nine innings. (FOUR!)
  • 1.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio
  • 1.74 WHIP

The Rockies' offense was ugly too. The team had a slash line of .255/.302/.411, dipping below the league average in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. I would imagine that will be the only stretch of the season in which the Rockies' offense is statistically worse than most teams in the National League. That's just not something you expect to see from most any Rockies team.

During the misery of these games I wrote that even if the Rockies are not a good team, things will get better, because they have to get better. It seemed impossible that the Rockies were THAT bad. No team is THAT bad for a whole year. Honestly, the 11-game losing streak at the tail end of these games was some of the worst baseball I've ever sat through.

But I'm still hoping Manfred let's us pretend none of it never happened.

3) May 14th - June 1st (19 Games, 11-8)

Eventually, the figurative clouds lifted, even if the literal ones waited... and waited... and waited to clear up.

CarGo came through with a dramatic home run in Los Angeles to end the losing streak, that chapter came to a close, and we turned the page to the rest of the Rockies' season.

The Rockies emerged from those doldrums and split three consecutive four-game series. So initially, I thought we were looking at a narrative of .500 baseball A.S. (After Streak). But then the Rox had a great road trip in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. They've won seven of their last nine and have looked pretty damn good doing it (last night notwithstanding).

The last 19 games have provided thoroughly, downright watchable-- enjoyable, even!-- baseball.

The offense has returned to form a little bit, hitting .262/.320/.423 in this segment of games. Most notably, the power has emerged in this most recent stretch. This is the only one of the three subsets in which the Rockies have averaged more than a home run per game. And the home runs are up significantly. The Rockies have 26 bombs in these 19 games. (Arenado has seven by himself.) They had 29 homers in the first 30 games of the year.

The most recent recipe for victory has been: Surprisingly awesome starting pitching + Nolan Arenado being incredible = Win.

Outside of Arenado, a handful of call-ups from Albuquerque has provided significant sparks. Ben PaulsenBrandon Barnes, David Hale, Chris Rusin, and especially Chad Bettis have all made a positive impact in the past few weeks.

Indeed, the biggest difference between this subset of games and the less fun baseball that preceded them has come from the pitching mound. Walks per nine (2.9), WHIP (1.3), and ERA (3.85) are all down to the league average. Average pitching for the Rockies leads to wins.

So overall, the Rockies started great before falling completely to pieces. Things have since leveled off with some good baseball that has led to more wins than losses. Starting today the Rockies have 113 games left on the schedule. Will the current, upward trend continue? It's hard to discount the two stretches of baseball in which the Rockies' have looked really good. And it's impossible to ignore those few weeks that saw 4 wins and 17 losses. The long baseball season exposes every team's strengths and weaknesses and it's fair to assume the real Rockies lie somewhere in between the good and the awful that we've seen thus far.

Now we proceed to the weekly departments...

Stud of the week:

We all have a new favorite baseball player. Feast your eyes on this NAIA hurler, who made the internet rounds on Saturday night.

(More here)

Ass of the week:

I'm not sure if this qualifies as the behavior of an ass, but I just really wanted to include this. Greg Norman's 60th birthday present from his wife is a big-ass, bronze statue of his shirtless, armless self. (Via shark_gregnorman on Instagram)

Vine of the week:

Nothing like celebrating a double by pretending to shotgun a beer.

Even though I don't seem to do it much anymore, shotgunning beers will always be my favorite non-traditional method of consuming an entire beer as fast as possible, so I am VERY down with this celebration. (Note to self:  Start shotgunning beers again. It makes you feel cooler than you are.)

Photo of the week:

The AP ran this picture of this happy fella in the back of a cop car with the following caption:

This May 28, 2015 photo provided by the Shelby Township Police Department shows a stray pig in then back of police vehicle in suburban Detroit. A homeowner said she was doing yard work when the pig came barreling toward her, chasing her into the front yard before apparently getting distracted by a decorative ball. Police showed up and got the pig off the streets, though it left a mess inside the police vehicle before it was reunited with its owner. (Shelby Township Police Deptartment via AP)

This pig looks comfortable back there. This pig looks like he's proud of himself for tricking the cops into giving him a free ride. This pig knows where the cameras are at. This pig could very well be smiling at us all while defecating on that seat. This pig looks chill as hell. I love this pig. I want to roam suburban streets with this pig.

Some other stuff the internet had to offer:

Both of the NBA conference finals were boring as hell. But this LeBron dunk replayed in slow motion is majestic and kind of hypnotizing.

The most interesting part of the Western Conference Finals was definitely Steph Curry's daughter making boring press conferences interesting.

Poor lady is just trying to eat some nachos at a ball game. I doubt she was planning on using the cheese as a hair product.

The look on her face when she picks her head up just kills me.

AHHHHHHHH!

Pretty cool moment here of Andrew McCutchen giving his batting gloves to a young fan. You think this kid will, ever, ever, ever forget this moment?

Baseball is awesome.

And finally, I try not to post long videos in here, but this 22-minute profile of Ernie Johnson is definitely worth your time. It aired a few weeks ago and is now online. If you don't have time now, favorite this tweet and watch it later. Whatever, just find the time to watch it.

Happy Tuesday, everybody. Thanks for readin'. See ya next week.

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Comment on any of this stuff below, or email me at mdhahn1@yahoo.com with post ideas, videos, or other media I should know about. Follow me on Twitter @TuesWithMitch.