Welcome to the 17th Purple Row edition (and 122nd overall) of Tuesdays With Mitch, where I think Carlos Gonzalez just hit another couple home runs as I was typing this sentence. Let's get into it...
As the Rockies' season progresses into the dog days of August with the team out of contention, it can be difficult for lots of fans to care about what's going on at 20th and Blake. Now is the time apathy sets in and people gladly turn their attention to football. But even with the team heading towards another last place finish, there are things worth keeping an eye on as the season rolls on. So today I wanted to share some brief thoughts on what I consider to be the most important storylines for the Rockies these days.
1. The performance of Jon Gray
Last night was awesome. Last night was so damn awesome. Yes, the Rockies lost in infuriating fashion again, but that is not what's important here. Gray Day was an undisputed success. Outside of a wobbly, 27- pitch fifth inning (in which he still didn't give up any runs) Gray was absolutely dominant. He attacked the zone. He had command of his heater and slider. He had an intimidating mound presence that I haven't seen from a Rockie in a very long time. He worked quickly. He was efficient. His fastball was sitting at 97 and 98 in the fifth and sixth innings and his slider made dudes look silly. He was cruising. It would have been fun to watch him go eight or nine innings had circumstances been a little different. Someday we will... someday we will.
He looked legit last night. As I wrote last week, he provides a reason for hope and excitement about the future. I can't wait for the rest of the Gray Days. Each start is appointment TV. They won't all be as impressive as last night, but they'll all be worth watching.
2. Carlos Gonzalez might be the best player in the National League again.
Right now, Carlos Gonzalez is an absolute joy to watch. And his performance lately has been a lot more than a "hot streak." In CarGo's first 29 games this year he was awful. He hit .188/.245/.297 with two home runs. He had 27 strikeouts against 19 hits and 8 walks. But in the 74 games since then, spanning 303 plate appearances, he's hitting .315/.371/.641 with 24 homers. That's an OPS of 1.012 with a homer every third game (or 11.4 ABs).
When CarGo is on like this, it's about more than the numbers. It's about the effortless grace and pure SWAG (are the kids still using that word?) with which he plays. Take a look at his grand slam -- with the Rockies down three runs -- from Friday night.
Not my best Vinework, but you get the idea. Cargo's electric-bat-drop followed by the strut-and-stare is one of the most beautiful things in baseball. That picture-perfect swing ain't too bad either.
Carlos Gonzalez appears to be great player again.
Of course, there's the underlying "What does it all mean" theme with all of this, because it is assumed by most that Gonzalez isn't a part of the Rockies' long-term future.
Will Bridich put him on waivers in an attempt to trade him by the end of this month? Will he go in the offseason? What kind of return are the Rockies looking at? As Matt Gross mentioned yesterday, watching CarGo play like this has turned into a bittersweet, kind of weird thing to watch.
But I know I'm enjoying it while I can.
3. Eddie Butler's disastrous season.
It's been covered a number of times on this website, and with good reason. Not long ago, Butler was considered by many to be one of the top two prospects in the Rockies system. Now he can't strike anyone out, walks people and gives up lots of hits and home runs. Butler's performance has already been discussed quite a bit, so here's a different spin on that story. My rankings for worst developments among the Rockies' pitching staff this year (with "1" being the worst):
- Tyler Matzek comes down with "Steve Blass disease". (Matzek was right there. At times, he was a great Major League pitcher. Now he's not a pitcher at all. Think about that. I hate it when people lump Matzek into the "Rockies can't develop pitching" category. This is something different. This is Rick Ankiel/Steve Blass/Henry Skrimshander. It sucks.)
- Eddie Butler's regression
- Jordan Lyles hits the I.R. after another dumb, freak, stupid, non-pitching injury.
- Adam Ottavino needs Tommy John surgery.
- Rex Brothers' disappearance.
- Kyle Kendrick is awful, then pretty good, then awful again. (And again and again and again).
- Tyler Chatwood is still nowhere to be found. It's the middle of August.
- Boone Logan is not very good at throwing baseballs.
- Chad Bettis lands on the 15-Day DL after being the most pleasant surprise of the year. (If this had been or turns out to be more serious, it would be number one on this list.)
- The continued existence of the Tooth Trot.
4. Nolan Arenado's quiet return to Earth.
This hasn't been talked about much because everyone is so madly in love with Arenado (myself included), but he has been playing like a mere mortal recently. On June 28th Arenado was hitting .293/.326/.632 with eight homers in his last seven games. He won player of the week and looked like one of the game's best players and was in the MVP conversation.
In the 34 games since, Arenado is hitting .243 /.297 /.397 with just three homers. Those numbers are downright pedestrian.
Now, to be clear, I'm not saying I'm worried about Arenado's future. He'll be fine. I just think his performance for the remainder of this year is something worth keeping an eye on. Will he go on another month-long tear and look like one of the best players in the game again? Or will he continue to fall back to the pack and leave us wondering if his awesome first half was a fluke?
So, as the season marches towards September, what are you paying attention to most closely? Did I miss anything?
Now we proceed to the weekly departments...
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