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Which Rockies are the real Rockies?

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Rockies news and links for Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Rockies have, for the most part, been a team followed by negative headlines for most of the season: “Where is Trevor Story headed? Will they be the first Rockies team to lose 100 games? Will they finish the season with the fewest road wins ever?”

These are just a few of the questions Rockies fans and baseball pundits have asked throughout the year. I myself have asked these questions frequently–often in these very Thursday Rockpiles.

So how can a team that’s gotten almost only negative press be 71-80 on the season? Not a great showing by any means, but much better than most people would have expected. And not far behind teams like the Mets and Angels, both of whom were at least supposed to be playing meaningful baseball in September and have massive payrolls compared to the Rockies.

The answer is pretty simple: A really good (dare I say great?) second half. After going 40-51 in the first half, a record that sparked many of the questions above, the Rockies have a .517 winning percentage over their last 60 games. Incredible? No, it’s only 31-29, but still. Quite the turnaround.

A stat that particularly caught my eye was the team’s month-by-month split. After an abysmal April (9-17) and May (11-17) the Rockies have been at or above .500 in every month. July was an even 12-12 but 14-13 records in June and August gave them identical .519 winning percentages. For now, the Rockies are 11-8 in September. This weekend’s series against the division leading Giants will go a long way towards determining September’s fate.

So which half paints the more accurate picture of this Rockies team?

If you ask me, it’s the second half team that’s put together a .508 winning percentage. While April and May can’t be written off entirely–those games certainly do matter–the Rockies really were doomed by two terrible months that wiped them out of contention nice and early. In the four months since, the Rockies are 51-46, a winning percentage of .526. That winning percentage would be good for 14th in the majors currently, just .017 percentage points behind the St. Louis Cardinals who currently hold the National League’s second wild card thanks to the 11 game win streak they’re on.

Perhaps more important? They’d be ahead of the slumping San Diego Padres and would hop into third in the division.

Of course, there’s no point in speculating, or eliminating ⅓ of the season, but it does help put into perspective this Rockies season and this team going forward. The larger sample size of games this season has seen them play some solid baseball, perhaps pointing to some success going forward.

The Padres and Mets have probably played well below what they’re capable of this season while the Rockies are probably pushing their ceiling, but with a rotation like the one the Rockies have right now, I’m ready to go out on a limb.

They could sneak into a wild card spot in the next year or two if they can pick up (or develop) some sort of relief help. Even if they lose Story, I somehow have a decent feeling about this team.

I wouldn’t put my life savings on it, but I also am much more confident in this team than I have been at any point in the last 24 months. The second half Rockies are the real Rockies. Knock on wood.

★ ★ ★

Ranking the Worst MLB Pitchers of the 2021 Season | Bleacher Report

Well I came across this list from Bleacher Report and it didn’t exactly strengthen the point I just tried to prove above. Two of ten features on this list are Rockies? And this is the kind of excerpt we’re getting?

“Bard hasn’t even been the worst reliever in his own bullpen.”

Ouch.

Yency Almonte was deemed the second worst reliever in all of baseball according to this ranking and it’s not all that easy to argue against it. Giving up 44 hits in 44 innings, as well as 28 walks to the tune of an 8.18 ERA is pretty brutal. For the sake of my argument above, let’s just say, it can only get better next year for Yency–and I truly believe it will.

I’m not so sure for Chi Chi González, the other Rockie to feature here...

Rockies’ Connor Joe done for season; Peter Lambert set for first start since 2019 | The Colorado Springs Gazette

Connor Joe, who has become a fan favorite this year, is out for the season thanks to a hamstring strain, an issue he sustained on September 3. As the Rockies wrap up the last handful of games for this season, it was probably the right decision for Joe and the Rockies. He’ll now have a chance to rest up for the offseason and compete for a starting spot in the lineup next spring.

On the positive injury news side of things is the return of Peter Lambert, who will make his long awaited return to the mound tomorrow against the Giants. After missing all of 2020 and most of this year due to Tommy John surgery, Lambert will get a chance to get one, maybe two starts in and re-find his footing a little before the season ends.

On the farm

High-A: Eugene Emeralds 3, Spokane Indians 0

The Indians fell to the Emeralds for the second straight night and now face elimination in this best of five playoff series. Yesterday’s game featured a pitcher’s duel of epic proportions with neither team surrendering a run until the Emeralds pushed across three runs with two outs in the top of ninth inning. The series now heads to Eugene for the final three games (if necessary) where the Indians will try to claw their way back into this one.

Low-A: San Jose Giants 4, Fresno Grizzlies 2

Despite plating a couple of runs, the Fresno Grizzlies suffered a similar fate to their High-A counterparts and now face a 2-0 hole of their own in the Low-A West championship series. San Jose got on the board first with a run in the second before the Grizzlies battled back to take a 2-1 lead in the fifth, only to see that advantage disappear when the Giants plated two more in the seventh. An insurance run in the eighth served as all the offense for the rest of the night as the San Jose bullpen locked it down, leaving the Giants just one win away from capturing the series.

★ ★ ★

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