Colorado Rockies: Five Things That Must Go Right
Do the Colorado Rockies Have Hope?
Most, if not everything, said or written about the Colorado Rockies is how bad they are going to be. It’s a hard point to argue based on their history and the major question marks on the pitching staff, but we are going to attempt to give Rockies’ fans some hope today. Please keep in mind; I am only making the case that if certain things go right then maybe the Rockies could surprise. By surprise I do not mean contending for a playoff spot, I mean approaching .500.
One thing that makes baseball different from the other major sports is that it is a little easier to exceed expectations. If a couple of pitchers surprise and the team hits well as a whole, then good things can happen. Baseball is set up for the games to be close and if a so called bad team starts winning some of those, then the confidence grows. In football, by contrast, when the Kansas City Chiefs played the Denver Broncos last December, everyone knew it wasn’t going to be a contest. In baseball, a bad team can take two out of three from a good team on any given weekend. It happens every week. The point is simple; if things break right then a bad team can suddenly find themselves in contention well into the summer months.
For the Rockies to be one of those teams; a lot has to go right and here are five things that must go right if they are going to be playing meaningful games into June or July. They don’t all have to go right but at least three of these five areas must be present for the Rockies to surprise.
Catch the baseball
Before last season, the Rockies were always one of the better defensive teams in baseball but were one of the worst in 2012. They must return to being one of the best and the return of Troy Tulowitzki will certainly help. The Rockies, as we know, are going to struggle with pitching. They can’t compound that by giving teams extra outs; on the contrary, the defense has to help out the pitching with extraordinary play.
It will be interesting to see Tulowitzki play with second basemen, Josh Rutledge who surprised last year. The Rockies have the potential to be very good up the middle with those two, Wilin Rosario at catcher and Dexter Fowler in center field. If a team is good up the middle, then they have a chance to be an excellent defensive team.
Protect the house
When the Rockies have gone to the playoffs or at least contended, they have dominated at Coors Field. If they are going to get anywhere close to playing .500 baseball then they have to win close to 50 games at home. They also have to rediscover that LoDo magic that has won them so many games in the late innings. Honestly, it is less about magic and more about believing that they are going to find a way to win games in the late innings at home. If the Rockies can win a couple of games in the ninth inning early in the season, then that would go a long way in re-establishing that home-field magic.
Shut them down
Another one of the staples of good Rockies’ teams in the past has been the bullpen, and they have to be good in 2012. The starting rotation has major questions and even if they come through, pitchers rarely go past the sixth inning at Coors Field. When the Rockies made the playoffs in 2007 and 2009, the bullpen was unbelievably good. It would be unfair to expect them to be that good but they must hold leads when they are handed one, and they must close games.
The Stars must be Stars
The Rockies are going to score runs; their lineup is a good one but for it to be a great one Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez have to return to MVP form. Tulowitzki was hurt and missed most of 2012 and Gonzalez struggled without the protection of Tulowitzki hitting behind him. When those two are on top of their games, they are as dangerous as any other three and four hitters in the sport. They can break open a game with back-to-back swings. Tulowitzki and Gonzalez also make the hitters around them better because pitchers avoid pitching to those two, and the other hitters see better pitches.
In addition to everyday hitting, both Tulowitzki and Gonzalez have to perform better in the clutch. As good a hitter as Tulowitzki is, he often struggles in big spots. He tries too hard sometimes to be the hero, he just needs to relax and his talent will take over. Gonzalez actually has been decent in the clutch; he just needs to rebound from a poor second-half in 2012. If the Rockies are going to make any noise this season, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez have to be right in the middle of it.
It's still about pitching
No matter how much we try to avoid it when it comes to the Rockies, it all comes back to pitching. It starts with the three J’s; Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicaso and Jorge De La Rosa. All three of those pitchers have the talent to produce but all come into 2013 with question marks. Chacin is talented but has struggled with the mental part of the game, and often gets rattled when one thing goes wrong. He must be mentally tougher.
Nicaso has the most talent of any of them but consistency has been an issue. He’s great in one start and terrible five days later. Del La Rosa only pitched sparingly in 2012 after Tommy John surgery in 2011; if he is healthy then that’s a huge boost. Two other pitchers will fill the last two spots of the rotation but it is the three J’s that must step up and produce.
If three of these five things happen, then the Rockies can avoid 100 losses. If four of the five happen, then they can approach .500. If all five of these things fall into place, then who knows we could be watching meaningful baseball games in August. If only two of these things happen then we can start counting the days to Broncos training camp sometime around Memorial Day. Spring training brings hope to every team; the hope for the Rockies just comes with a lot of ifs. At least it’s hope.
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