With three series remaining before the MLB All-Star break, the Colorado Rockies are 37–41 and third place in the National League West, which is probably better than most people expected but still not exactly good. The team is 4–4 over its last eight games, a span of precise mediocrity that epitomizes how the season has gone overall. Here’s how we grade the team’s performance as midseason nears:
Starting Pitching: C-
Ugly numbers still plague the Rockies’ rotation—last in the NL in starting ERA at 5.24, last in opponent batting average at .283 and third-to-last in innings pitched. But there are a few bright spots. Tyler Chatwood (8–4, 3.15 ERA) has been the team’s most consistent hurler this season and is expected back soon from the 15-day disabled list. Rookie Tyler Anderson has dazzled since making his major league debut on June 12, with four solid outings and a team-low 2.66 ERA, although he still hasn’t registered a win. With the July 31 trade deadline looming, the Rockies might consider making a move for a solid veteran arm to complement the still-developing skills of Chatwood, Anderson, Christian Bergman, and Jon Gray.
Like the starting pitching, the numbers for this group aren’t good; the Rockies’ pen is second-to-last in the National League with a 4.94 ERA and dead last in opponent batting average at .275. But there are signs of hope. Closer Jake McGee will return this weekend from the 15-day DL (he’s converted 15 of 18 saves), as will Chris Rusin, who showed flashes of brilliance as a long reliever before being sidelined by a shoulder strain in early June. Consistently short outings from the starters aren’t doing the overworked bullpen any favors, but this unit will have to do a complete 180 in the second half if the team is to have any chance at a wild card spot. (The team is four games back as of this writing.)
As usual, the Rockies’ bats are the main reason the team hasn’t fallen into the N.L. West cellar. (Well, that and the spectacularly underachieving Padres and DBacks.) Rockies’ hitters rank in the top three in every major NL statistical category. Led by Carlos Gonzalez, Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu and rookie sensation Trevor Story, the Rockies are first in runs scored (418), tied for first in home runs (104), second in hits (749), first in RBI (402), first in batting average (.276), and first in slugging percentage (.469). While that kind of offensive firepower has come to be expected at home—where the Rockies have amassed 241 runs, 55 dingers and a .305 team average in 38 games—unlike in recent years, the lineup has also been performing above average on the road in most categories, which means the team has a chance to win every time it takes the field. What more can you ask from your hitters?
Considering his team’s lack of quality pitching, fourth-year skipper Walt Weiss is doing a decent enough job. The Rockies have proven they can rally from a deficit—as they’ve done several times this summer—which is a reflection of the guy filling out the lineup card. But as Rockies fans know all too well, this team has a historical tendency to unravel in the season’s second half, and there’s only so much Weiss can do if the team continues to pitch the way it has. Right now, the best thing Weiss can do for his club—and his job security—is push the front office to trade for a much-needed ace.
With San Francisco in control of the division and the Dodgers favored to claim one of the wild card spots, the Rockies will need a big second half to make a run at the playoffs. But they also have to decide before the end of July how realistic that is. The main debate in the front office will be whether to buy or sell at the trade deadline, and while it might be tempting to try to go for it this year, the smarter approach could be to see what they can get for certain veterans (CarGo, Charlie Blackmon, and Jorge De La Rosa would bring the most significant returns) and place whatever newcomers they land around the team’s young and promising core of talent. Either way, for the first time in quite a while there’s a glimmer of hope for fans on Blake Street.