If Tulo can stay upright, he might be the MVP.
Does Dick Monfort know something the rest of us don’t? At the quarter pole of the 2014 baseball season, we have little choice but to contemplate such a humbling notion.
During a preseason chat with the Denver Post, Monfort predicted the Rockies would win 90 games and contend for a playoff spot this year. Writer Mark Kiszla all but ridiculed the idea, and plenty of observers, including yours truly, echoed his scoffs.
However, after 45 games, the Blake Street Bombers, 2014 edition, have been one of the league’s most pleasant surprises—and as of this writing, are on pace for 90 wins.
After the seemingly directionless mediocrity on and off the field that has defined the franchise over the past several seasons, it’s logical to wonder how it might have turned things around so quickly. The operative word here is might, because winning one-fourth of a baseball campaign guarantees a team nothing more than a few fond spring memories.
To assess the Rockies’ chances of continuing their quality play, it helps to set up a checklist to see where the team is now and what we can hope for the rest of the way.
Offense: To the surprise of no one, the Rockies sit atop the MLB team hitting leaders. Of course they do; it’s Colorado. What is surprising is how they’re flat-out raking: The team is currently hitting .352 (and scoring more than seven runs per game) at Coors Field—any team BA above .290 is considered outstanding—and getting unexpected production from three positions (CF, RF, and 1B) that in recent years have been spotty at best. The team's batting average is a full 100 points lower on the road, but they’re still fourth in the NL in runs scored away from home, so it’s not like their bats turn to balsa wood outside Denver.
Pitching: The team’s perennial Achilles heel is far from solved; the staff’s 4.09 ERA is second-to-last in the NL and 22nd overall. However, the Rockies’ home/road splits are 4.08/4.11. This consistency gives the team’s hitters a huge mental lift compared to seasons past because they know on any given day, scoring four to five runs—typically not a problem for this bruising lineup—will give them a chance to win regardless of where they’re playing. Moreover, the bullpen has been more than solid so far—number 14 league-wide in ERA—so anything the team does to fortify its starting rotation will make this chronic concern even stronger.
Health: Here’s where we start crossing fingers and knocking on wood. To date, the Rockies’ two best players, Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, have each missed just three games. CarGo hasn’t really gotten hot yet, but Tulo is currently the NL MVP by a wide margin and flirting with Triple Crown numbers. (It also must be noted that the offense has been wreaking all this havoc mostly without 2013 NL batting champion Michael Cuddyer, who’s due back soon.) If the team’s core can stay on the field, the offense should keep clicking like a turnstile.
Schedule and opponents: The Rockies have played about two-thirds of their games so far against opponents who are currently below .500. They still have almost 30 games left against the Dodgers and Giants, their two best divisional rivals. But their interleague schedule, apart from one series with Detroit, could hardly be easier. If the team is still rolling by July’s all-star break, they could be trade deadline buyers for once rather than sellers—and that’s when 2014 would get truly interesting. Until then, we won’t know if Monfort’s preseason projection was prescient or just something an owner says. Rockies’ fans have been conditioned recently to expect the latter, but this year the former might just be in play.
Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.
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