Feature post on Colorado Rockies

Posted: 01/12/2014 by levcohen in Baseball

The Colorado Rockies are the most interesting team in baseball. They have the misfortune of playing in a talented and competitive NL West, especially pitching-wise. Last season, Colorado won 74 games and finished last. This year, their task looks to be even tougher. The Dodgers, who ended up winning the NL West handily last season, started off last year slowly and ended up winning a relatively modest 92 games. With the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, their pitching is a strength. The scary thing about them is that they have other strengths. Their outfield is good enough that they are shopping Matt Kemp, one of the most talented players in baseball. The Dodgers figure to factor into the World Series favorite discussion, and are the prohibitive favorite in the NL West.

Then there’s San Francisco. Winners of two of the past four World Series’, the Giants suffered an astonishing fall from grace last season, winning just 76 games. They’ll be back this year, thanks in large part to their rotation. Matt Cain was unlucky last year, as his peripheral stats and 1.16 WHIP belied his 4 ERA. Madison Bumgarner took the next step in his age-23 season, posting his first career ERA under 3. Two-time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum is an enigma, but he’s talented. Add free-agent signing Tim Hudson, and you have a good rotation.

Arizona, who was touted last preseason by most as the likely division winners, has brought back almost their entire roster, including breakout stars Paul Goldschmidt and Patrick Corbin, and is rumored to be in the running for ace Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. If they sign Tanaka, they will be vaulted into the 90 win discussion and could have a shot at the playoffs. But even if they don’t sign Tanaka, they’ll still be a thorn in the sides of the rest of the division, thanks to a talented roster that has added a closer (Addison Reed) and a middle-of-the-order hitter (Mark Trumbo) this offseason.

Even the miserable Padres have an adequate rotation, aided in large part by the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park. They add Josh Johnson (with a chip on his shoulder after two miserable seasons in Toronto) and Cory Luebke (the Padres’ ace for the first month of last season before requiring Tommy John Surgery) to a team that had a 3.98 ERA last season, nearly half a run better than the Rockies’.

With all that being said, this coming season looks promising for the Rockies. They won’t be favored to finish first, or even second, in this talented division, but they could surprise people. At Coors Field, their offense will be explosive. We know that. Which means that if a few pitchers surprise, this could be a Cinderella season for Colorado. Finally, the Rockies have invested in ground ball pitchers who aren’t hurt as badly by Coors Field. Jorge De La Rosa had a 47.3% ground ball rate. He had a breakout season. Jhoulys Chacin, who also had a breakout season, had a 46.8% ground ball rate. Maybe the Rockies are learning from experience. They traded for Brett Anderson, who has a 54.9% career ground ball rate. They also traded for Jordan Lyles, who has a 48.6% ground ball rate. The league average is 44.6%, which means that the Rockies can have a rotation that is full of ground ball pitchers. If they pitch well, they can be this year’s surprise team.

 

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