Sunday, April 22, 2012

Rockies Starts by the Numbers

The 2012 Colorado Rockies are off to a solid start after 15 games sporting an 8-7 record, sitting in second place in the NL West behind the red hot Los Angeles Matt Kemp's and within arm's reach (1/2 a game) of the second wild card spot. The starting pitching has been inconsistent with the only starter with a respectable ERA being Jamie Moyer (2.55), and three of the five starters carrying an ERA over six. The Rockies' staff as a whole is 14th out of 16 in the National League with a 4.76 ERA. One of the challenges for the Rockies' starters so far has been working deep into games. So far the starting staff is averaging just under 5.2 innings per start, leading to the weak underbelly of the bullpen to be more exposed than the team would like. Look for Jeremy Guthrie, a proven innings eater amassing 200+ innings pitched in each of his last three seasons, to work deeper into games moving forward and the ongoing development of Drew Pomeranz to lead to better starts for the lefty. The Rockies pitching is going to be a question mark all season. The key will be to avoid big innings for the opponents so that the team's potent offense can have a chance to score more meaningful runs.

The Rockies' offense as a whole has been solid, scoring 72 runs (a 4.8 run/game average), good for third overall in the National League. Individually, however, there are a number of players off to hot and cold starts that look to regress or improve. This means when Michael Cuddyer's batting average slips below .300, don't panic! Granted, the live-and-die with every pitch Twitter audience will question his inevitable decline, but those who understand that a 33 year old outfielder with a lifetime average of .273 will probably finish with an average closer to that number than the .353 average than he currently employs. Again, don't panic kids. Carlos Gonzalez, a notorious slow starter (April has been his worst month through his career), is bound to heat up and improve his .240 average. Baseball is a balancing act. Players will get hot, players will get cold. Over the course of a 162 game season, things will even out and the Rockies will finish where they are supposed to.

A lot has been written about the Rockies age. The additions of Marco Scutaro and Ramon Hernandez to the everyday lineup have prompted manager Jim Tracy to be conscious of resting older players throughout the season. The thought is that a day off in April will keep players like Todd Helton fresh for the more important games in the late summer. The practice is good in theory, but in practice Tracy tends to rest starters all on the same day leading to an angry fan base pissed off they are seeing lineups that feature Jonathan Herrera, Chris Nelson, Eric Young Jr. and Tyler Colvin. These player are not bad individually, and they can be successful in short stints, but to start them all at the same time is a recipe for disaster when an offense as high-powered as the Rockies is short circuited by singles hitters (in the case of Herrera, Nelson and Young).

By the numbers, the Rockies are on track. If the offense continues to score at a 4.5+ run/game clip and the pitching staff can improve, even slightly, on its shoddy ERA the team will be knocking on the door of the postseason. Once the season shakes out and we find out if the Dodgers are for real (my vote is no; two offensive studs does not an offense make) and if the Giants and Diamondbacks will battle it out like they did last year, we will learn whether the NL West crown is within reach. Otherwise, the Rockies will pray for the wild card... those one-game playoffs sure are exciting.

No comments: