Carney column: The Rockies are real, folks
Back in March I wrote a column picking the Colorado Rockies to earn a wild card berth in the National League playoffs. Roughly two months later, it looks like I came up way too low in that prediction, considering the Rockies sit atop the National League West division with a 31-18 record, good for the second-best record in the whole league.
So far, free agent signings such as Greg Holland and Ian Desmond have proven to be great moves by the front office as Holland leads the league in saves with 19 — six more than the next closest guy in Cleveland’s Cody Allen, while Desmond sports a .270 batting average with two home runs and 10 runs batted in since returning from a broken hand suffered in spring training.
On top of the savvy free agent moves by general manager Jeff Bridich, starting pitching and the bullpen has been great for the Rockies, giving the potent offense some help when it comes to winning games.
Star pitcher Jon Gray went down early in the year with a fractured foot, but since the team’s best starter left the rotation, young guns like German Marquez, Jeff Hoffman and Denver native Kyle Freeland have been excellent on the hill for Colorado.
Combined, the trio has allowed just 39 earned runs in 99.4 innings, resulting in a 2.54 ERA. Arguably the biggest surprise in the rotation through two months of the season has been right-hander Antonio Senzatela, who sits at 6-1 on the year with a 3.67 ERA.
In year’s past, the Rockies always had the offense but never had the pitching to compete in the NL West, but 2017 felt different coming into the year, and that’s certainly playing out on the field.
As of now, the Rockies have the 17th-best team ERA in baseball (4.24), which isn’t all that great overall, but here’s the thing: The pitching — namely the bullpen — has been just good enough for the Rockies’ offense, which has the eighth-best team average (.264), 10th-most home runs (63) and second-most runs scored (248) in the league.
Add all that up and what you get, as of right now, is the best team in the National League (record wise) and the second-best team in the league overall. Not bad for a group that so many wrote off prior to the start of the season just for who they are.
The Rockies have been a laughing stock for most of the 2000s due to their inability to find pitching, but the hiring of Bud Black seems to have turned all of that around. Now, the Rockies are an absolute must-watch every night, not just for the loaded offense that they possess, but for the guys taking the mound every night. Outside of Freeland and fellow lefty Tyler Anderson, almost everyone who has started a game for the Rockies this season is a power pitcher that can blow pitches by guys anywhere in the strike zone. When you miss bats, you won’t be giving up runs. That seems to be the direction the Rockies are taking on the mound, and it’s been very successful.
While the success on the field is hard to deny at the 50-game mark, too often I hear the wisecracks up and down the valley about how the Rockies will somehow end up blowing it.
Chew on this for a second though: For the Rockies to “blow” this great start, they’d have to go roughly 51-61 the rest of the way to finish at 82-80, which would put them on the outside of the wild card picture. With the offensive production and the great pitching the Rockies are getting, they’ll likely be buyers at the trade deadline at the end of July, adding some good pieces in hopes of contending for a World Series this season.
Although I’m not ready to say they’re serious World Series contenders, what they are is a very good team that deserves the respect and recognition. They’re right up there with the Houston Astros right now, yet you don’t hear much about the Rockies’ hot start in comparison to the Astros’.
Right now, Colorado is playing .633 winning baseball. Should they continue on that path with that winning percentage, they’d finish the year with a record of 101-61, which would give them homefield advantage throughout the postseason. Now, it’s important to note that I don’t think the Rockies will continue to win games at such a high percentage, but I do think they could finish somewhere around 94-95 wins, putting them securely in the playoffs for the first time since the World Series appearance in 2007.
I get it, though; the Rockies have gotten off to too many hot starts the last few years only to see them fizzle out come summertime, but hear me out: Stop worrying about a preconceived collapse and just enjoy this. Far too often from 2011-2015 I waited for the Pittsburgh Pirates to fall off that proverbial cliff in the summer instead of just enjoying the great starts. Now, the best I have to think about is a 98-win season that ended in the wild card round. I never truly enjoyed those seasons of great baseball because I was always skeptical.
So do this for me, Rockies fans: Just enjoy the heck out of this. The way the Rockies are playing right now is how baseball should be played. You have one of the most fun teams in all of baseball this season.
Stop worrying about waiting for the other shoe to drop, because you’ll be waiting quite a while and might miss some of the best baseball years of your life.
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