It took half the season and required the use of pretty much the entire bullpen, but the Rockies finally won a game in walk-off fashion. Unfortunately, they don’t have a day off until the All-Star break — that make-up in Chicago may end up hurting more than expected — meaning that the starters need to go deep into games this week. Until the pen gets a little rest, Tracy will have to think twice before throwing his starters the life preserver. Don’t be surprised if Aaron Cook is a sacrificial lamb on Thursday.
When the Rockies wrap up their current series with the White Sox, they will have played half of their games. At that point, they could be a game over .500 or three games below. Regardless, it will be disappointing. The Rox, a popular pre-season pick to win the NL West, were expected to be much better. We’ve been waiting for them to bust out for half a season, and, while they’ve shown flashes, they haven’t been able to put it together on a consistent basis.
The Rox recently closed to within two games of the Giants. At that point, San Fran went on a run and the Rockies continued at the ho-hum pace they’ve maintained all season. Now, just a short time later, they are already 6.5 games back. Yesterday, they won and still lost ground in the standings. The Giants swept a double header and have won seven in a row. Honestly, we’re pretty darn lucky that they’re just now getting hot. If the Rockies played in the AL or NL East, we’d be talking about building for next year. And, as much as I hate to admit it, soon, we may be having that conversation anyway.
It’s not that the Rockies are a bad team. They have a solid core. But, they also have a few glaring holes and these weaknesses are holding them back. Defensively, they are slightly above average, but they could great. Defensive black holes at third and second are preventing them from realizing their full potential. This is particularly interesting in the case of second base, which has also been an offensive void. In addition to the deep inadequacies at those two infield spots, the team’s defense is suffering because of the demotion of Dexter Fowler. Say what you will about Dex, but he’s a plus defender in center. And, Cargo is much better in left. Also, EY Jr. is a defensive liability at every position, so he’s not helping either. Aside from adding a starting pitcher, fortifying the defense is probably easiest way to dramatically improve this team.
So, what options does the franchise have? It would be nice if Dexter would break out of his funk in AAA. Even with the strike-outs, his offensive numbers while with the big club were better than what Charlie Blackmon has done. Fowler’s wOBA is almost twenty points higher. That’s not a knock on Blackmon. He’s a rookie. He should be struggling. But, there is no point in having Fowler figure it out in the minors, while Blackmon tries to figure it out in the majors. Especially since Fowler makes them a much better defensive squad. Of course, Dexter has been beyond awful in Colorado Springs, so this is pretty much moot until that changes.
Second base has been a weakness for this team for some time now. There is a reason why they were trying to get Michael Young this off-season. The problem is, there aren’t very many solid second basemen and they rarely become available. Jamey Carroll’s name has been mentioned quite a bit lately, but Carroll is old and below average defensively. I suppose he’s better than what they have, but what would they have to give up to get him?**
Another possibility is Jeff Baker — this has been championed in the comments section by my friend, Ken. At first, I wasn’t too much of a fan, but after looking at it a little closer, it might not be a bad idea. Baker is misused by the Cubs. He is a defensive liability in the outfield and at first, but provides adequate defense at second and third. Plus, his bat is light years ahead of Chris Nelson and Herrera. Baker comes with an affordable contract, though he is eligible for arbitration after this season. With the Cubs struggling, the Rox might be able to get a good deal.
Will Jeff Baker help this team win the division? Probably not. I’m starting to think they have too many holes. But, he would plug a giant leak at second and at least give them something better than the production of a bunch of average minor leaguers. He could also serve there next season if they fail to address the need again. Baker is worth a look.
If they grab a pitcher and solidify the defense, the Rockies might have a chance this year. Otherwise, it’s probably time to start looking forward to the spring of 2012.
**On second thought, based on the loan that Frank McCourt took out yesterday, we might be able to take advantage of an extremely desperate man.
I’d love to hear your thoughts….