The first month of the baseball season is already past us. The Rockies are 4.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West and the team’s first month was average (11-11 record) mostly due to very average (to below average) pitching. All too often the starting pitcher leaves the game before the sixth inning is complete and the bullpen is taxed because of it. Last night Jim Tracy ran Juan Nicasio out to start the seventh when he clearly should not have mostly because the previous games put a lot of work on the bullpen.
The team’s hitting has been great. The Rockies are tied for second in the National League in runs scored and only three runs behind the Atlanta Braves who lead the league. The team is in second place alone in team OPS and tied for third in homers. Michael Cuddyer started off hot and lately Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez have been huge for the team. And let’s not forget Todd Helton and his power stroke rediscovered.
After 22 games who is pacing the Rockies offensively and defensively?
Only Cuddyer and Dexter Fowler have appeared in all 22 games. Tulo leads the team in hits with 24 knocks and CarGo and all his free-swinging ways leads the team in base on balls with nine (which surprises me).
Cuddyer and Fowler both have 18 whiffs.
As for power CarGo, Fowler, Helton and Ramon Hernandez all have four dingers apiece and Tulo is chasing with three of his own. The Rockies lead the league in triples and CarGo and Tyler Colvin have two each. As expected Cuddyer is wearing out the large gaps at Coors field and has nine doubles on the season and even though Cuddyer only has two home runs he is still fourth on the team in slugging at .519. Helton (.552), CarGo (.539) and Hernandez (.526) are the three players ahead of Cuddy.
Despite 59 fewer at-bats Eric Young Jr. is tied for the team lead in steals with CarGo as each have four. I really wish EY2 would take hold of second base and while I don’t think his current on-base percentage of .400 is sustainable for him if he could get on-base regularly he is sure fun to watch on the base paths.
Of the players who qualify CarGo (.303), Cuddy (.296) and Tulo (.282) lead the team in batting average. The same three lead the team in on-base percentage (.376, .365 and .340 respectively).
As for the “individual” (team) stats CarGo leads the team in runs scored with 18 and RBI with another 18.
The pitcher’s stats aren’t as rosy.
The guy who didn’t even have a guaranteed contract going into Spring Training and the guy who is old enough to be many of the Rockies players father is the best starter on the team so far.
After last night’s start Juan Nicasio tied Jamie Moyer for the most innings pitched on the team with 28 2/3. Moyer leads the starters with an ERA of 3.14 and if we do not include Guillermo Moscoso Moyer also leads all the starters in FIP (4.24). Drew Pomeranz leads the team in xFIP with a 4.25 mark (Moyer is second at 4.50). The fact that no starter in the Rockies rotation that has made at least two starts has an xFIP or FIP lower than 4.00 is a sign of things to come – mediocre to less than mediocre pitching.
Some good news is that both Jhoulys Chacin and Pomeranz are striking out over 8.5 batters per nine innings pitched. The bad news is that Pomeranz is also walking nearly 5.5 batters per nine innings. In fact, Nicasio and Moyer lead the starters with 2.83 walks per nine innings and once a pitcher gets around three per nine innings they start to walk on thin ice. Along with Pomeranz’s atrocious BB/9 rate Chacin (4.95) and Guthrie (3.70) are not very good either.
With a pitching staff that is average at best they cannot afford to allow as many free passes as they do.
Thankfully the Rockies bullpen has been very solid.
Rex Brothers leads the bullpen in FIP (1.39) with Esmil Rogers (2.37), Matt Belisle (2.95) and Matt Reynolds (1.95) also coming in under the 3.00 mark. Even when looking at ERA Brothers (3.00), Belisle (2.53), Reynolds (2.25) and Rafael Betancourt (0.90) all have good marks.
Of course while the sample sizes for everyone on the team are small the sample size for the relievers is really small.
Only four of the relievers has 10 or more innings pitched: Rogers (12), Josh Roenicke (12), Belisle (10 2/3) and Betancourt (10). With that being said both Brothers (13) and Rogers (12) are striking out well over 9 batters per nine innings but same control issues exist with these two as with the starters: they are both walking batters at a high rate (Brothers four per nine and Rogers three per nine).
After the performance of the bullpen on Monday night against the Dodgers I am quite a bit optimistic that the bullpen will provide very positive contributions to the team going forward – assuming they aren’t worn down by innings pitched due to lack of help from the starters.
Can Helton keep up the power? Will Nicasio continue to improve (shutting down the Dodgers was a nice start even if he did allow nine hits)? What about the rest of the rotation, can they pitch at all? Moyer will surely raise his ERA over the coming starts to match his xFIP but what about Pomeranz? Will Pomeranz develop into that #2 or #3 starter? Right now he looks lost at times.