The Coors Effect

June 15, 2009 12:20 PM

Rockies finally playing up to their talent

Wow,  Just... wow.

The Rockies are red-hot.  If you haven't heard, they've won eleven in a row.  The last time the Rockies won 11 in a row?  September 2007, a month all Rockies fans are familiar with.

Obviously the Rockies aren't going to win every game the rest of the way, but are they going to make a playoff push?  Or are they going to settle in as a .500-ish team, putting up a respectable record but never really threatening for a playoff berth?

The West is probably still going to be out of reach, as the Dodgers are 42-22 and even in the absence of Manny Ramirez are still a very good team.  But the Rockies currently sit just 3.5 back in the wild card, so I'd say that's a reasonable goal.  The Rockies seriously underperformed in April and May, resulting in them having to come from behind, but I think they do have enough talent that they should at least finish around .500.

The bad news in the wild card chase is that two of the teams they currently trail are the Cubs and the Mets.  The Rockies have talent, but they don't have talent on the level of those teams.  The team still lacks a true ace on the pitching staff -- Ubaldo Jimenez is beginning to pitch more and more like a stopper, but he's not quite there yet, and he's certainly not on the level of a Carlos Zambrano or a Johan Santana.  And while the starting pitching has been excellent of late, does anybody realistically think these guys are this good?

On the other hand, the Rockies' offensive stats suggest there's still room for improvement on that side of the ball.  Despite his recent hot streak, Ian Stewart is still hitting just .226 (albeit with an excellent .271 ISO power.)  The power is legit, but I still think Stewart can add a few more points to his batting average.  Likewise for Troy Tulowitzki (.241) and Chris Iannetta (.220.)  Even Garrett Atkins, who is fairly clearly on the downslope of his career but still should be about a .260-.270 hitter, not the .204 he's currently hitting.

Other notes from the week...

-Taylor Buchholz will undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season -- he won't pitch for the Rockies at all in 2009.  With Jeff Francis also out for the entire season, the Rockies will get absolutely zero from two pitchers who they were counting on to anchor the pitching staff this year.

-Franklin Morales wasn't activated from the DL after finishing his rehab; instead, the Rockies are leaving him in AAA for now.  There are concerns that Morales may have lost some velocity on his fastball, but really, right now which of the Rockies' starting pitchers would you replace?

-The contract negotiations with first-round pick Tyler Matzek probably won't be finished any time soon.  While I generally prefer drafting high school players early because of their upside, the bad thing is that going to college is usually an option and that means they can hold out a lot more effectively than college players.  Threatening to pitch for the St. Paul Saints is a lot different than threatening to pitch in college.  Usually only a couple of players a year will refuse to sign a contract and instead sign with an independent team, but plenty of players -- even some high draft picks -- will decide to go to college rather than playing professional baseball right away.  We'll see where this goes, but as much as I like Rex Brothers, I think the Rockies selected him as something of an insurance policy -- if Matzek doesn't sign, the Rockies still get a talented left-handed pitcher from this year's draft.

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