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The Coors Effect


May 12, 2010 12:17 AM

It's still too early to panic

It's May 11, the Rockies are 15-17 and, more importantly, 4.5 games out of first place.  Stop me if you've heard this before, but even in the two playoff seasons of recent vintage (2007 and 2009) the Rockies didn't start hot right out of the gate.  32 games into the 2009 season, the team was 13-19 and 8.5 games out of first.  The '07 team was 14-18, five games out of first.  On the other hand, the 2006 team (which wound up 76-86) was 19-13 and in first place at this point in the season.  While it's frustrating that Rockies teams of recent vintage have made slow starts something of a habit, and yes, I do wish the Rockies would actually get off to a hot start one of these years, it isn't the end of the world.  It's still far too early to press the panic button.

Why?  Well, for one thing, the team that we all thought would be our main competition for the division championship -- the Dodgers -- is just as bad.  And unlike the Rockies, who have actually outscored their opponents by 28 runs, the Dodgers are exactly in line with their Pythagorean record.  You could say that the Rockies have gotten unlucky to be 15-17, but the Dodgers are right about where they should be.  The Dodgers are having no trouble scoring runs, but their pitching has been just awful -- we talk about the Rockies having pitching problems, but that's mostly just the starting rotation as the Rockies' bullpen has been doing some solid work.  The Dodgers have been bad all around, and unlike the Rockies, you can't say they've had injury issues.  Charlie Haeger and Vicente Padilla are on the DL, but really, they were a big part of the problem.  Now, the Dodgers have gotten better pitching than the Diamondbacks, which isn't saying much, but that's two teams in the NL West who are scoring a bunch of runs and getting awful pitching.

Which, really, is the opposite of the two teams the Rockies are chasing in the standings, the Padres and the Giants.  The Padres and Giants are getting excellent pitching, but they're not scoring runs.  The Giants rank 10th in the NL with 140 runs scored; the Padres are actually worse, having scored 137 runs.  They're winning by keeping runs off the board.  In the Giants' case, this is expected, as Tim Lincecum is obviously very good and Matt Cain is right behind him, though it's a little ludicrous to expect Barry Zito's 1.49 ERA to hold up (though his peripherals suggest that a return to earth will merely be returning to a 3.50ish ERA.)  While it's reasonable to expect the Giants' pitching to hold up, their offense could actually be worse than it's been.  Seriously, the Giants' offense is struggling to get runs across, and that's with guys like Edgar Renteria and Bengie Molina hitting over .300.

As for the Padres -- their offense seems to be right where it should be, but something tells me their pitching isn't really this good.  Jon Garland's peripherals suggest his sub-2.00 ERA is the result of smoke and mirrors.  Meanwhile, young starters Clayton Richard and Mat Latos have potential, but they're going to take their lumps some.  Now, the Padres' bullpen is one of the best in the business, but once the starters return to earth the offense isn't going to give them a whole lot of leads to hold onto.

Seriously, it's way too early to press the panic button.  The team we thought would be our main competition has some serious issues, while the two in front of us are struggling to score runs.  I still think this Rockies team can win the division this year.  I don't necessarily like being 4.5 games back and under .500 at this point in the season, but things certainly could be a lot worse.

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