I said it before the season. And now, after a week and a half baseball I’m prepared to make it official: I am all in on the 2017 Colorado Rockies.
Yes, the Rockies will sneak into the postseason ahead of the traditionally powerful San Francisco Giants. Their offense is elite, their pitching is improving, and they are getting good at just the right time. Colorado is primed to see its first postseason since 2009 and it is going to be an upbeat, home run infused run to October.
Although it’s been only nine games, San Francisco’s alarmingly slow start spells doom for the usually powerful Giants. It’s not that they’ve lost games- it’s that they’ve looked incredibly mediocre in doing so.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Giants are 8th in the National League in batting average, 8th in slugging, 8th in home runs, 7th in on base percentage, and 5th in runs scored. Though average, these numbers would be acceptable if the Giants were putting up great pitching statistics- which they were expected to do. But the Giants have failed to pull away from the pack in that manner too.
San Francisco currently ranks 12th in ERA, 11th in home runs allowed, 9th in batting average against, and 10th in WHIP. The supposed strength of the Giants roster, its pitching, has been underwhelming. And Mark Melancon, whom the Giants signed in the offseason to shore up their shaky bullpen, blew his first save opportunity of the year, adding to the disappointment.
The more reliable closing option this season? Colorado’s Greg Holland, who leads Major League Baseball with five saves and has yet to allow an earned run. The Rockies’ pitching has been every bit as good as San Francisco’s, especially when they allowed just three runs in the first two games of their most recent series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, taking two out of three in the process.
Truth be told, Colorado’s offense has not become a reliable force yet. Despite owning the 2nd most home runs and 4th most hits in the National League, they are only 10th in runs scored and 12th in batting average.
But they are still winning games, which makes their potential even more noteworthy.
The depth of the Rockies offense is undeniable. Colorado’s lineup legitimately rolls six deep, containing a bevy of players capable of putting fear into an opposing pitcher. On paper, it’s hard to find a more impressive set of offensive talent in the National League.
Charlie Blackmon, the leadoff man and center fielder, posted a .321/.381/.552 slash line in 2016 with 29 home runs. He rightfully won the silver slugger award. The Washington Nationals inquired about Blackmon in the offseason but the Rockies were uncomfortable with the thought of letting him go.
Second baseman D.J. LeMahieu snuck up on Daniel Murphy and won last year’s batting title.
Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez has been one of the most feared hitters in baseball for about seven years. He has smashed 65 home runs in the last two seasons. Doesn’t hurt that he plays in the best hitters park in baseball either, Coors Field.
Third baseman Nolan Arenado is arguably the best player in baseball. Last season, he slashed .294/.362/.570 with a 6.6 WAR. He hit 41 home runs in 2016 and 42 home runs in 2015. Arenado is also a dazzling defensive player, winning a Gold Glove award in each of the last four seasons. His all-around play has made him the face of the Rockies franchise.
Gerardo Parra is a reliable bat whose statistics should receive a boost in Coors Field with a healthy season.
The club is hoping prized prospect David Dahl can return to the big league club as soon as possible. He is currently nursing a stress fracture in his sixth rib.
And a season ago, shortstop Trevor Story took the league by storm in his rookie year with a dizzying array of power. Story finished with 27 home runs in 97 games before being sidelined with a thumb injury.
These Rockies, armed with promising young pitchers Jon Gray and Tyler Chatwood, are set to leap into the postseason. Their offensive talent coupled with the re-emergence of Greg Holland as an elite closer has them within striking distance of the rest of the National League.
Given San Francisco’s early struggles, the Rockies should be able to capitalize on this opportunity. Colorado has an ideal mix of youth and veteran leadership and are ready to get a taste of winning baseball.
Clearly, the Rockies need to improve. Colorado’s offense has yet to approach its potential despite its immense talent. But over the course of a 162 game season, they should be able to improve both with the bats and with their starting pitching.
It’s unheard of for the same five teams in a given league to make the postseason for two consecutive seasons. With the Cubs, Dodgers, Nationals, and Mets making strong cases early on to reach October, there is likely only room for one newcomer.
Enter the Colorado Rockies.