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Springtime Storylines: Do the Colorado Rockies have enough offense?

Mar 14, 2011, 2:03 PM EDT

Troy Tulowitzki

Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2011 season.  The latest: The … punchless Colorado Rockies?

The Big Question: Do the Rockies have enough offense?

That may seem like a strange thing to ask given that they were third in the NL in runs scored, but with this team, in their home park, the sheer amount of offense doesn’t tell us much. The question is whether they even have a rough approximation of balance, and the answer in 2010 was hell no: only 291 of the Rockies’  770 runs were scored on the road last year, and that lead to a putrid 31-50 record outside of Colorado.

The Rockies didn’t make any big splashes to address the offense from a personnel standpoint — unless I missed that big Jose Lopez welcome party that shut down the city of Denver for a few days — and they seem content to hope for more plate appearances from Troy Tulowitzki and overall improvement from their younger players.

The whole home/road split thing has been vexing Rockies hitters since 1993. I’m not sure that there are any answers to it, really. If Dexter Fowler, Seth Smith, Ian Stewart and Chris Iannetta continue to be overall average-to-below average offensive performers, however, this team isn’t going anywhere.

So what else is going on?

  • I dig this pitching staff. The 1-2-3 punch of Jiminez, De La Rosa, and Chacin only pale only when compared to the couple of otherworldly rotations the Giants and Phillies are sporting. The back end of the rotation is more in flux with Aaron Cook’s recent injury, but the rotation is no cause for concern. How many times have we been able to say that in the history of the Colorado Rockies?
  • The bullpen is solid too, with Huston Street, Matt Belisle and Rafael Betancourt anchoring things.  There are some concerns about how the Rockies match up against lefties in the late innings, but I’m not Tony La Russa so those sorts of things don’t keep me up at night.
  • Holy crap, before looking at their 2010 results at Baseball-Reference I had forgotten that they lost 13 of their last 14 games. Really, they were a game behind on September 18th before that hell-skid began. I don’t think this has any bearing on anything, but anyone who gets on that “the Rockies are a streaky team” kick you hear so often should point out that the streaks go both ways.
  • It should also give pause to those who look at their 83 wins form a year ago and say that it’s just too much ground to make up on the Giants.  That win total was a bit deflated by some bad luck and a late season disaster that may not be indicative of their true talent level.

So how are they gonna do?

Like I said in the Giants recap, I’ve been toying with the idea of picking the Rockies to win the west. Like I did last year!  But the closer I look, the more I worry that this is really a team made up of two stud position players — one of whom still needs to prove that he’s more well-rounded than some past Coors Field creations — an ace and a lot of guys who just can’t carry the day.  The challenges of playing at altitude have changed for Colorado in that the biggest question is no longer “how do we build a pitching staff?”  They have one.  But what I’m not convinced they have are enough bats to justify calling them contenders. Which isn’t to say they won’t contend. Just that, if they do, it will be because, like, five guys all turn up their offensive game at once to help Tulowitzki and Gonzalez out.  And it’s hard to count on something like that.

I’ll give the Rockies the nod for second place in the NL and a place in what looks to be a pretty crowded National League wild card hunt.

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