The Colorado Rockies, after being one of the weaker defensive teams this season, appear to have figured out some of their pitching problems. Starters Tyler Anderson, Jon Gray, and Chad Bettis have combined for an 8-0 record since the All-Star break. With Colorado having played some of their best baseball of late and with division-leader San Francisco slumping, there are a couple of big questions that will be answered in the weeks ahead.
Specifically, did the Rockies wait too long before they found their best baseball? Or can Colorado find a way to get into the post-season still?
When it comes to the NL West division title, nothing is over. For starters, there’s definitely something wrong in San Francisco as they have been losing ground series after series since play resumed after the All-Star break.
For example, immediately following the return to play San Fran lost six in a row and things have not gotten much better in recent weeks. With back-to-back losses to the Phillies to open August, the Giants have already lost that series. More and more commonly they are being referred to as the “struggling” San Francisco Giants, a tag not normally associated with a division leader.
Brandon Belt is one Giant that has tapered off in the last few weeks. Heading into Thursday, his post-All Star game OPS is just .665, 220 points below his season’s average. Brandon Crawford has gone cold as well with just a .612 OPS since the break, well below his season’s average as well. On the mound the staff aces, Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, are winless since the break, combining for a 0-4 record recently over 8 starts.
With the struggles the Giants certainly seem ripe for the pickings on top of the NL West, but it’s not the Rockies that are within striking distance. The Los Angeles Dodgers are just two games back entering Thursday with Colorado still a full seven backs. That deficit is large for the Rockies, and it’s what calls into question whether Colorado squandered too many mid-season games before finding what appears to be its best form.
That the Rockies have two teams to catch and surpass in the NL West really eliminates margin for error for the balance of the regular season. Not only do they need to play well over the next eight weeks, but, relative to Colorado, the Rockies also need BOTH LA and San Fran to play much worse in order to win the division. There are plenty of scenarios where the Rockies keep doing well only to lose by a small margin still.
But if the pitching stays effective then Colorado are by no means done. Pitching was always the problem with this team and hitting was always the strength. Colorado’s power in the middle of their order matches their power-friendly ballpark well. Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story (15-day DL), and Carlos Gonzalez (DTD) might combine for 100+ bombs this season.
Yet it still seems that Colorado are walking on thin ice still. Just one bad patch of baseball can really hurt their chances.
In many ways, it does look like the Wild Card game is where they might end up. They are only three games back of the 2nd Wild Card position and Colorado, thanks to the strong play of late, are ahead of ‘the drop off’ in that race. Sitting sixth in the Wild Card race, the Rockies are tight with Pittsburgh, New York, Miami, and St. Louis. Seventh-placed Philadelphia and teams below them are the ones that look out of it as they are all at least 8 games back now and in need of huge winning streaks.
The Rockies will be looking to sweep Los Angeles on Thursday, a result that will really help Colorado. For the balance of August, the Rockies will actually have a very tough schedule. The Brewers and Phillies are the worst teams the Rockies will face this month.
However, Colorado are a team with growing confidence and improving pitching. Both factors keep them very dangerous for the home stretch of the 2016 season even if they are below a lot of people’s radar still.