Colorado Rockies: The 5 Biggest Stories for the 2012 Season
Spring Training is finally over. Opening Day is almost here, and we grow anxious for the games that have meaning.
This off season has had a much different feel then just one year ago. Going into last season many experts had the Rockies not only wining the National League West, but competing for a World Series. As we know though, the Rockies entered September approaching 90 losses, surrendering the division to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
This off season featured a complete over haul of the clubhouse that was said by Rockies GM Dan O' Dowd to be about getting the right attitude in the clubhouse. Instead of a World Series, many experts have the Rockies finishing 4th in the National League West.
Opening Day is upon us. As we wait for Friday's opener in Houston, here are the 5 biggest story lines to watch for during the 2012 season.
Can Troy Tulowitzki Be the Leader?
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This is the team's biggest question in 2012. If the Rockies want to win their first divisional title and a World Series, Tulowitzki is the key. How he responds to this leadership role is essential for the team's future.
Up to this point, Tulowitzki hasn't responded well to pressure.
Many times he has gone up to the plate with runners on, swings at the first pitch, resulting in a pop-up for an out. As games wear on, Tulowitzki's batting average also decreases in later innings.
A team leader who has a $134 million contract needs to step up in late-inning situations.
This season, Rockies fans are left to ask: Can he step up?
Jim Tracy's Indefinite Handshake Deal
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Many fans would agree that this "indefinite handshake" between Jim Tracy and Dan O' Dowd is confusing.
Since Jim Tracy came aboard in 2009, when the Rockies went 74-42 with a playoff appearance, they have since gone 156-162 and haven't made the playoffs.
These numbers certainly don't warrant an extension. Fans are left to wonder: why is this mediocrity being rewarded?
Does the handshake mean Jim Tracy can be let go if his team doesn't win? Or is this a clever move from O’ Dowd to help Tracy relax, not dwell on his line-ups and go out and manage?
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Once again, Rockies fans can point to the uncertainties of the starting rotation.
Since 2008 only one Rockies pitcher—Ubaldo Jimenez—has pitched over 200 innings, but he is no longer on the roster.
Jhoulys Chacin came close last season with just over 194 innings pitches.
But baseball fans know the importance of starting pitching, and the Rockies lack the presence of a true ace in their rotation.
Jeremy Guthrie has been named the opening day starter, but he doesn't fit the definition of an ace. Guthrie is known for pitching late in games, and he is coming from the most brutal division in baseball.
How will this translate to the NL in a hitter friendly park like Coors Field? His 9-17 record last season is also questionable, but when you look at the amount of run support he received, it's more understandable.
There was a point last season when Guthrie was 1-7, but during those games, the Orioles scored only six runs. And when you look closer, there were five games when the Orioles hadn't provided a single run in support of Guthrie.
Jhoulys Chacin is still struggling with his command. But the Rockies hope he can become the ace Jimenez couldn't.
At this point though, the similarities between the two are starting to become a concern. At 24, Chacin already has 54 major league starts. There's no reason he can't perform. Last June, Chacin worked a stretch of four starts and only allowed three runs.
Juan Nicasio needs to develop a third pitch, but on the bright side, he stood toe-to-toe with major league hitters with his two-pitch selection.
At times, you can even argue he was dominating on the mound. With 58 strikeouts to 18 walks, he proved he belongs in the big leagues. The fact that he is even going to set foot on a mound after suffering a broken vertebra in August is amazing.
The Rockies have named Jamie Moyer their No. 2 man in the rotation, and it's a feel good story. But can he remain healthy enough to last an entire season?
Coming off Tommy John surgery won't be easy for a player with 20-plus years of experience. Moyer's advantage is knows how to pitch and has a variety of pitches with varying speeds.
If he can just be consistent until Jorge De La Rosa returns to the rotation, Moyer will have done his job.
Will a Young Player Make a Difference?
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Willin Rosario came into spring training and made quite the impression on the Rockies.
His .418 batting average, eight doubles and two home-runs solidified him a spot on the 25-man roster. Now Rockies fans are hearing Rosario is the next All-Star. Sound familiar?
The last catcher with those expectations was Chris Iannetta, and due to his under performance, is no longer with the team.
Jordan Pacheco is another player Rockies fans have heard a lot about.
A strong spring has earned him a spot on the 25-man roster, and Pacheco impressed last September during a short stint in the majors when he hit .286. With the release of Casey Blake, it seems that Pacheco will split time at third-base with Chris Nelson, while maintaining a utility role.
Tyler Colvin, DJ LeMahieu, Josh Roenicke, Rex Brothers, Alex White, Drew Pomeranz and Esmil Rogers are a few other players who will be waiting in the wings. And the question remains if Rockies fans will see their full potential.
Last season exposed the truth of the Rockies' farm system. For a few years, Rockies fans heard how the goal for the franchise was to build from within. But Colorado failed by their own standards when they sent Ian Stewart, Chris Iannetta, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Seth Smith packing.
Will the Ublado Jimenez Trade Pay Off?
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When the Rockies faced Ubaldo this preseason, many heard about the result.
So maybe Dan O'Dowd knew what he was doing when he traded Jimenez last July, and O'Dowd's attitude adjustment in the clubhouse seems to be directly tied to Jimenez.
Since being traded to Cleveland, Jimenez has struggled with his command and has had a rough spring. Is it safe to say that if at least White or Pomeranz can become a solid pitcher, the Rockies got the better end of the deal?
It's possible O'Dowd's fate could be tied to the success of Alex White and Drew Pomeranz.
White has struggled this spring and has been optioned to Triple-A to start the season. But that doesn't mean he won't pan out.
He has shown promise and can really benefit from being a starter for the Sky Sox. In Triple-A, instead of coming out of the pen, he will get more innings of work and more time to develop his pitches.
Pomeranz has certainly showed a glimpse of being a future ace in the rotation. It's hard to put much stock into spring training, but a .053 ERA in 17 innings is impressive. Now that Pomeranz has a spot in the Rockies rotation, fans can see if he has what it takes to pitch in the big leagues.
Even if all White ever becomes is a reliever, along with Pomeranz as a No. 2 or 3 pitcher in the rotation, the trade of Jimenez would be a success.