Colorado Rockies: 5 Offseason Musts to Become Playoff Contenders
The Colorado Rockies have no hope for a playoff spot in 2012, but there are five things that must happen this offseason in order for the Rockies to be a contender in 2013.
The Rockies are now 51-75—last place in the NL West.
The Rockies came into 2012 as a team that could make things happen late in the season, if they were close enough.
Nothing went right, though, and everything from the defense to the pitching has just been awful.
2013 will be a new year, and there are five offseason musts that would return the Rockies to a contender spot in such a competitive division.
Troy Tulowitzki Must Get Healthy
It is hard enough to win in this league with a healthy team, but when the best player on the team goes down it becomes really difficult.
Troy Tulowitzki is arguably the best shortstop in all of baseball. Combined with Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies had a formidable 1-2 punch in the middle of the lineup.
Unfortunately, Tulowitzki has been out due to a groin injury since May.
Without Tulowitzki, the Rockies still hit the ball well, but the team has missed him.
It is hard to replace 30 home runs, 105 RBI and a .302 batting average. Tulowitzki also helped run the defensive infield, which has struggled this season.
Tulowitzki only played in 47 games this season, and with the team in last place there is little chance he will return.
He is the star of the team and the heart of the Rockies. His return in 2013 will add improvement to the offense and defense, but most of all he will return the heart to a team known for its ability to excel late in the season.
Defense Must Improve
Without Tulowitzki, the defense has struggled mightily.
Defense in baseball does not draw much attention compared to the pitching and hitting aspects, but defense is a crucial component to winning games.
A good defensive play will pick up a pitcher and increase momentum. A good defensive play could catch a baserunner by surprise leading to a double play.
On the other hand, a bad defensive play can extend the inning allowing for the next batter to have a chance to make a big hit. Extra opportunities can lead to runs and at the end of the day, it's who has the most runs that wins the game.
More often than not, the Rockies defense could not make the play needed to pick up the pitcher and allowed extra opportunities for the opposing team.
Colorado claims baseball's worst defense as it has committed 96 errors and a .980 fielding percentage.
The Rockies must spend this offseason doing fielding drills as it is apparent spring training does not provide enough time to learn the art of defense.
Rockies Must Add Power
Troy Tulowitzki's absence has not helped the power of the Colorado offense, but even with Tulowitzki back next season the Rockies must add more power.
The offense is no slouch.
The Rockies are fourth in batting average and seventh in runs scored. The Rockies are even in the middle of the pack when it comes to home runs.
Adding more power would create a security blanket if Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez go down.
Adding more power would also improve the run production of the offense. This may not seem too important to a team already at the top of the league in scoring, but looking at the Rockies pitching staff, the team will need to score as many runs as it can.
Rockies Must Add Pitching
If there was ever a must for the Colorado Rockies, it would be the Rockies absolutely must improve its starting pitching.
Despite its porous defense, the Rockies can still blame the pitching staff as the reason for not making the playoffs.
The Rockies starters may compose the worst rotation in the past decade, at least.
The Rockies have the worst team ERA in baseball at 5.24.
Colorado is towards the bottom of the league in strikeouts.
The Rockies staff also has allowed a .288 opposing batting average, ranked fourth in walks allowed and have also allowed the second most home runs in all of baseball.
The starters are a big part of this problem.
No pitcher with a start has an ERA under 4.00.
The best starting pitcher, statistically, on the team is Drew Pomeranz with a 4.78 ERA.
Pomeranz and fellow starter Alex White came over from Cleveland in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade (White currently has a 5.49 ERA).
These two pitchers were the key players in the trade for the Rockies and right now they are a combined 3-13.
Maybe it is inexperience, or maybe it is poor pitching instruction, but the Rockies will not get to the playoffs with its starting pitching being as bad as it is.
If the Rockies do not improve anything else this offseason, it has to at least fix its pitching or the basement will become a permanent home for Colorado in the future.
...And More Pitching
The Rockies pitching is so bad that it requires two slides. The starters need a lot of work, but so does the bullpen.
Rafael Betancourt has been a good closer for Colorado. He has converted 26 saves in 31 opportunities, has a 2.47 ERA and has held opponents to just a .218 batting average.
Unfortunately, Betancourt cannot pitch every time a reliever is needed, especially with how bad the starters are.
This means other relievers must pitch and that has turned into a death sentence for the Rockies in 2012.
Outside of Betancourt, the Colorado relievers have a combined two converted saves out of 19 opportunities. That is a 10.5 percent conversion rate.
While the Rockies are thinking of ways to improve the starting rotation, they might as well look at relief help too or it won't matter if the starters improve as the bullpen will not be able to hold the lead.
Pitching is the difference between success and failure for Colorado, but the pain will only continue if it does not become the focus of this offseason.