As the Colorado Rockies slowly pick up ground on the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants in the National League West, questions are becoming more and more frequent in the mainstream media. Is this team for real?
There are few questions about the team’s lineup, especially now that shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is playing at a high level again. Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton are also putting up their best numbers in years, and the young guys are performing well enough to maintain consistent playing time.
That leaves the pitching staff. Ranking 11th in the National League with a staff ERA of 4.45, a slow start and an ineffective bullpen have hurt the staff in 2009.
The bullpen has been a major disappointment in Denver. Nearly every pitcher who has come through the revolving door in right field has failed to perform, leading to a plethora of lost leads and crushing defeats.
Of all Rockies relievers this season, only closer Huston Street and to a lesser degree, Joel Peralta and Josh Fogg, have done anything to impress fans. Everyone else, from Manny Corpas to Alan Embree to Glendon Rusch, has done more harm than good.
In fact, the Rockies bullpen ranks only ahead of the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL in ERA, coming in at 4.90. The staff ranks dead last in both leagues in BAA (batting average against) with a mark of .288.
Compare that to the numbers for the starters and the results are staggering. As of Tuesday, Rockies’ starters are carrying an ERA of 4.27, nearly three-quarters of a run better than the bullpen. The rotation holds a BAA of .266, also significantly better than that of the bullpen.
Such differences are equivalent to the difference between the full staffs of the Florida Marlins and the Nationals. Just to put that in perspective, the Marlins are 15 games ahead of the Nationals in NL East.
The story is different this month for the Rockies, however, with the team leading baseball in wins with 20, two ahead of Boston and a full six games better than the Dodgers.
The Rockies are carrying a 3.74 ERA in June, good for sixth in the National League, and a BAA of .255, good enough for eighth.
Both starters and relievers have settled into routines that have spelled success for the team.
It is unlikely the staff will blossom into a league leading squad any time soon, but with the offense outscoring everyone in the National League (everyone in baseball during the month of June) they don’t have to.
A league average pitching staff, especially if it maintains consistency as it has in June, will propel Colorado into the playoffs. Catching the Dodgers, however, is another story completely.