NL Wild Card: Are The Rockies a Legitimate Threat? (Part 1 Of 5)
In a division where the Dodgers have emerged as the juggernaut, these teams have shown tremendous poise by staying in the hunt of the lone playoff spot for non-division winners.
The Marlins haven't shocked the baseball world by contending this year, but in a way, they have surprised us on their recent surge.
The Cubs have shocked baseball by steadily pushing themselves into mediocrity this season.
And the Braves, well let's just say that their dominance in baseball is no longer present.
Would the Rockies really be a threat in the playoffs?
Take a look:
The Rockies have a very solid lineup. Day in and day out, you can count on a valiant effort at the plate. Even in losing efforts, the Rockies will not go down quietly. For example, two nights ago in Florida, they were down 6-1 going into the 9th. The final score was 6-5. Sure, it isn't a win, but considering, they got into Florida after midnight that morning, that's saying something about this club.
Look at Troy Tulowitzki. Over the past two months, he is tearing up the opposition. Teams are afraid to pitch to him. He has hit .333 with three homers, and 10 RBI in his last ten games. To say the least, Tulo has turned into a major leader on the field for the Rockies.
The starting pitching has been a strength for this team since Jim Tracy took over.
The starters have consistently worked into the seventh inning or later which takes the strain off of the bullpen. This is a key for the Rockies because they have never had a strong relief staff. Jason Marquis has turned himself into the ace of the staff by posting a record of 13-8 and posting an ERA of 3.55.
Pitchers in Colorado just don't do that.
Ubaldo Jimenez has also shown that he is worthy of praise by posting an ERA of 3.47 with 140 strikeouts and a record of 10-9.
When two-fifths of a team's starting pitching staff has an ERA of less than 3.60, success is almost guaranteed. The rest of the ERA's of their starters looks like this: Aaron Cook - 4.31, Jorge De La Rosa - 4.58 (considering he started 0-6 this year, that is an extremely low number), and Jason Hammel - 4.73.
The starting pitchers have put the Rockies in a position to win in nearly every game since Jim Tracy took over in May.
Without these guys, the Rockies would be competing for the third place spot with the D-Backs and the Padres.
As usual, the Rockies only weakness is their bullpen.
Granted, trading for Joe Beimel and Raphael Betancourt was the best thing that Dan O'Dowd could have done for this team's bullpen problems.
But, even with these two great pitchers, consistency has been a problem for all the pitchers save for them.
John Daley has been the lone star in the spotlight for the Rockies' middle relievers. He has posted an ERA of 3.41 in 34.1 innings pitched. He also has averaged 3.79 strikeouts per game (35). For a reliever, that is great.
His weird delivery has been giving hitters fits all year and it doesn't look like it is going to end.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, the rest of the middle relief staff has been average at best.
If the starter cannot get the team into the seventh inning with a lead or a small margin to make up, the only thing Rockies fans can do is think "let the roller-coaster ride begin."
If this team does indeed win the Wild Card, the difference will be the bullpen.
The Rockies have shown that they can beat the best teams with a combination of their hot offense and their great starting pitching.
The postseason are a brand new season in every sense of the word except for fatigue. After a long season, the players are exhausted and it is tough to continue with success.
This takes a toll on the pitchers especially.
There is no guarantee that the starters will get the Rockies into the seventh inning with a chance to win every game.
If the starters cannot give the team a good chance to win in the playoffs, the bullpen must step up and pitch well if this team wants a Rocktober 2.
I think this team will win the Wild Card. The starters have shown no sign of easing up on hitters and the offense is still getting better as the season goes on.
However, as I said before, the bullpen is what could kill this team's playoff chances or it is what could save them.
All Rockies fans can do now is watch, wait, hope, and keep rooting for your Rockies.
Note: This is the first installment of a five part series outlining the NL Wild Card contenders and their chances in the playoffs.
Next Week: San Francisco Giants
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