10 Reasons the Rockies Can Win It All
Sure, the Yankees have the most stacked lineup since Woodstock.
Yeah, the Angels seem to have destiny on their side.
Of course, the Dodgers have been the best team in the National League all season long.
And the Phillies are, after all, still the defending champs.
But... what about the Colorado Rockies?
Despite what you've heard (or haven't heard) from the national media about the little purple engine that could, this team has a legitimate chance to win the World Series in 2009.
And here's why...
10. They’re the only team in baseball with five 10-game winners
You may not realize it, but the Rockies have some pretty good starting pitching. The Rockies, once a joke on the mound, have three of the NL’s top-10 game-winners this season. Their staff ERA of 4.22, eigth-best in the National League, is pretty solid considering it came at the ballpark formerly known as “Coors Canaveral.” Ubaldo Jimenez, 8-3 since the start of August, has established himself as the staff ace. And steady veteran Aaron Cook, out for a month with a shoulder injury, allowed just one run in his two starts back from the DL.
9. Jorge De La Rosa
The key to the Rockies’ rotation may just be the best pitcher you’ve never heard of. De La Rosa is the first pitcher EVER to win 16 after being 0-3 through first two months. Ever. In the history of baseball. Which, last time I checked, has been played for a pretty long time. De La Rosa has been the Rockies’ toughest pitcher down the stretch, and has gone less than five innings only three times since Jim Tracy took over as manager. Of course, this all depends on De La Rosa’s health (he left his final start against the Dodgers early with groin tightness). If he’s good to go, De La Rosa is this staff’s De La soul. That’s just good stuff, folks.
*Update: According to the AP, De La Rosa has been left off of the Rockies' NLDS roster dude to the groin injury. However, a possible return later in the postseason, according to manager Jim Tracy, is a "viable possibility."
8. Jim. Freaking. Tracy.
Speaking of the soft-spoken manager, can the Rockies lose with this guy at the helm? It’s a well-known stat by now that the team went a ridiculous 74-42 with Tracy as their manager. But, as anyone who has watched more than an inning or two of Rockies baseball this year (ESPN analysts, you can look away for a second), knows, it's Tracy’s managing style that gives the Rockies a chance in the playoffs. He believes in his players, isn’t afraid to take risks and infuses a confidence in this team that would make Phil Jackson envious.
7. Troy Tulowitzki’s bat (and glove)
Get ready for the Tulo chant in Denver. The rocket-armed, fiery shortstop returns to the playoffs after a one-year absence. Tulo, who should receive at least a few MVP votes this year, ranked in the NL top-20 in home runs, slugging percentage, RBI, batting average, and stolen bases this season. And that, of course, is just half of what Tulowitzki brings to the table. Tulo ranked second in the majors this year in fielding percentage, ahead of some guy named “Jeter.” He also turned more double plays this year than any other playoff shortstop besides the Angels’ Erick Aybar. I can hear the chant already…
6. They can go deep
Thanks to some smart offseason(and in-season) moves, the Rockies boast one of the deepest rosters in the postseason. How many teams have two All-Star-caliber bats at third base, as the Rockies to with Ian Stewart and Garret Atkins? How many teams have a five-man outfield platoon that includes a 2009 All-Star (Brad Hawpe), two rookie of the year candidates (Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez), one of the best pinch hitters in baseball (Seth Smith) and a fire-starting, 48-RBI guy like Ryan Spilborghs? Oh, and there’s also this Jason Giambi fellow, who has two pinch-hit home runs and 11 RBI in 24 at-bats since signing with the Rockies in August.
5. A (surprisingly) rock-solid Bullpen
Just past the center field wall at Coors Field lies a large rock collection sitting around a make-shift pond. Just to the right a few yards is the Rockies’ bullpen, which has been equally rock-solid in 2009. The additions of lefty Joe Beimel and setup-man Rafael Betancourt were huge for this team, giving them a solid bridge to closer Huston Street. Street’s 35 saves were 7th–best among NL closers, despite missing significant time due to injury. More significantly, he has the least blown saves (two) of any postseason closer.
4. They’ve been here before
Yeah, you might remember the whole “Rocktober” thing? Well, now it’s “Rock-2-ber,” or so the Denver Post as named it. Maybe it should be called “RockDo-Over” instead. Either way, the majority of this roster (especially team leader Todd Helton) was there for that wild 2007 ride to the World Series, so the whole “deer-in-the-headlights” effect of the playoffs shouldn’t be an issue. More importantly, the Rockies have-literally-been here, in Philadelphia for the NLDS, before. And in 2007, the Rockies needed only three games to move on to the next round.
3. They won six of seven against the Cardinals in the Regular Season
Just about everyone and John Kruk’s dog has jumped on the Cardinals bandwagon for the NL postseason. And, frankly, I can’t really blame them. The Cards have arguably the two best pitchers in the NL in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter to go along with hands-down the best overall player in the NL (and probably all of baseball), Albert Pujols. Oh, and they also have Matt Holliday, who the Rockies rode to the World Series two years ago. But, the Rockies swept the Cardinals in St. Louis earlier this season and took two of three from them at Coors Field in late September (when they faced both Wainwright and Carpenter, mind you). If this is who the Rockies get in the NLCS, I like their chances.
2. The Coors Field Factor
Though it is not the hitter’s-dream park it was, say, ten years ago, it still can be a nightmare for pitchers. While most NL teams have come to realize you don’t have to score three touchdowns to win a game at Coors, the park can still be a bit scary for pitchers who haven’t pitched there a whole lot (like, for example, American League pitchers), which is part of the reason the Rockies are 16-5 against AL teams at Coors Field in the past three seasons. Of course, the one big exception to that rule is Boston’s sweep of both World Series games at Coors in ’07. But the likely AL East opponent to visit 20th and Blake this year would be the New York Yankees. Last time they came to Denver? A three-game sweep by the ’07 Rockies. I’m just sayin…
1. They’ve got God on their side
Don’t believe me? Check it out: