Trying to make accurate predictions in sports is nearly impossible. Nobody really knows how the season is going to play out no matter how well informed.
Injuries, slumps, and surges are going to happen to every player on every team and even the most well- educated fans and analysts won’t be able to predict more than a handful of outcomes.
This, after all, is why we love sports. We simply don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s where all the excitement comes from.
With that said, here are ten bold predictions for the Colorado Rockies’ upcoming season (most of which will be dead wrong).
I say Jimenez holds his ERA under 3.00 for most of the season and trails only Tim Lincecum for the league lead in strikeouts with 232.
He should be an easy choice for the All-Star game in July. Strong performances from Dan Haren, Adam Wainwright, Lincecum, and a comeback from Brandon Webb will make it difficult for the Rockies’ ace to finish in the top five for Cy Young consideration.
He will, however, keep his title as the hardest throwing starter in the MLB, a small consolation prize, but a prize nonetheless.
There, I said it. I think Todd Helton will have almost the exact same season he had last year, and in 2007, and in 2006, and in 2005.
At some point, Helton is going to start breaking down. He can’t keep doing this forever. That said, I think he might keep doing this for a while.
Helton has turned into one of those old school professionals who gives his team consistent production and steadfast leadership. If only the Rockies could do something about his ridiculously large contract.
First of all, I think Francis will stay healthy, at least for the most part. But Francis has been effectively out of baseball for a year and a half. I don’t see him bouncing back and being a rock-solid contributor without going over some speed bumps.
My guess is this: he starts out strong and convinces everyone he’s back, then hits a serious rough patch in June. The team will blame his woes on a recurring injury (and he’ll be shut down for a week or two). Two weeks later, he’ll be back with the team and finish the season off in style.
I say he goes 7-9 over 130 innings and holds a 4.85 ERA, serviceable, but only as a back of the rotation starter.
There is too much starting pitching depth on this team for the Rockies to throw the same five starters all season. At least one of the five between Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis, Jorge De La Rosa, and Jason Hammel will either get injured or hit a major rough patch.
Lurking behind the main five is a combination of Greg Reynolds, Greg Smith, Jhoulys Chacin, and Tim Redding, any of whom could shine in Colorado Springs and make the jump to the big league squad.
I have my money on Chacin here, and I think he’ll be given a fairly long leash as long as the team is not in the midst of a playoff push when he steps on the mound. I bet he performs well enough and finishes the year at 4-6 with a 5.15 ERA.
This is a sneaky strong group that includes Franklin Morales, who seems considerably more comfortable in his role out of the 'pen than he did in the rotation; Taylor Bucholz, possibly the team’s best reliever from the 2007 World Series run; former closer Manny Corpas; and current set-up man Rafael Betancourt.
This all goes without mentioning star closer Huston Street, who proved to be one of the most effective relievers in the game last season. The bullpen, with strong performances from Bucholz and Betancourt in particular, will be one of the main reasons the Rockies stay in the playoff hunt for much of the season.
Only 450 at bats into his career, Seth Smith shined last season in his limited role. Smith carried a .378 OBP and a nice power stroke for much of the season, forcing his way into playing time in one of the deepest outfields in the league.
Having a strong, versatile left-handed bat off the bench will be nice, but eventually, Smith’s skills may be too difficult to ignore. I’ll say he gets somewhere between 400 and 450 at bats this season, hits 23 homers, and keeps his average around .285. If I were a betting man, I would say he is primed to be the starter in right field in 2011.
I wouldn’t go so far to say that Hawpe fell out of favor in Denver last year, but hitting .194 in September and then only playing two of the team’s four playoff games didn’t go over fantastically with most fans.
If Carlos Gonzalez continues to produce at the rate he did late last season and Seth Smith and Ryan Spilborghs continue to demand playing time, Hawpe may become expendable as the season wears on, much like Garrett Atkins last season. If he gets himself off to a hot start as he did last season, he may hang on through the end of the season, but I have my doubts.
I’ll go out on a limb with Hawpe and say he hits .260 with 14 home runs before getting benched for much of the second half as the younger players emerge as the team’s core.
Iannetta’s inconsistencies have been hard to take for many fans. At times, he has seemed on the cusp of blossoming into one of the most productive catchers in the league, flashing impressive power and a stellar on- base percentage in 2008.
He fell back to earth last season, hitting only .228, though he maintained his power numbers. In 2010, I would like to think that Iannetta can put it all together and assert himself as the starting catcher coming out of spring training. I’ll give him a solid .265 average with 25 home runs, not too shabby considering he’ll likely platoon with newcomer Miguel Olivo.
Coming off an immensely productive 2009, Tulowitzki has quickly emerged as the face of this season’s Rockies. Now expected to hit third in the lineup from the very beginning of the season, there will be a lot of pressure on the young shortstop to come out swinging.
I think the pressure will wear on Tulo for the first month or so, but I think he’ll be able to bounce back more quickly than in years past and get himself on track by early May.
I say he improves moderately on last year’s season, hitting .312, swatting 35 home runs and knocking in 114 runs.
The West will again be a highly competitive division with the likes of the Arizona Diamondbacks (assuming Webb comes back at full strength), the Los Angeles Dodgers (who may take a small step back), and the San Francisco Giants (who retain Lincecum and Cain) all representing stiff competition for Colorado.
This season, the Rockies have something they haven’t had in the past: experience. Even last year’s playoff team seemed out of sorts against the Phillies in the NLDS.
This season, expect Tulo and the rest of the youngsters to come into the playoffs focused and ready. I think they are still a year away from competing against Philadelphia, but taking the West should be no problem at all.