When I wrote my last article on how the Rockies were mathematically still in the playoff race with almost two months worth of baseball left, it seems many of my readers assumed that I was also inferring that I actually believed the Rockies were going to make up the gap.
I never said that’s what I believed, only that the Rox COULD make up the distance to either the NL West lead or the Wild Card lead. And there is a huge difference there.
There is also a difference in what I think will happen and what I want to happen. Of course I WANT the Rockies to make a nice run these last two months. I want the Rockies to finally put together all the areas of baseball and play solid consistent baseball. I’m the type of guy that stays until the end of every game. While there is still breath, there is still hope!
In fact what I believe will happen is what appears to be unfolding in front of our eyes.
If you look at the Rockies' numbers, offensively they are fourth in the National League in Runs Scored, second in the league in Runs Batted In, third in walks/base on balls (for those that think the Rockies have no plate discipline…though they are also third in Strike-outs for those that think they have no plate discipline) and third in the league in team Batting Average and third in the league for wOBA.
It’s not the hitting. Or is it?
The Rockies have the highest batting average in the National League at home, but 15th, or next to last batting average on the Road! They have the most runs scored in the league at home, but 14th on the road.
These numbers aren’t surprising to anyone who has followed the Rockies this year. They have looked like two different teams on the road and at home. It’s normal to be better at home than on the road for any team, but the difference should not be as dramatic as it is for the Rockies this year.
Even historically the Rockies' home and road splits have been bigger than the league on average. But they weren’t usually this huge. Critics that don’t follow the team always point to the altitude or to Coors Field falsely inflating numbers. I believe this argument is very short-sighted, and actually pretty shallow.
I think the reason for the Rockies splits being bigger than the league average is far more complex than “it’s Coors Field, LOLZ! All Rox players Sux!” But that is for another discussion.
In pitching categories, we find the Rockies are seventh in the National League of sixteen teams in ERA. Tenth in Runs Allowed, Tenth in Walks, but sixth in Strike-outs and fifth in the league in FIP.
In fact, in FIP the Rockies are ahead of the Giants, Cardinals, Phillies and Reds, all teams the Rockies are chasing for a playoff spot. Not great numbers, but not terrible.
In the Rockies' defense, injuries hurt the Rockies' pitching this season and set many players back. But injuries happen to every team, it’s no excuse.
Now, if you believe in the fairly speculative and subjective advanced fielding stats of UZR, the Rockies as a team are 12th in the National League, but UZR has always ranked the Rockies fairly low. RZR has the Rockies at eighth with ranking of 12 in OOZ which tries to measure fielding in a zone, and then range out of the zone. Mediocre to terrible numbers in fielding.
So a team with some of the best hitting numbers in the league, solid if not spectacular pitching numbers should be a playoff contender. So why does it feel and look like the Rockies are not?
This Rockies seem to be lacking “something.” What specifically this Rockies team is lacking, they have lacked all year, not just the last month. I’ve said several times this season the team looks heartless. There’s not much fight in them.
I believe the mix of players on this team is not right. They need a lead off hitter that can get on base. They need a clean up hitter that can drive in runs, in fact I think of the four corner positions, which are usually looked as run producing positions, the Rockies are terribly lacking with only one real player and that’s Carlos Gonzalez.
The only other offensive weapon the Rockies have besides Cargo is Troy Tulowitzki. Two bats are not enough to power an offense on a consistent basis.
The rest of the offensive numbers put up over the season have been from several players, but in streaks or spurts. Seth Smith, who was on fire in June and July, hasn’t had a hit in the month of August yet. Miguel Olivo has a batting average in August of .053 and he’s hit .379 at home and .187 on the road! Clint Barmes has been on a steady decline since a hot June, where he batted .313, to .271 in July, to .194 so far in August.
So, if you were wondering, do I think this Rockies team can make a playoff push, the answer is no, I do not.
I don’t think they have the overall talent or the heart to do so. The Rockies have too many holes in the line up, and are missing what I call the three-superstar core (they have two). They are far too inconsistent, and have not shown they are getting more consistent, but rather they are getting more inconsistent.
What I’ve always thought is that this team is pretty mediocre. They are an OK team, maybe even a good team. I’d say they are a better than average team. But that usually won’t get you into the play-offs. It gets you hanging around, without any real ability or over-riding talent to win enough games until the season just slips away and it’s too late.
Time and the calendar with eliminate this team as it does most good, but not good enough teams.
BUT….the off season is still almost two months away. There is still time. The Rockies are still mathematically in this. The Rockies have been a streaky team all year, with hot and cold streaks. A hot streak now, and the Rockies could be looking at the playoffs, (Yeah, a continued cold streak and they are making golf reservations).
Enjoy the gift of meaningful baseball games in August. The chill of fall will be here all too soon, and evenings at Coors Field will be gone, so go enjoy the Rockies. Enjoy baseball while you have it.
This article is also featured on The Rockies Reporter