Ding…Ding…Ding… Can you hear that? That’s the clock striking midnight on the Rockies Cinderella season just one year ago. In one of the most improbable runs in MLB history the Rockies strung together 21 wins in 22 games to reach the 2007 world series only to have it unceremoniously ended by a sweep at the hands of the game Boston Red Sox.
So here we sit a year later and it appears as though the Rockies are still trying to sleep off the hangover this run has caused.
Entering the final week of the 2008 season the Rockies reside in 3d place of the lowly NL west division with a record of 71 and 85. But what happened to the team that many people picked to win the NL West if not represent the National League in the World Series?
What stayed the same:
Matt Holliday – Coming off of what should have been an MVP season (damn you Jimmy Rollins and you east coast bias voters /snarl), Holliday followed up his 2007 campaign with another fantastic season in 08’. He currently leads the team in hitting (.323 average) and home runs (25). He also started stealing bases this year (27 entering play today) which is amazing for somebody of his size.
Garrett Atkins – Garrett Atkins remained Garrett Atkins in 08’. He has consistently been a 300 100 20 guy (batting average, RBI’s, homeruns) and this year was no different. He also showed his versatility this year as he has played 1st base (replacing the injured Todd Helton) since mid-July.
Brad Hawpe – Hawpe continued to develop on the offensive end as he maintained his career averages in batting average (.287) and homeruns (25). His RBI’s dipped down to 83 this season from 116 in 2007 but a lot of this can be attributed to the lack of production in front of him.
Aaron Cook – Though he has struggled some in the second half of the season Cookie has still put together his best season to date in the majors. Setting personal bests in wins (16), complete games (2), strikeouts (96) and ERA (3.96).
Brian Fuentes – After losing his closer position to Manny Corpas at the end of last season, Fuentes recaptured the position after Corpas struggled at the beginning of the 08’. He has since saved 29 games and has a low Coors Field ERA of 2.77.
Taylor Buchholz – What was once considered a small piece of the Jason Jennings trade in 06 became the prize possession for the Rockies in 08. Taking over as the Rockies 8thinning set up man Buchholz put together a phenomenal season by making 63 appearances and holding batters to a .188 batting average.
Troy Tulowitzki – Chants of Tulo! Tulo! Tulo! from last season turned to chants of Tulo? Tulo? Tulo? in 2008. This was truly one of the biggest sophomore slumps that major league baseball has ever seen as Tulowitzki saw his numbers across the board take a major drop off from 07 to 08. Part of this was due to an injury which limited him to just 92 games but even when healthy this season Tulo looked nothing like the promising rookie he was last season.
Jeff Francis – Coming into the season there was talks of Francis competing for a CY Young award. However, the young lefty struggled mightily this season when compared to a season ago. His drop offs in wins (decrease of 13); innings pitched (decrease of 72); strikeouts (decrease of 71) and ERA (increase of .79) are a large reason why Coloradois on the outside of the playoffs this Rock-no-ber.
The Rockies appeared to be reading to much of their press clippings in the offseason and came out of gate horribly in 2008 and have never been able to recover.
Now its time to begin looking forward to the offseason and what changes will have to be made.
The horrible start did allow for a few bright spots including the emergence of Ian Stewart at third base. Ian showed the ability to hit for power (10 home runs in just 75 games, would average out to over 20 in a season), and average. He also demonstrated his great athletic ability which allows him to play strong at the hot corner. Stewart’s emergence has allotted the Rockies the ability to now consider their options in the infield…
The Rockies are not going to be able to keep both Atkins and Holliday and Helton’s contract is not going to be moved (they still owe Helton around 42.5 million dollars). Thus, you have to trade one of these two young studs.
Atkins ability to play 1st base now makes him more attractive to another team (especially considering the weak 1st/3rd base free agent class). I believe the Rockies will look to move Atkins in the offseason for a front line starting pitcher say Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay (Colorado native I might add). Halladay may be a reach but the Rockies could add some blue chip prospects (Franklin Morales, Hector Gomez, and Eric Young Jr just to throw some names out there).
Fuentes will also most likely be out the door this offseason as his stay in arbitration is now over. He is expected to be the 2nd most attractive closer in the offseason right behind Anaheim’s’ Francisco Rodriguez. It is most likely that Corpas will come into the season as the teams closer again, or they could try Taylor Buchholz who was great in the 8th inning this season.
Bottom line is that the Rockies have every once of talent as anybody in the NL West and there is no reason that a strong off-season and a good dose of smelling salt cant help them rise back into playoff contention in 09. Hopefully this season has worked as a wake up call to the young players that sport the purple pinstripes.