Colorado Rockies Overrated, No Match for San Francisco Giants in NL West
Everything was slipping away.
Fans were lamenting the slow start for San Francisco and the hot start for Colorado, propelling the Rockies to an early division lead right out of the gate in 2011.
Fast-forward to May 9.
As Giants fans woke up Monday morning, the headline on the sports page told them that their club had just finished a sweep of those first-place Rockies, improving San Francisco's record against Colorado in the young season to 5-1.
Or to put it another way, the Rockies have lost 14 games this season, and five of those 14 losses were at the hands of the Giants.
The Giants aren't as bad as we thought. And the Rockies aren't as good ...
Rockies' Offense Not All It's Cracked Up to Be
The Colorado Rockies have long been heralded as an offensive juggernaut.
Colorado's lineup boasts of the reigning National League batting champion Carlos Gonzalez, who hit .336 in 2010, with 34 home runs and 117 RBI.
The Rockies also have perennial all-star and potential MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki (.315, 27 HR, 95 RBI in 122 games in 2010).
Another rising star is leadoff-man Dexter Fowler, who had 14 triples last season.
And who can forget Todd Helton, one of the best hitters in the game for the past decade.
Not only do they have proven hitters, but the Rockies play home games at the most hitter-friendly park in the major leagues: Coors Field.
Before the season began many experts picked the Rockies to win the NL West, largely because of the strength of their offense.
Not so fast.
After being held to just five runs in three games against the Giants, the Rockies are now hitting just .233 as a team, 26th in the majors.
The cornerstone of their offense, Carlos Gonzalez, is hitting just .241 with 2 home runs and 16 RBI so far. Troy Tulowitzki, despite his eight homers, is hitting just .248.
Dexter Fowler is hitting just .258 and has struck out 41 times in 32 games.
The Rockies may be 18-14, but that record does not reveal just how poorly their offense has performed through the first five weeks of the season.
The Competition Has Been Light
Through the first five weeks of the season, the Rockies have played only two teams that are likely to be playoff contenders in 2011: the Giants and the Florida Marlins.
In sum, out of 32 games played this season, the Rockies have played 23 games against teams that are at or below .500.
Head-to-Head, the Rockies Can't Hit the Giants
The Giants and Rockies have played six games so far in 2011, and not only have the Giants won five of them, but San Francisco's pitching has dominated Colorado's offense in those victories.
In the Giants' five wins, their pitching staff has an ERA of 1.80, allowing an average of just five hits per game while striking out 7.6 per nine innings.
The Giants, meanwhile, have scored plenty of runs against Colorado, despite having offensive struggles overall in the young season. The Giants are averaging 4.3 runs/game against Rockies pitching so far in 2011.
While the Rockies Will Compete in the NL West, the Giants Have the Edge
The Rockies are a good ball club. Despite their offensive struggles thus far, they will hit and hit well. They still play at Coors Field, which is a tremendous home-field advantage, and they have very good hitters in that lineup.
But Colorado is no match for the Giants. San Francisco's dominance of the Rockies in the first two series is indicative of just how good the Giants' pitching staff is. It also shows just how difficult things will be for Rockies hitters when they have to face the likes of Tim Lincecum and company.
These two teams will meet 12 more times in 2011, and the result of those meetings may very well make the difference in the National League West.