Here we are a little over a week into the grind that is the Major League Baseball season. Some teams have come out of the gate as expected. See the Atlanta Braves and Cincinnati Reds as two examples. Others are stumbling out of the gate and making their fans wonder what the 2013 season will really mean. See the New York Yankees, LA Angels and Toronto Blue Jays. Others, like the Colorado Rockies are flat out surprises to anyone but the true diehard fan. I know I eluded to it once but it bears emphasis, it is only six games into a 162 game season. Still the Rockies are in first place with a record of 5-1, winners of five in a row after an opening day loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. They are ahead of the two logical division winners in the San Francisco Giants and the LA Dodgers. They are also tied with a somewhat sheik pick that is the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Is this a sign of a team that is going to be there for the long haul? Are they just coming out firing and will fade away? Are they a real challenger for the National League West title? The Rockies currently have a +21 run differential which is good for second best in all of baseball only trailing the Cincinnati Reds. They are first in runs, team batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage. That’s right, apparently the Rockies are an offensive juggernaut. From the mound they are fifth in team ERA, third in quality starts and 11th in team WHIP. So the staff in the mile high city appears to be getting the job done.
Troy Tulowitzki appears back and better than ever with a .381 average, two home runs and seven RBI – albeit a very very small sample. Dexter Fowler is hitting .333, is second in the NL in home runs with four and has knocked in five runs. Their pitching staff is carrying a 2.80 ERA and already has five quality starts (good for second in MLB). So at face value when you also factor in the hot starts of Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez it appears they are poised for a nice season and will challenge for the National League West.
While I can appreciate any excitement that might be coming from Rockies Nation, their broadcasters or ownership these thoughts should be tempered. The two series they won were against some teams with concerns. They just finished a sweep at home against the San Diego Padres who are the not so proud owners of the worst run differential in baseball (-26). The season opening series before that was against a Milwaukee Brewers club who has some serious pitching issues (I mentioned that in their pre-season breakdown). On the season to date they are 28th in team ERA, only have one quality start and are 29th in WHIP at 1.63. Are they that bad? No but they have come out of the gate cold. The Rockies just took advantage of that taking 2 of 3 from them.
If you look closely at the MLB Relative Power Index (RPI) early in the 2013 season you see the Rockies are 18th which is more representative of this teams actual longevity. The Padres for example are 26th on that same list. The opposing team batting average for balls in play is .275 and they are last in the NL in strikeouts. That combination says that teams will be scoring more runs over the long haul against this staff. Players like Gonzalez, Cuddyer, Tulowitzki, Rosario and Fowler are all hitting over .330 on balls in play with two of them over .400. This will obviously not last the long haul. You just don’t get balls to drop into play that often for some many players throughout a 162 game season.
I can see the Rockies having continued success over the next 10 games with three against the Giants ( where they can steal one or maybe two), three against the Padres again where they stand a chance to sweep and four against the over achieving New York Mets. They have an excellent chance to be 12-4 at the end of April 18th. That is when the road gets harder and the pushovers slide out of the way for 22 games. In that stretch the Rockies will be facing the Diamondbacks for seven games and the Yankees, Rays, Cardinals, Dodgers and Braves all for three game sets. This is where their metal will be tested and we will get to see what this ballclub is really made of. If they survive that they will get 10 of the next 13 against the Diamondback and Giants.
While it is fun to enjoy watching teams with early season success we should not go to crazy to fast jumping on any “this is their year” bandwagons. The Rockies and their fans should enjoy the ride over the next couple of weeks because that pleasure cruise will come to an end soon enough. At that point the Rockies should begin to make their move in the NL West. Unfortunately for them it will be down behind the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Giants. The good news for the Rockies is at least the Padres play in the NL West as well.
Anything is possible and maybe this is the beginning of a magic carpet ride in 2013 for the Colorado Rockies. However, when you look at the numbers and the team as constructed it appears this early season success is more of an aberration than reality. Regardless Rockies fans should enjoy the ride while it lasts. That is what is so great about the game of baseball and I for one am happy the season is here.