You want Rockies coverage? Here you go
From the mailbag:
“Could you please do something about Chris F., your San Fran.-based sports writer? … His columns are about the Giants, Sharks and Niners.
“The Nuggets just made the playoffs (and are) matched against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Rockies are the best team in baseball. Nothing to say about that.”
• First, do Coloradans have some problem with polysyllabic words and or phrases? I do not call the capital of Colorado, Den. It sounds stupid. San Francisco, people. And just because I see it in other missives, you are not like former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who was constitutionally-incapable of pronouncing Cowliafournya. It’s California, not Cali.
• This is why I do not think highly of Rockies fans – Vail Mountain School’s Oliver Compton, excluded. Did you people watch the World Series last year? The San Francisco Giants are the best team in baseball. We won. You did not. I’ve got the clothing to prove it.
Yet I am here to serve, so as requested, let’s talk about the Rockies.
Good start, but one detail
They’re good. It’s going to be the Giants and the Rockies for the division title all season. The phrase “all season” is important here. The Rocks are off to a great start, no question, but as former Orioles manager Earl Weaver said, “This ain’t football. We do this 162 times a year.”
Before Colorado’s game Friday night against the Cubs – not exactly world-beaters – 10 of the team’s 12 games have been against Arizona, Pittsburgh and the New York Mets. Yes, road wins are important for Colorado, given its history, but this is the soft portion of the schedule. (None of the above four opponents sniffed the postseason last year.)
Troy Tulowitzki is an outstanding player who is in his own happy world right now. He’s on a pace to hit 94 home runs this year, which is an indication that he might not keep up that pace. (I’d say he hits 40-50, which makes him an MVP candidate, for sure.) Carlos Gonzalez is an emerging star, which is making the franchise look pretty good when it comes to the Matt Holiday trade with the Oakland A’s.
There’s no doubt Colorado has a formidable offense, and it’s definitely better than what passes for the lineup card the Giants send out everyday. Colorado is a more complete team than San Francisco. I won’t argue that.
But as the baseball world was reminded, or rather slapped upside the head, last season, pitching is the name of the game. Pitching is much more steady than hitting through a 162-game season and can cover up other imperfections, like say, a punchless offense.
The Giants were 17th in baseball in runs scored last year, while the Rockies were eighth. Ironically, the Rockies scored the most runs of any non-playoff team in baseball. The Rockies, Blue Jays, White Sox, Tigers, Brewers, Cardinals, Marlins and Diamondbacks, all non-playoff teams, scored more runs than the Giants last year.
The Giants led the majors in ERA (3.36; the Rockies were 20th at 4.14), hits allowed (1,279; Colorado, 13th 1,405), strikeouts (1,331, Colorado, seventh, 1,210) and saves (57, Colorado, 26th, 35). San Francisco also tied for fifth in WHIP (walks and hits against innings pitched).
That’s how a team with a pop-gun offense won the World Series. The Giants have the best pitching staff in baseball. Philly fans may quibble, but there’s no debating who’s better between San Francisco and Colorado on this count.
What the Rockies must do
For the Rockies to mount a successful challenge in the NL West, here’s what they need to do:
• Ubaldo Jimenez: First off, aren’t we all excited that it’s Tim Lincecum vs. Jimenez on Monday at Coors? See you there. OK, 15-1 at the All-Star Break last year and finishes 19-8. It was ridiculous to expect him to continue his pre-All-Star Break pace, but that was a collapse.
He needs to become more steady for him to become one of the league’s elite pitchers. Watch the walks with him. They were his undoing in July and September of last year.
• Grow-up time: Starting pitchers Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Jason Hammel need to mature quickly. I know Rockies fans are high on De La Rosa. I don’t see it. Chacin? Definitely could happen. Hammel really needs to earn his spurs. It can’t be Jimenez alone.
• Bullpen: Huston Street needs to be the boss in the ninth inning. Colorado relievers blew 21 saves last year. You can’t do that and be a legitimate contender.
• Road woes: Coors Field is a nightmare for opponents. The road is an equally scary place for the Rockies. Yes, I know Rockies fans are juiced by a 7-1 trip through Pittsburgh and New York, but Colorado has been a horrible road team for most of its history. It’s not a coincidence that the franchise’s best road records (39-42, 2007) and and (41-40, 2009) came in the team’s last two playoff seasons.
And that means winning division games on the road, in particularly on the West Coast – San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, places which have not been kind to the Rockies.
When the Rockies accomplish the above, then their fans can start chirping about being the best team in baseball. In the meantime, the trophy is still in San Francisco.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.