I have been checking various gambling sites and the over/under for Colorado Rockies victories this season is anywhere from 69 to 72. That means the people who are establishing the betting lines believe the Rockies will lose somewhere between 90 and 93 games this year. The Rockies lost 94 games last year and finished in last place in the National League West. In 2014 the Rockies lost 96 games on the way to another last place finish. The hapless Rockies also lost 88 games in 2013 and 98 games in 2012. I guess it makes sense for the handicappers to assume they will lose at least 90 games again this season.
Did the Rockies do anything during the off season to improve their chances at escaping another 90 loss season? Unfortunately they did not. When the team traded Tulowitzki to Toronto late last season I assumed the way had been paved for some serious trades that would bring some quality starting pitching to Colorado. What did we get instead? We got a wife-beating loser on the downside of his career that the team is stuck paying $22 million in salary for this year. Jose Reyes used to be a good player. I don't know for sure but I would guess he has always been a violent loser who beats his wife. He is no longer a good player but he continues to beat up his wife. I don't know why the Rockies did not trade him away this past off season but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that whichever team picks him up also picks up his ridiculously high salary. The fact that the Rockies were willing to take on that burden just to unload Tulowitzki tells you something about how much Tulo was valued around here. I agreed with the Tulo trade as I never saw the Rockies winning with him on the team but I thought we would at least get something in return. We didn't and the future is bleak.
The Rockies are apparently required to keep Reyes on the team while his domestic abuse court case goes forward. Under some new set of rules about domestic violence, baseball teams now have to comply with a bunch of regulations about what they can and cannot do when a player is accused of whooping up on his woman. As I understand the situation the Rockies are in limbo until the trial is over. The Reyes trial is scheduled to start April 2nd. In the meantime, we wait.
The Rocks did make a couple of off season acquisitions in an attempt to shore up their battered bullpen. Pitching has always been the issue in Colorado and last year they had the worst pitching staff, measured by ERA, in the league. What did they do to fix that? They did nothing with their starting pitching and they added Jason Motte and Chad Qualls to their bullpen. They also acquired Jake McGee from Tampa bay in a January trade. All three pitchers are quality acquisitions. Motte has appeared in 368 games in his career and has put together a very good 3.16 ERA. Qualls has been in 781 games and sports a decent 3.80 ERA. McGee, the youngest of the group at 29 years of age, has a 2.77 ERA after 297 appearances. I conclude that the Rockies have done a good job solidifying their bullpen. That is a good thing because if the starting pitching does not improve they will be going to the bullpen a lot in 2016.
The Rockies front office claims that the starting pitching will be better this year provided the younger pitchers improve, the injured pitchers remain uninjured and the top prospects perform up to their anticipated ability. Those are a lot of things to hope for. I don't have such high hopes. Year after year I have given the Rockies the benefit of the doubt and hoped that the starting pitching would improve and year after year it has not happened. It is not for a lack of talent that the pitching does not do well. Many pitchers have gone on from the purgatory that is Colorado to other teams and done well. Whether it is the altitude, the coaching or something in the water, good pitchers come to Colorado to die. I wish I knew what it is that kills pitchers in this beautiful state but I don't. Apparently, neither do the big wigs in the front office or the coaches on the field. Until a couple of starting pitchers can put up a couple of years with ERAs lower than 4.00 I will continue to believe the Colorado pitchers are cursed and jinxed.
On the other side of the ball, there is much to be excited about offensively. I fully expect the Rockies to lead the league in offense, as they almost always do. I also expect the Rockies to be very good defensively, as they almost always are. So if you are a fan of offense, the Rockies are the team to watch. If you love seeing defensive gems, the Rockies are the team to watch. But if you love good pitching, and I do, the Rockies will frustrate you to death.
A couple of players are worthy of note. If any of the players I am going to mention below were playing on either the east or the west coast they would be talked about incessantly. Playing in the mountain time zone in a decidedly small television market and after the evening Sports Center show has already been recorded essentially guarantees that these fellows will labor in obscurity.
Nolan Arenado is simply the best third baseman in baseball. He may, if he is able to stay healthy and string together a fifteen to twenty year career, be the best third baseman ever to play the game, and that includes Brooks Robinson. You have to watch him to believe him. He has tremendous range, tremendous quickness and a powerful and accurate throwing arm. It is worth the price of a ticket just to sit and watch him play third base. Last year he also upped his offensive output and hit at a .287 clip while leading the league in home runs (42) and RBIs (130). If he were playing anywhere other than Colorado he would be the toast of the town.
DJ LeMahieu is an All-Star second baseman. He has made a grand total of nine errors over the past two years, while playing almost every game. He also has great range and a tremendous vertical leap that has robbed many a hitter of a Texas-league single. He is remarkably fast for a big man, stealing 23 bases last year. His hitting is consistent and he had a .301 average last year. In any other market he would be a perennial All-Star selection. In Colorado he labors in obscurity.
The starting outfield of Carlos Gonzales, Charlie Blackmon and Gerardo Parra is maybe the best in the league. All are All-Star players with great fielding skills, strong and accurate throwing arms, and the ability to hit for average and power. Blackmon is the quintessential lead off hitter, with an OBP of .347 and 43 stolen bases last year. Gonzales is another player I would pay just to watch him play. He ended up hitting 40 home runs last year after a slow start due to a slow recovery from a previous injury. I am expecting great things from him this year.
So will the Rockies avoid losing 90 games this year? I don't see how. Pitching wins games and they have miserable starting pitching. Nevertheless, they will still be fun to watch and I plan to spend many a fruitful hour in front of my television, screaming over and over things like, "I hate walks," "throw strikes," "challenge the hitter," and "pull him before he gives up any more runs." I can't wait.