I want to believe in the Colorado Rockies. I want to believe that for the first time since 2010, the Rockies will finish with an above .500 record.
The pain endured by Colorado fans the past several seasons has generally not been because of the team’s offence, but because of the team’s pitching. For the disservice the “Coors Field effect” has on a hitter’s credibility (see Larry Walker‘s struggles to enter the Hall of Fame), it is almost a certainty that top-of-the-rotation pitchers will never clamor to play in Colorado because of it. So, over the past few years, Rockies fans have had to watch their staff develop right before their very eyes. Maybe the hope for this season begins with the fact that for the starting rotation the time is seemingly now.
Exhibit A is Jon Gray! Drafted in 2013, Gray was a much anticipated August call up in 2015. Some of that anticipation being built as many thought he should have, and would have started the season with the Rockies if not for “service time” issues. The results were very much a mixed bag with solid starts against the San Diego Padres but very tough starts against the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets highlighting the highs and lows. Gray started 2016 in Modesto once again but this time because of an abdominal strain. The elusive first win of his career came against the New York Mets who, as previously mentioned, had his number his first season. Were there bumps in the road? Yes, every top pitcher has them. Were there moments you genuinely saw a Cy Young award candidate weaving his magic? Hell yes!
Exhibit B is Chad Bettis. A paragraph cannot start about Bettis without first mentioning that the man underwent surgery to remove a cancerous testicle – – if that does not make you root for the fellow, then nothing will. Rooting for Bettis was something that had to be learned by many after his dreadful 2014 as a relief pitcher for the club. When his first start of the 2015 season was a less than stellar performance against the Los Angeles Dodgers, cynicism reached an all-time high. Nothing about his 2015 season suggested his 2016 spot in the rotation was a lock. A good April in 2016 earned him the benefit of my doubt. A strong September has his spot in the rotation in 2017 locked down!
Exhibit C is Tyler Chatwood. Acquired before the 2012 season, Chatwood would enter last season leaving us of to wonder how his elbow would hold up after not one but two Tommy John Surgeries. Despite struggling at Coors Field, he was practically unbeatable on the road. Obviously he will have to improve pitching at home but the key factor to take out of last season was that Chatwood pitched just as strongly in his season finale on September 28th as he did in his season premiere on April 6th which suggests a strong, healthy elbow for 2017.
Exhibit D is Tyler Anderson. Drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft, a stress fracture held off his MLB debut until June 12th of last season. His elbow held up fine as he never missed a turn in the rotation. Anderson would finish with the lowest ERA of all starters (3.54) while issuing an amazingly low 28 walks in 114.1 innings played.
Of course, the hiring of Bud Black, a former pitcher, is another reason for excitement. No, this is not another bashing statement against Walt Weiss! This is excitement about a new skipper that, due to his experience as a player, can foster the growth of the young starting rotation and utilize the bullpen to its maximum efficiency.
Entering last season, Jason Motte and Jake McGee were the big acquisitions entering the bullpen; both players had their worst statistical seasons of their career and both are bound to bounce back this season. Adam Ottavino, my personal choice for Rockies closer, came back in July from Tommy John Surgery and will continue to improve as he distances himself from the surgery and gets more and more confident in his elbow. The same process that newly acquired Greg Holland will go through throughout the 2017 season. The also newly acquired Mike Dunn is in the discussion when it comes to saves, but with the disappointment that was Boone Logan now gone, the left arm of Dunn will find itself a lot of situational work – – a Bud Black specialty!
As the pitchers mature and improve, Rockies fans can still bask in the glow of the following:
- Nolan Arenado – 4 time Gold Glove win and 2 time Silver Slugger
- DJ LeMahieu – NL batting champion
- Carlos Gonzalez – All-Star
- Charlie Blackmon – Silver Slugger
- Trevor Story – rookie of the year candidate that coulda/shoulda/woulda won if not for his season prematurely ending due to injury.
- David Dahl – if the 17 game hit streak to start his MLB career did not impress you in late July/early August, then the 7 game hitting streak he finished the season with had to at least get your attention.
Yes, the Rockies will finish with an above .500 record, I believe!