I know what you all are going to say. Kyle, didn’t you just recently write an article on this team??? The short answer to that is yes. In particular, I stated an opinion as to why it would be tough for Colorado to ever be competitive with Coors Field as the team’s long-term home, considering the team’s history and the field’s batting-biased altitude.
But today, I am playing devil’s advocate to my previous position. Recent news around baseball has revolved around Chris Coghlan’s incredible play and the home run barrage that Eric Thames is on, but no one seems to talk about the fact that Colorado is currently in first place in the NL West. The vice grip that the Dodgers and Giants have had on the division for years has not been displayed early on this season. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco are out of the top two spots in the division. As a side note, I personally like this, especially considering that it is hard to remember a time that the Dodgers were not division champions, or the San Francisco Giants being in the World Series conversation.
The Rockies have a 14-8 record going into Thursday’s game against the Washington Nationals. I know that 22 games are barely over one-eighth of an entire season, but it is not out of the question to believe that Colorado is making legitimate strides toward contention for a playoff spot. Although this team is not at the level of Washington or the Chicago Cubs, an argument can be made that teams will not want to play them come October, assuming they make the playoffs.
The Rockies have always been synonymous with below-average pitching. I mean way below-average. Playing in Coors Field helps, but Colorado never seems to breed effective pitching. But there are signs of improvement for this season.
Antonio Senzatela. I bet my life that you have not heard this name before, and that is okay. But it just so happens that Senzatela, according to Fangraphs, is a top-25 pitcher in baseball so far. I personally had not heard of him before the season, but I am impressed by what the 22-year-old brings to the table. In this day, power pitchers are a hot commodity, and that is what Senzatela is. He has a fastball that touches 96 MPH and he is not afraid to throw it higher in the zone, which makes it a tough pitch to hit. When you combine Senzatela’s early success with Jon Gray, who should be back from injury before June, the Rockies will have a formidable power duo at the top of the rotation.
When one talks about the Rockies, the bats will always be mentioned. The offense has not disappointed thus far; Colorado has been able to rely on the consistent excellence of Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu and…Mark Reynolds?
Mark Reynolds has the reputation of being sort of a has-been. Once upon a time, he hit 44 home runs in one season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and had a few more good power years. After that, he fell off substantially, bouncing between the Cardinals and Brewers before settling with Colorado last season. Keep in mind that Reynolds’ career strikeout percentage is over 30%, which is not good at all. This year, he is among the league leaders in home runs while keeping his strikeout rate at a very reasonable 20.7%. Could this be Reynolds successfully reverting to the past? If the answer to that question is yes over a full season, the Rockies have a very valuable weapon at their disposal.
The offense has been good even without Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez performing poorly. When those two hit their strides, combined with the newfound excellence of Reynolds and the consistent awesomeness of Arenado, Blackmon, and LeMahieu, it will be challenging for even the best of pitchers to stop them.
As if the Rockies are not being talked enough, the bullpen has been another component of the team that has secretly been quite good. Coming into Thursday, three full-time members of the bullpen had earned run averages below 2.00, Greg Holland being one of them. Mike Dunn and Adam Ottavino, the two other bullpen men, have strikeout rates above 11.00 per nine innings, which is beyond elite. It will be integral for them to stay this way considering that Jon Gray will not return for another few weeks.
Who knows if Colorado will keep up this style of play over an entire season. However, I believe that MLB teams should be on notice; I do not believe that the Rockies have had this good of a team in years. If the Dodgers and Giants want to regain their grip on the NL West, they have a lot of ground to make up.
I recommend reading this article by Vidette news editor Mary Cullen. It details how students at Illinois State can manage stress in the days leading up to finals, which is super important right now.