Friday, November 04, 2005

« '05 Recap: Rockies »

By Suss
Colorado Rockies
Manager: Clint Hurdle (4th year)
2005: 67-95; 5th place, NL West
—1st half: 31-56
—2nd half: 33-39
2004: 68-94; 4th place

Leaders (hitting)
Batting Avg: Todd Helton (.320)
Home Runs: Helton (20)
RBI: Helton (89)
On-base pct: Helton (.445)
Stolen bases: Matt Holliday (14)

Leaders (pitching)
ERA: Jamey Wright (5.46)
Wins: Jeff Francis (14)
Strikeouts: Francis (128)
Holds: Mike DeJean (18)
Saves: Brian Fuentes (31)

Free agents:
RHP Mike DeJean
C Todd Greene
RHP Byung-Hyun Kim
RHP Dan Miceli
RHP Jamey Wright

► Todd Helton missed the All-Star game for the first time since 1999. Their lone representative, Brian Fuentes, was only the third Rocky to make it as a pitcher (Shawn Chacon, Mike Hampton) and the first relief pitcher.

► This is the first year the Rockies had only one hitter with at least 20 home runs: Todd Helton, with exactly 20.

► They finished out strong, 30-28 since August. In comparison, the White Sox finished 31-28.
The Rockies have been a team in utter despair for quite some time. In 13 seasons they have one playoff appearance, and that just a cameo back in 1995. They have finished fourth or fifth every year since 1997. Most of this is attributed to pitchers not desiring to sign there as a free agent, since their changeup can be probably be bunted out of the ballpark.

And what iced the cake of shame for this year's team was that Todd Helton (.320 average, 20 HR, 79 RBI) had a sub-par first half, although his second-half surge did make the team look good down the stretch. And even though those numbers look great, keep in mind offensive numbers are rather bloated in a Coors Field setting. Plus, those are his lowest totals -- in all three categories -- since 1999.

Shortstop Clint Barmes (.289, 10, 46) was bound to have a Rookie of the Year season until a freak injury (fell down stairs carrying groceries, breaking his collarbone) put his neck -- and season -- in a cast.

So with all the down years -- not to mention the exodus of Vinny Castilla, Preston Wilson and Jeromy Burnitz, outfielder Matt Holliday emerged as the team's second best offensive player. Holliday (.307, 19, 87) wound up in the top 10 among NL players in batting average, and actually hit cleanup in the most highly infamous one-dimensional lineup.

On the pitching side, there wasn't too much hope to build on from last year. Shawn Chacon, their only established starter, was shipped to the Yankees mid-season. Their All-Star was closer Brian Fuentes, however. But no starter had a great full year with Colorado. Aaron Cook had good numbers in 13 starts (7-2, 3.67 ERA), however.

This team doesn't feel like it has any potential for being a successful team. Obviously that ballpark location is an aberration in the league, but there are other hitters' parks, namely Houston, that has housed a successful team. And we can't blame "the air up there," because Colorado's ERA splits on the road and at home are both above 5.00. Meanwhile, their hitting at home is a slick. 300, but on the road it was a paltry .232.

Even if you took the team leader stats on the road, doubled them (to reproduce a "typical" batter), you don't have a good one. Take:
  1. Luis Gonzalez' .290 batting average
  2. Todd Helton's 7 home runs
  3. Garrett Atkins' 39 RBIs
And double them. You have a .290, 14 homerun, 78 RBI player. Congratulations, you just pieced together one Shea Hillenbrand.

That's why this team struggles. And while the team may have promising offensive players, they need pitching that can pitch on the road. The psyche of a hurler can be damaged by throwing in a bandbox, but again look at the Astros.