It is FINALLY here! Opening day for the Colorado Rockies, like a spring Christmas, this is my favorite holiday of the year. And while the Rockies may not be a playoff contender, the early season allows for an optimism that can only be granted by someone who enjoyed 21 wins out of 22 games in 2007. That World Series run was more a curse than a blessing as it has always made me believe in the impossible. But at least it makes every game more fun for a team that is a perennial bottom dweller.
The 2016 season will start with this same optimism, that I can be sure of. With players like Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, and the exciting young new shortstop Trevor Story, the Rockies will surely not be short on offense. As they always do, the Rockies will be in the top five teams in the National League for runs scored, home runs, average, slugging percentage, and a plethora of other offensive categories. If there is one thing you can count on, it is plenty of high scoring games coming at 20th and Blake.
The thing that always holds the Rockies down is pitching. Whether it be the starters going only 5 innings and giving up 5+ runs, or the bullpen blowing a late inning lead, or just a combination of the two leading to an insurmountable lead that even the top offense can’t overcome, this year may show some different things. The Rockies have established an early season change in the philosophy of the team. This year didn’t see them go out in the offseason and pick up some “veteran” starter to “lead” the pitching staff. No, this year the staff is filled with competitors who weren’t guaranteed spots and who aren’t veterans in the league. Yes, there is Jorge De La Rosa who is the veteran on this staff, but De La doesn’t need to learn how to pitch at Coors like every other pitcher who is brought in. De La already knows how to pitch here and he has established himself as a consistent competitor at home. The rest of the staff is filled with players with varying years of playing time, but these players all have upside and have shown that upside in spurts. Tyler Chatwood put up a sub 3.50 ERA in 2013 before getting injured, Chad Bettis came out and showed he could pitch really well last year despite a terrible previous two years, Jordan Lyles will get a chance to show what he can really do and despite some bad years with Houston, he has pitched well for the Rockies when healthy. And lastly, Jon Gray, the possible future ace of this staff. While he will start on the DL, when he comes off, he could be the Rockies ticket to competing in the post season this year. If he pitches like the Rockies believe he can, there is reason for hope for more Rocktober baseball.
The bullpen is also reason for hope. The Rockies have spent a lot of time finding young, hard throwing relievers who can rack up the Ks. With players like Miguel Castro, Jake McGee, and Justin Miller, the Rockies will have a solid back end of the bullpen. This will only get better through the year as these players, either new or young, continue to develop their own styles and learn the proper way to pitch at a mile high. There is also the two relievers who are currently on the disabled list that will be strong spots. Jason Motte and Adam Ottavino are both on the DL, and while Ottavino will be on quite a bit longer, they are both pieces that are end of the game type guys who can help the Rockies seal the game shut. The bullpen is an important part at Coors field and guys coming in who can shut the other team down are important. The Rockies starters have to do their job and get through 6+ innings consistently for the bullpen to not lose their arms by July/August.
Of course, even with everything going right for the Rockies, they are going to need luck with the rest of the division and league. The Dodgers and Giants are always competing for playoffs and are likely to do that again this year. There is also the rebuilt Arizona Diamondbacks who are a scary team this year. Losing AJ Pollock was a start of the luck that the Rockies needed, and although I would never wish harm on another player, every big name injury that happens on these three teams give the Rockies a better shot. The Wild Card is almost certainly out of the question with too may good teams fighting for the spots available, so if the Rockies are to sneak into the playoffs, winning in the division and at home are going to be completely necessary.
Now for predictions for who will make the playoffs:
NL West (Rockies bias showing): 1st Colorado Rockies 2nd Los Angeles Dodgers 3rd San Francisco Giants 4th Arizona Diamondbacks 5th San Diego Padres
NL West (Realistic guess): 1st Los Angeles Dodgers 2nd Arizona Diamondbacks 3rd San Francisco Giants 4th Colorado Rockies 5th San Diego Padres
NL Central: 1st Chicago Cubs 2nd Pittsburg Pirates 3rd St. Louis Cardinals 4th Cincinnati Reds 5th Milwaukee Brewers
NL East: 1st Washington Nationals 2nd New York Mets 3rd Miami Marlins 4th Philadelphia Phillies 5th Atlanta Braves
Wild Card: Pirates and Mets
AL West: 1st Houston Astros 2nd Seattle Mariners 3rd Texas Rangers 4th Los Angeles Angels 5th Oakland A’s
AL Central: 1st Kansas City Royals 2nd Detroit Tigers 3rd Chicago White Sox 4th Cleveland Indians 5th Minnesota Twins
AL West: 1st Toronto Blue Jays 2nd Boston Red Sox 3rd New York Yankees 4th Tampa Bay Rays 5th Baltimore Orioles
Wild Card: Yankees and Red Sox
World Series game: Houston Astros vs Chicago Cubs
Winner Chicago Cubs will win the World Series this year for the first time in 1908. There is no team more deserving of this win and the Cubbies are just a fantastic and talented team. With Joe Maddon at the helm at the talent they have scattered throughout the lineup and staff, this team is scary and I look forward to their playoff run and hopeful World Series win.