Pitching wins championships. It’s really that simple. No one denies that you need an offense to put runs on the board. An offense can carry your team far. But when the summer sun fades, games in October come down to the arms you have throwing them. In Denver, there appears to be a lack of concern for a glaring pitching problem. A problem that left uncorrected, will eliminate the Colorado Rockies from any playoff contention.
The Rockies have hesitated to take any action to acquire stronger arms to bolster a less than stellar starting rotation or an over-used bullpen. Instead, they are looking to resurrect the aging arm of Jeff Francis and the fading Mitchell Boggs. The hopes that their bullpen can be strengthened by these two arms seems to be more a reach than a sound improvement. But then again, the Rockies are becoming known for reaching.
With one of the best offenses in baseball, the Rockies have positioned themselves for a playoff push in a season they were expected to be nothing more than basement dwellers of the NL West. Through the first 98 games of the season, the Rockies have leaned heavily upon the bats of Tulowitzki, Cuddyer, and Gonzalez. Michael Cuddyer, one of the pillars of the Rockies success this season was a reach that has paid off for Colorado. A fading player in the Twins organization, the Rockies nabbed Cuddyer out of free agency two years ago. Cuddyer’s career best season has the Rockies enamored by the “reach” principle.
Next up, Colorado tried a worn out Roy Oswalt. Again, reaching for the last bit of baseball Oswalt had in him, Colorado hoped the stuff he had left would be enough to get them into October. Oswalt hasn’t panned out. Jon Garland, an aging starter from Chicago was a reach for the Rockies. His time in the starting rotation yielded a 4-6, 5.82 ERA. Another reach that failed. Jeff Francis is in a similar situation. A fading arm that never blossomed into its potential, Francis found himself in Colorado Springs playing Triple A ball after a 2-5 record and a 6.58 ERA earlier this season. On July 9th, the Colorado Rockies traded for Mitchell Boggs. The former Cardinal reliever had shown impressive numbers the past three seasons. However, his 2013 in St. Louis has been abysmal (0-3, 11.05 ERA). He too found himself sent down to St. Louis affiliate Memphis to find himself.
So here we are, the Rockies sitting 3.5 games out of first in the NL West. A crucial stretch of baseball starting in August just on the horizon. A trade deadline just ten days away, and Colorado has appeared to make all the moves they plan on making. A starting rotation that needs Tyler Chatwood to assume his role as a reliable starter in the three hole. A bullpen exhausted early and often now being supported by the fading arm of Jeff Francis and the currently lost Mitchell Boggs.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers who have won nine of their last ten, continue to surge thanks to the arrival of Yasiel Puig. The division lead is up for grabs as the sliding D’backs, who are clinging to a 0.5 game division lead, face the Red Sox, Orioles, and Rays in an interleague stretch in August that has the potential to send Arizona in a free fall.
The Rockies are in a great position to shock the baseball world and steal a division title. The Cinderella story appears to fall on the shoulders of the big three in Colorado, however, a closer look reveals a division crown comes down to the no-name arms on the Rockies pitching staff. And as starters Chacin and De La Rosa, along with Chatwood show consistency and quality starts, the attention shifts to the bullpen. The bullpen that now includes Jeff Francis and Mitchell Boggs, two of the Rockies’ most recent “reaches.”
Colorado’s front office continues to reach for answers to build a playoff team. As the Rockies continue to hunt down that division title, they’ll do so hoping Jeff Francis can find a younger form when he enters games as a reliever, and that newly acquired Mitchell Boggs can find the hard sinking fastball that made him a go to for the St. Louis Cardinals last season. Should these two find a way to steady a shaky bullpen, it is not unfathomable for the Colorado Rockies to reach for that division title in September.