The Colorado Rockies 2013 season has ended. Finishing last in the NL West for the second season in a row, the Rockies have nowhere to go but up. It seems so long ago that Colorado was surprising the baseball world by battling for the top spot through the first half of the season. 162 games is an eternity. A team’s true colors cannot be hidden over the course of 162 games. Unfortunately for the Colorado Rockies those true colors weren’t very pretty. As Rockies fans are left to wait for the 2014 season, there are three questions that when answered will serve as a barometer for just how next season will go.
The Rockies finished the season leading the division in runs scored. In fact, they finished second in the National League in runs scored. An offense led by Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Michael Cuddyer, the Rox were able to score. Will that offense be as potent in 2014? Let’s not forget that Gonzalez was on an MVP-caliber tear before suffering an injury that has potential to cut into his 2014 campaign. Although Cargo looked to be playing his best baseball, how he recovers from his injury will undoubtedly reflect in his 2014 performance. Michael Cuddyer didn’t play the role of a seasoned, aging veteran as his bio would suggest. How much longer can he escape father time? Cuddyer put up his career best season; just what are the odds of him doing that twice in a row? It will take the concerted efforts of Cargo, Tulo, and Kid Cuddy to carry the Rockies offense in 2014. Unless offseason acquisitions are made, the Rox of 2014 will live and die on the bats of these three.
In 2013, only one team allowed more runs than the Colorado Rockies and they are a team experimenting with a radical Moneyball theory. A theory that spent its first year as nothing more than a door mat for opposing Major League teams. The Colorado Rockies began discovering their rotation as August rolled around; about four months too late. Now having found the arms their rotation will house, they still lack an ace. The Colorado Rockies need better pitching all around. Save Rex Brothers in the bullpen, the relief pitching was even worse and more inconsistent than the starters. It starts with the acquisition of an ace. The Rockies need a guy they can hand the ball to every fifth day and know they’ll get a win, or at worst be in a ballgame in the late innings. De La Rosa, Chacin, Chatwood, and Nicasio do not fill that bill. Neither does Roy Oswalt. Trade some prospects, spend some money, do something to go out and land a great arm. The pieces their rotation have at the moment would be a great place to start, if they find a centerpiece to surround them around. It’s no mystery the Rockies 2014 success will come directly from improvements made on the mound.
Health. It is the one variable in sports that odds makers, fans, and coaches cannot predict. The Rockies were plagued with injuries this year. Dexter Fowler. Carlos Gonzalez. Troy Tulowitzki. Rafael Betancourt. Roy Oswalt. Excluding Oswalt, the others were designed to be the key pieces to the Rockies season. Injury took Gonzalez out of the MVP race, Fowler out of a groove, Tulo’s just another chink in his rusting armor, and Betancourt and Oswalt’s likely costing them their careers. (Betancourt’s due to injury, Oswalt’s due to lack of ability). If the Colorado Rockies want to even factor into any race in 2014, they’ll need to be firing on all cylinders for most, if not every day of the season. Unfortunately, no one can predict who’s going down with what next, but if track record is any indicator, it doesn’t look good for the Blake Street Bombers.
Two years in a row the city of Denver has watched its Rockies sink to the basement of the NL West. They have spent two winters with the bitter taste of too much defeat. It is no wonder they love their Broncos so much. As a fan of both, it becomes easy to forget the inferiority of one as the other steam rolls opponents week in and week out. For the Colorado Rockies, it can’t get much worse, unless you look to the Astros. That leaves but one direction to go. They don’t have the tools to win a division, but they’ve got enough to be within striking distance of a wild card.
The best teams in baseball have go-to arms, hang runs on the board, and avoid the injury bug. To be in contention for the division you need all three. Fighting for a wild card requires you have at least two. For the Colorado Rockies they’ve got one. And for the optimists out there, one is better than none.