Every fan begins the season with the highest of hopes. How high were mine? If you missed my case for the Rockies winning the NL West this year, you can get caught up here. Now that the Opening Day glamour has rubbed off, it’s time to face reality. For the Colorado Rockies, an NL West crown is not happening this year.
For starters they could be the worst team in their division and a season of 162 games is sure to reveal their futility. But what if, just what if the Colorado Rockies were to make the playoffs? What would it take for the Rox to overcome the odds and disprove about a million sportswriters?
1) A Dynamic Duo
Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are superstars. And they’ll put up great numbers this season (both will finish hitting over .300, 20 home runs and 80 RBI). They’ll have solid outings and yet the Rox still won’t make the playoffs. For Colorado to make the playoffs, Tulo and Cargo have to get next level. We’re talking monster seasons here. If Tulowitzki and Gonzalez can explode for .330/35/100 seasons, the Rockies have a shot at postseason play. While these numbers would surely pack Coors Field and keep the Rox in the playoff hunt, most Rockies fans will settle for seeing these two play full seasons.
2) Starting Supremacy
The Rockies have never been known for dominant pitching. If they want to see October 2014, they’ll need to exhibit some pitching supremacy. Just how dominant are we talking? They’ll need someone to win 20-plus starts and another to grab 18 wins. Looking up and down the rotation, there are a few names that come to mind. I love how Jordan Lyles has been throwing early on. Juan Nicasio is the best arm the Rockies have, and when Tyler Chatwood returns to the roster, he’ll be expected to build upon his success in 2013. If Nicasio wins 22 starts and Chatwood 18, the Rox are knocking on the door for an NL Wild Card spot.
3) Wild Cards for a Wild Card
Is it Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, Wilin Rosario? While the Rockies are enjoying monster numbers from Tulo and Cargo and relishing in the youth of an aging Michael Cuddyer, and while their starting pitching is not just keeping them in ballgames, but winning a few; the Rockies still need some help to make the playoffs. They need a wild card to earn a wild card. Whether Nolan Arenado delivers the offensive season he’s capable of, or Chuck Nazty continues on his early season tear, the Rockies won’t be seeing the playoffs without a dark horse. It really doesn’t matter who. Just someone to offer some protection to Tulo and Cargo, generate offense around their big bats, and deliver a clutch hit from time to time.
4) A Little Lady Luck
I’m not completely delusional. I realize that a playoff berth for the Rockies would be more surprising than a UConn National Championship in Men’s Basketball. And even the collective efforts of Tulo and Cargo, Nicasio and Chatwood, and the step-up wild card may not be enough to propel the Rox into October. That’s why most of us Rockies fans will be relying on a little lady luck this year. While I would never wish injury upon anyone, maybe the Rox benefit from some untimely injuries to Hanley Ramirez or Clayton Kershaw in LA. And maybe Buster Posey and Matt Cain don’t get on the same page this season, and better yet Tim Lincecum returns to his 2012 form. Maybe Paul Goldschmidt cools off this year in Arizona.
Sure, there are plenty of chips that have to fall for the Rockies to earn a playoff berth, but baseball is crazy like that. And as long as I can walk under the 2007 NL Champion pennant at Coors Field, I’ll always have high hopes.