Walt Weiss and the Colorado Rockies descend upon Cincinnati today to begin a three game series, and while those jerks wouldn't let me on the team plane, I reluctantly agreed to let them go on without me. Sorry, ladies of the Cincinnati area.
The Rockies have, in large part, been exactly the kind of team we expected them to be when healthy. They're scoring a ton of runs (275, to be exact, which is tops in the NL), they're allowing a lot of runs (244, an even 44 runs more than Reds pitching has allowed), and they're winning a tad bit more than they're losing while firmly entrenched in the thick of the NL West race. WHile the Rockies currently sit in 3rd place in the NL West, they're just 2.5 games behind Arizona, and their +31 run differential is actually tops in the division.
The superstar combination of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez has been every bit as dominant as predicted, but they're actually being led in OPS and SLG by Michael Cuddyer (1.034). Throw in the fact that Dexter Fowler has continued to produce from the top of the lineup, and it's easy to see why this team also leads the NL in team OPS at .770 (the Reds currently sit in 4th at .734).
Bryan Kilpatrick from Purple Row and I exchanged some Q's and A's about each squad on the eve of their series. I'll list Bryan's interview below, and you can read mine later today over at Purple Row.
- Dexter Fowler's power has finally emerged, and he's in the in the midst of yet another breakout campaign at the top of the Rockies lineup. With the Shin-Soo Choo trade and the haul he claimed in return fresh in mind, do you see the Rockies shopping him as he nears free agency, or will they try to lock him up?
I think the Rockies will attempt to lock up Fowler. The club has tremendous outfield depth in the upper levels of its system, but it's just that -- depth. Fowler, meanwhile, is approaching an All-Star level offensively (provided his awful May swoon was the exception and not the rule), and I truly believe he's a much better defensive player than metrics suggest -- as is the case with all of the other Rockies outfielders. Dex is showing that he deserves an extension, and he's as good of a candidate for that as anyone else on the roster.
- Let's talk pitching. With the Rockies, it's always about pitching. What's the state of the staff? Do you see Jhoulys Chacin improving to elite starter status? Where's Pomeranz?
Had Chacin been able to maintain the strikeout rate he posted in his first couple of seasons, he would have been well on his way to becoming an elite starter. However, he's just not there yet, and despite being just 25 years old, he's not going to get there unless he learns how to put away hitters. Chacin got off to a great start but has struggled with bad innings of late; he'll have to do a better job of keeping his composure to get back to where he was at the beginning of the year.
That said, having a healthy Chacin (as well as healthy versions of Jorge De La Rosa, Juan Nicasio and, to some extent, Jeff Francis) in the rotation make it a much better group than last year. Tyler Chatwood has been a gem this season, and it may not be a fluke considering he finally looks ready after being rushed to the big leagues by the Angels in 2011 and, to a lesser degree, the Rockies last season. It's not a great rotation, but if the offense can stay healthy and produce as expected, it might be formidable enough to keep the team in contention.
As for Pomeranz, he's performing well at Triple-A Colorado Springs and seems to have regained his velocity and is exhibiting very good breaking stuff, but he still isn't as efficient as the Rockies would like him to be. He often struggles to get through six innings, so the team wants to see an improvement in that area before they call him up. And, when they call him up, they don't ever want to have to send him back down.
- Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Walt Weiss went from coaching High School ball to being the Rockies manager, and the Rockies immediately got off to a great start. Any noticeable trends emerging in his managing style? Is he numbers heavy, or a "feel guy" akin to our own Dusty Baker?
Weiss made a couple of rookie mistakes early in the season that actually prevented the Rockies from getting off to an even better start than they did, but much like in 2009 when Jim Tracy replaced Clint Hurdle, I think a lot of Weiss' success is due to the fact that he's just a different presence. Weiss does seem to be a "feel guy," but he likes to be aggressive on the basepaths and has talked about his desire to regularly field as athletic of a team as he can. As such, we've seen a lot of Eric Young Jr. and it probably influenced the team's decision to call up Charlie Blackmon over Tyler Colvin and some of the other options on the farm when Michael Cuddyer went down with an injury.
Neither of those moves have really worked out too well, but Weiss seems to be doing a good job of "letting the players play," which is an important factor that often gets lost amid all of the other stuff going on in dugouts and front offices these days.
- The Rockies are off to a solid start this season in a very competitive NL West. Do you see them making any major additions as the trade deadline nears? What will they target if so?
I don't believe the Rockies will make a major move. They seem to lack the type of prospects needed to get an impact player, whether it be a pitcher or otherwise, and they've avoided making moves like that in the past anyway. They may go out and get a proven bullpen arm, similar to their acquisition of Rafael Betancourt in 2009, but that's about it. And you know what? If the pitching continues to be serviceable, I'm fine with that. And, assuming the team can keep Cuddyer, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez healthy, that will make huge difference in itself.
- I've been living in the Denver area for almost two years now, and I still haven't found a solid baseball bar to call my own. Any suggestions?
I might be the wrong guy to ask considering I don't even live in Colorado. However, I don't know if there's a great baseball bar. I think Jackson's (right across 20th Street from Coors Field) is good for that, and I'm pretty fond of the Sports Column, but I don't know that most people would necessarily agree. If a great beer selection makes up for a lack of a good "baseball atmosphere," Falling Rock Taphouse would be my recommendation.
Thanks again to Bryan for pitching in on short notice. If you're a tweeter, be sure to follow Purple Row (@PurpleRow), as those folks do great work.
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