On Wednesday we talked about what the Colorado Rockies have done well so far, now we will delve into what must improve to continue the success. The Rockies are sitting at 52-39 with a 7 ½ lead in the Wild Card.
Offense, where art thou?
While the club has had a renaissance with their pitching staff, the offense appears to have taken a step backwards. Despite being built to hit and playing in the best hitter’s park in baseball, Colorado has struggled offensively. Top five in arguably the two most important categories, runs (5th) and batting average (3rd), while falling out of the top ten in slugging and on-base percentage hurt. When you take the OPS+ (on-base plus slugging, park adjusted), the Rockies come in 15% below league average.
By now we all know the struggles of Carlos Gonzalez, but he isn’t the only one struggling. Outside of his pace for striking out, shortstop Trevor Story has struggled mightily to replicate his rookie numbers. Though his numbers align with his career numbers, Ian Desmond is having a down year as well. When the Rockies signed him this offseason, the hope was Coors Field and the lineup would boost his numbers, which hasn’t happened.
For this team to win in the second half CarGo, Story and Desmond have to turn it around. These three are critical parts of the lineup, if they turn their season around, the team offensive categories will improve with them. In addition to improving the team numbers, the club will be apt to keep them come the trade deadline. The Rockies are set up to make a run and look to be buyers to get them over the hump; these three could be chips to move if they don’t start saving their season.
Trade for Veteran Pitching
This applies to both the front end and back end of the pitching staff, as both need a little boost. While we discussed a few days ago the success the rookie starters have had, the team needs to think big picture. Baseball has a weird service time to team control policy that will have the Rockies sending down a couple of their rookie starters to extend their team control a bit longer. In short, if they limit innings now, they will have a team friendly contract a year longer, and will also have a healthy pitcher a year longer.
With that being said, a push to the postseason and (fingers crossed) a pennant will need veteran leadership on the mound. Though the Chicago Cubs “traded for the future” (yeah right…they panicked), the best pitcher available is off the market, leaving clubs like the Rockies looking at older vets.
Though there are plenty of options, one name the Rockies should make a push for, Johnny Cueto. He hasn’t pitched well this season but has had success at Coors Field with a 4-2 record and 3.46 career ERA. Don’t let his struggle fool you, Cueto is coming off an all-star campaign that saw him finish sixth in the NL Cy Young vote with an 18-5 record with a 2.79 ERA. The man has some juice in the tank and could send this team over the hump.
The bullpen struggled through June but showed promise to start July, improving the ERA by nearly two points. Justin Wilson of the Detroit Tigers is a big strong left hander who is having a career year, which Rockies should target. Currently the Tigers closer, Wilson has a 3-3 record with a 2.36 ERA and ten saves on the year. Wilson is the perfect set-up man for a club still looking to improve the bullpen with a lefty arm.
Scheduling God’s Work in Rockies Favor
This one is less of the team to improve, but they need to be thankful. Of the team’s final 71 games, only 25% come against teams with winning records. I understand this sounds like a cop out, but you can only play the schedule put in front of you. After escaping the toughest month on the schedule with a winning record, the Rockies should take advantage of the schedule.
There are three series left in the year that stick out on the schedule. The weekend of July 28th the club travels to D.C to play the NL East leading Washington Nationals. When the Nationals came to Denver earlier this season, they walloped the Rockies, scoring 40 runs in a four game series. This will be a big second half test to push for the postseason.
Next up, the Rockies travel to Arizona to face the Diamondbacks September 11th – 14th. The Rockies sit 2.5 games behind Arizona in the standings, 9.5 back of the Dodgers. This is significant because that 2.5 game lead is the difference between the top wild card slot and the second. This could be the last chance the Rockies have to jump the Diamondbacks in the standings.
Lastly, the Rockies host the Los Angeles Dodgers the last series of the season September 29th – October 1st. The Dodgers will have the division locked up, but may not want to see the Rockies in the postseason. If the Dodgers have the opportunity to knock the Rockies out of the playoffs, they will take it.
The Rockies get some help with the schedule, but also are looking to help themselves with the trade deadline. Management would be wise to surprise again with a blockbuster trade to improve the squad. This would give the fans another thing to cheer about.