Christian Friedrich of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
The Colorado Rockies have been in a terrible funk lately, but things are still (kind of) going according to plan.
One of my offseason projects was to go through the Baseball Nation archives and do an audit of how many times we wrote a feature about each team. Are there teams we ignore? Are the teams we pay too much attention to? Did we ever get something up on how the Red Sox totally collapsed last year? It's never too late.
I never got around to it. But I have guesses. And I'd guess that the Colorado Rockies are probably one of the teams we touch on least around here. Maybe that's because I write about them enough on the Giants' site, and maybe that's because Jeff Sullivan just watched his first National League game last week. I used different-sized pretzel sticks to act out a double switch, and he still didn't get it. But ever since they were seemingly pennant contenders last April, the Rockies fell off the baseball map.
So far this year, they're miserable. Not as miserable as some of the other teams in the land, so they escape attention yet again. But miserable enough to wonder what in the heck is going wrong with them. It's probably better to start with what's going right with them.
What's going right for the Rockies
That list is ordered alphabetically, by the way. And it's probably too simple by half -- you can find glimmers of hope when it comes to Dexter Fowler, Wilin Rosario, and a couple of the young pitchers. But this was a team with a blueprint and a plan, which was:
1. Count on Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez being awesome, at least for the next few years
2. Develop that majors-ready young pitching into something that can win soon.
3. Fill in the gaps along the way with free agents and homegrown position players.
Tulowitzki and Gonzalez make for a great start on any 25-man roster, and the organization had a lot of young pitching in the majors and minors. It all made sense. And for the first two months of the season, at least, it's all made a mess, too. Tulowitzki is off to a slow start, both with the bat and the glove. The young pitching has been acting like young pitching. The two biggest offseason acquisitions -- Michael Cuddyer and Marco Scutaro -- have been between bad and mediocre.
Through Thursday, the Rockies have a 16-27 record. They were 12-12 after taking two out of three from the Dodgers, but everything's fallen apart since then. The season -- and thus, the blueprint -- is clearly a disaster, right? Only if you were too optimistic. Here's a flow chart to help you out with what you should expect when you build with young pitching:
Sometimes you go to the first box right away. Hooray! That's what happened with the last two teams that won the NL West, the 2010 Giants and the 2011 Diamondbacks. They had young pitchers come up and do All-Star things that young pitchers don't always do. But that's the exception, not the rule. Young pitchers will usually drive a team nuts, even on the path to eventual success.
So with that in mind, there is something else going right for the Rockies that you can add to the list up there. They still have that young pitching talent, and now it can develop without the grind of a pennant race. Juan Nicasio is showing flashes of brilliance and inexperience, as you'd expect from a pitcher with a total of 31 starts above AA who CAME BACK FROM A BROKEN NECK. Alex White and Drew Pomeranz are frustrating and wowing at a typical hot-prospect pace. Christian Friedrich turned a best-shape-of-his-life canard into an impressive major-league debut. They still have Tylers Chatwood, Matzek, and Anderson in the minors, all showing signs of promise. Only Jhoulys Chacin has been hurt, and even then not seriously.
The blueprint is still in place. It had a chance of immediate success. Any time a team starts the year with talented arms in the rotation, they have a chance to surprise. That doesn't seem to be working out. But Tulowitzki will be fine, and the young pitchers are still around, learning as they go. Once the team starts sifting through the pitching-related returns of the 2012 season, they'll have a much better idea of what they're building around. This season hasn't been an immediate success for the Rockies -- at least, not through May -- but that doesn't mean it's been a failure.