After a merciful day off that combined physical and psychological mercy (a.k.a. goodbye Jordany Valdespin), the Mets resume their schedule with a three-game home set with the Colorado Rockies, who have fallen out of the NL West race by virtue of their own struggles and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ success. My guest today is Hayden Kane, editor of FanSided’s Rox Pile, who will fill us in on his team before Jenrry Mejia and Chad Bettis (no relation to Jerome, I’m assuming) square off at 7:10 tonight from Citi Field.
Will DeBoer, Rising Apple: The Rockies are nine games under .500 and near the bottom of the NL West (not unlike any team in that division that’s not the Dodgers). Was this the kind of season expected in Denver or has it been a relative disappointment?
Hayden Kane, Rox Pile: Of late it has been a tough stretch; the Rockies’ 1-6 record against the Braves and Pirates on this road trip probably buried them at the bottom of the National League West for good. That frustration is so fresh that it might be easy to say that they have been a disappointment this year, especially because the division appeared to be so wide open for so long.
Having said that, I’m inclined to think that this season is set up to be a success. Coming off a 98 loss season in which it looked like they would have to rebuild and probably start from scratch, predictions were pretty dire for 2013 (including Keith Law’s infamous prediction that they would only win 53 games).
Instead we’ve learned that the Rockies have a pretty solid foundation on the pitching side of things and with their lineup. Those pieces were already on the roster, they just weren’t healthy last year. To know that the team can build around them is enough for me to think this season is a surprising success; if they got close to a .500 record it would be gravy.
Jul 15, 2013; Flushing, NY, USA; National League outfielder Carlos Gonzalez (5) of the Colorado Rockies and third baseman David Wright (5) of the New York Mets during the National League workout day for the 2013 All Star Game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
WD: Carlos Gonzalez has been a definite bright spot for the organization, but despite being under team control through 2017, his name has been brought up in various circles as a trade target. What, if anything, would it take to move Cargo out of Colorado?
HK: I think the rumblings about a potential CarGo trade mostly emerged from the hopelessness that accompanied the close of 2012. The thought was that the team had so many holes to fill, maybe they should use CarGo as a trade piece to address multiple needs. The Rockies still have holes, but not nearly as many as we once thought, so there is zero chance that they even consider trading CarGo in my mind.
WD: It’s hard to imagine the Rockies without face-of-the-franchise first baseman Todd Helton, but at age 39 he appears to be in the twilight of his career. How much gas is left in Helton’s tank, and how is the franchise prepared to replace him?
HK: I will never get used to Todd Helton striking out, and I will never get used to Todd Helton getting jammed and popping out meekly to infielders. Both of those have become more common occurrences this season, a sign that his bat really has slowed down and that he is near the end of his career. He is still a wizard with the leather at first and can still play well in a limited role, but it is widely believed that he will retire at season’s end.
The franchise is not prepared, at all, to replace him. Michael Cuddyer will likely take over next season, but beyond that the team does not have a lot of options to fill first base in the long term.
WD: Pitching is always an issue in the high altitude of the Rocky Mountains. Would you say Colorado pitchers’ effectiveness has been above or below average this season?
July 28, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jhoulys Chacin (45) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
HK: Above average. Way above average. The overworked bullpen has skewed things the wrong direction as of late, making the overall pitching numbers disappointing. But the Rockies have received plenty of quality pitching this season.
They have three bona fide starting pitchers in Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, and Tyler Chatwood. They also have a couple horses in the bullpen with Matt Belisle and closer-of-the-future Rex Brothers. They need to decide what to do with Rafael Betancourt and definitely have some other issues to address, but once again I would point back to last season. This team is less than a year removed from a time when they tried a gimmicky paired-pitching system and just barely avoided historical ineptitude.
Now they have an excellent starting point from which to build the rest of their pitching staff. I think you would be hard-pressed to find any Rockies’ fans who wouldn’t have signed off on that scenario after last season. Don’t get me wrong, because the Rockies need a lot of help on the mound. But we pretty much saw the worst case scenario last year, and we are far enough removed from it for me to be satisfied that things are moving the right direction.
Think of it this way: the Rockies’ offense has cost them just as many games as their pitching has this year. That statement in itself indicates a pitching staff that has acquitted itself just fine.
HK: Not much McHugh buzz, frankly. He made one start at Coors Field against the Brewers and got lit up. For this season’s purposes, that was probably his only chance to make a big impression.He will still pitch between now and the end of the year, but I don’t see him as much more than a placeholder for now.
Aug 4, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets left fielder Eric Young Jr. (22) steals second during the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
As for EY, all I can say is this: you better believe that every single Rockies fan still cheers for that guy every time they see him. He was beloved in Colorado, just wasn’t a fit for the roster anymore. I am really glad he caught on somewhere and that he’s getting some playing time. (WD: I’m glad to hear that; we love him in New York too.)
WD: What has to happen between now and next April for the Rockies to compete in 2014?
HK: Believe it or not, the most pressing need is a right-handed power bat. Any night that CarGo or Troy Tulowitzki is out of the lineup, things get pretty thin. Presuming Cuddyer moves to first base, the Rockies need to find somebody with some pop to play right field.
After that they need to fortify their bullpen and the back of the rotation, but really, isn’t that true of every team that falls out of the playoff hunt? For their part the Rockies will need to go through the “audition” process in September with some young guys to see where they’re at, and then approach things accordingly this off-season.