Inconsistent offense is a major concern
But purple-tinged optimism colors start of second half
NEW YORK» The Rockies are feeling pretty good about themselves as they open the second half of the season Friday night against the Mets at Citi Field.
Forget that they lost 13-of-18 games before the all-star break. They’re focusing on the upbeat note that they took two of three from the Chicago White Sox last weekend. It was their first series victory since their June 15-18 sweep vs. San Francisco, and it was capped off Sunday by rookie Kyle Freeland’s near no-hitter and the team’s 12-hit attack in a 10-0 victory.
“It was a big deal, it was a big series, because we hadn’t won one in a while,” third baseman Nolan Arenado said a couple of hours before he played Tuesday in his third All-Star Game. “Games like that make you want to play the next day. So it was almost like I didn’t want to take a break with the way we were hitting and the way Kyle pitched.”
Adding to the purple-tinged optimism are two realities. One, Colorado’s 52-39 record is a franchise best at the all-star break. Two, although the Rockies’ quest for a National League West title seems like little more than a fantasy now, what with the Los Angeles Dodgers leading them by 9K games, the Rockies hold a 7K-game lead for the second wild-card playoff berth. Also, they trail Arizona by only two games for the top wild-card spot.
Still, an undercurrent threatens the Rockies’ playoff aspirations. Their offense is not producing nearly as well as expected. That has been the case for much of the season.
“I think our offense has probably been the most roller-coaster aspect of this team,” general manager Jeff Bridich said. “Sometimes it looks great and sometimes it seems to completely disappear.”
A cursory glance makes everything seem all right. The Rockies’ .270 batting average ranks second in the National League, behind powerhouse Washington (.277), and their average of 5.07 runs per game ranks third behind Washington (5.52) and the Dodgers (5.14).
But other statistics are troubling. The Rockies are averaging 1.14 home runs per game, 11th in the National League. Carlos Gonzalez’s power outage has been a big part of the problem. He has only six home runs and 22 RBIs in 263 at-bats, prompting manager Bud Black to bat him seventh last Sunday, the lowest Gonzalez had batted in the lineup since batting eighth Aug. 13, 2009, against Pittsburgh.
According to FanGraphs, the Rockies have hit the ball hard only 29.5 percent of the time, ranking 13th in the National League. Despite playing their home games at Coors Field, the Rockies’ .759 OPS (onbase percentage plus slugging) ranks just sixth in the National League.
It’s not only Gonzalez who has struggled. Trevor Story, who slammed 27 homers in 97 games as a rookie last season, has batted only .224 with 11 homers and has struck out an alarming 39 percent of the time this year.
Ian Desmond, who missed significant time with a broken hand to begin the season, and is now on the 10-day disabled list because of a strained calf, is slashing at only .283/.321/.388. The Rockies were no doubt expecting more from a player they signed for five years and $70 million.
Leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies’ first-half MVP who is batting .321 and leads the team with 20 homers, is confident the offense can turn things around.
“I think our offense can pick it up a little bit,” he said. “I feel like we haven’t done a great job playing team offense — one through nine. With situational hitting, I feel like we have probably left a few runs on the table. I’m kind of expecting the whole team to elevate its game.”
On the plus side, outfielder Gerardo Parra gave the offense a boost when he returned from a quadriceps injury, hitting .538 (5-for-13) with three doubles in the three-game series against the White Sox last weekend. Also, outfielder David Dahl, out of action since the second Cactus League game in spring training, has begun his minor-league rehab assignment. He could provide a boost when he’s ready to join the big-league team.