Slumping Rockies face tough issues
Full disclosure: I’m writing this column the morning after the Rockies’ ugly 14-2 loss to the Mets on Friday night. Therefore, my viewpoint is tainted by the hangover of that defeat.
Now, without further ado, I present the current state of the Rockies — the good, the bad and the unknown.
The good: Charlie Blackmon proved again Friday that he is the Rockies’ toughest, most prepared and most consistent player this season. On a night when the Rockies managed only six hits and struck out 11 times, Blackmon scrapped together two hits.
The bad: Carlos Gonzalez batted 0-for-3 and his average dipped to .218. He has six home runs — total — and is showing no sign of busting his slump like he did in 2015. After a slow start that season, Cargo delivered big time in July, batting .386 with 11 homers and 24 RBIS.
The unknown: Will Gonzalez regroup enough to help the Rockies this season? Or will he continue to be an offensive liability? Will manager Bud Black be forced to bench the threetime all-star when David Dahl returns? Will Black decide, right now, that he must go with a starting outfield of Gerardo Parra, Raimel Tapia and Blackmon?
The good: Jon Gray throws a 96 mph fastball and a 90 mph slider. When he’s on, he pitches like an ace.
The bad: When Gray can’t locate his pitches, he’s been bad. After 44 big-league starts, he’s 12-13 with a 4.95 ERA.
The unknown: After Friday’s fiasco, Black said: “Jon is a guy who has to continue to clear some hurdles on the pitching side. And he will in time.” But the question is, when will Gray’s time come? The Rockies need his best right now.
The good: Shortstop Trevor Story continues to work his tail off and keep his head up.
The bad: Story is batting only .222 and striking out nearly 40 percent of the time. His OPS (on-base percentage, plus slugging) has dropped from .909 last season to .694.
The unknown: Pat Valaika, who isn’t as good an infielder as Story, is seeing more and more playing time. Does that mean the next step is sending Story to Albuquerque for a Triple-a tuneup? The time may have come.
The good: Closer Greg Holland and left-handed setup relievers Jake Mcgee and Chris Rusin have been terrific, combining for a 2.23 ERA. Holland has a save in 28-of-29 opportunities.
The bad: The ERA for the Rockies’ bullpen is 4.48, good enough for fifth in the National League, but the bullpen’s 1.34 WHIP ranks seventh. It’s become increasingly clear that Adam Ottavino (5.74 ERA), Mike Dunn (5.22), Scott Oberg (5.70) and Jordan Lyles (6.69) are unreliable in tight games.
The unknown: Will general manager Jeff Bridich swing a deal, or two, to bolster the Rockies’ bullpen before the July 31 trade deadline? Will he be willing to give up prospects to acquire an impact right-handed reliever such as the Mets’ Addison Reed, the Padres’ Brandon Maurer, the Phillies’ Pat Neshek or the Marlins’ AJ Ramos?
The good: The Rockies’ 52-39 record at the all-star break was the best in franchise history and they held a 7K-game lead over Chicago and St. Louis for the final National League wild-card playoff berth.
The bad: The Rockies have lost 14 of their last 19 games, are heading in the wrong direction and their wild-card lead is down to6 K games.
The unknown: Can the Rockies turn things around? Can their stale offense get in gear? Will they make a meaningful trade or two? Will they waste the best start in franchise history or make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2009?
Patrick Saunders is the president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America: psaunders @denverpost.com or @psaundersdp