2014 Season Preview: Colorado Rockies
2013 Record and Finish: 74-88, fifth place in NL West (22nd overall)
2014 Projected Record: 76-86, fifth place in NL West
The Case For
I can’t make one. The Rockies got off to a fluky 13-4 start under rookie manager Walt Weiss last year, then went 61-84 (.420) the rest of the way, which is the pace of a 94-loss season. Sure, the Rockies could hope for healthy seasons from Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but Tulo has averaged just 115 games per season over the last six years, and CarGo has averaged just 124 games per season over the last three. What’s more, both were at their most productive last year, so improved attendance could be negated by some regression in both cases. Nolan Arenado should make some improvements as a 23-year-old sophomore. Those are about the only ways in which I expect the 2014 Rockies to have improved over last year.
The Case Against
Having finally shed what was left of Todd Helton, the Rockies have replaced him with a similarly used-up Justin Morneau. They practically gave Dexter Fowler away to the Astros. Defending NL batting champion Michael Cuddyer is due for significant regression coming off a career year and heading into his age-35 season. Jhoulys Chacin suffered a shoulder strain in February and isn’t expected to make his season debut until May. Brett Anderson has seen his playing time shrink in each of the last four seasons due to injury and has made just 11 starts over the last two years combined. Jordan Lyles, the best part of the team’s return for Fowler, has a career ERA+ of 74. Did I mention the Rockies played at a 94-loss pace over the last five-and-a-half months of the 2013 season?
X-Factor: Hitting on the road
The Rockies scored 5.4 runs per game at home last year and just 3.4 per game on the road. Accordingly, they had a .556 winning percentage at home (that’s 90 wins over 162 games) and a .358 winning percentage on the road (that’s 104 losses over 162 games). This is not new. This is, in fact, the history of the Colorado Rockies in a single stat. The Rockies have always had more trouble hitting on the road than pitching at home. As I wrote in the team essay in Baseball Prospectus 2011, and it remains true, in every single season in their history, the Rockies' home/road split in run scoring has been greater than their home/road split in run prevention. Last year, Carlos Gonzalez, seemingly out of nowhere, hit better on the road than at home. Per the numbers that open this paragraph, that didn't change the team's fortunes on the season, but if what changed in his game was real and can be passed on to the other Rockies hitters, there might be hope.
Number To Know: 943
That’s how many regular season games LaTroy Hawkins, the Rockies’ new 41-year-old closer, has appeared in over his major league career, which is now entering its 20th season. With Mariano Rivera retired, Hawkins is now the active leader in pitching appearances, and with 60 games this season, he would move into 15th place all-time, ahead of Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, who appeared in 1,002 games over 22 seasons. Incidentally, current and future Hall of Famers Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, and Hoyt Wilhelm are the only men to have saved 20 or more games at or after the age of 41. Accordingly, Hawkins seems likely to cede the closer job to Rex Brothers at some point this season.
Most overrated: Juan Nicasio
"He's been an enigma for a few years now. He's a guy who just hasn't developed his secondary pitches. For me, they keep counting on him in the rotation, and he fits better in the bullpen where he can come at you in short doses. He's been touching 94, but again, he goes to his fastball so much that there's not a lot of surprise element, and it gets hit."
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