Forget the regular introduction. If you've been reading this series at all, you know that we're previewing this year's playoff teams, and telling you why they're going to fail. Our target this time? The Colorado Rockies.
Biggest Strength: The lineup. This is a very patient team, with only three guys that get regular playing time posting sub-10% walk rates (Carlos Gonzalez, 9.1%, Clint Barmes, 5.1%, Ryan Spilborghs, 8.5%). Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton, Seth Smith, Carlos Gonzalez, and Brad Hawpe have each been studly this year, with the lowest OPS among that group being Gonzalez's .886. Chris Iannetta has great power for a catcher, and Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes have demonstrated good power despite low batting averages. Dexter Fowler, the speedy rookie, has shown a plate approach beyond his years, as his OBP is a full 100 points above his BA. Basically, this is a lineup that's skilled from top to bottom, and boasts great depth throughout all the positions. Oh, and this is unrelated, but...Ubaldo Jimenez has been pitching like a superstar. He's the second best pitcher in the NL West (Lincecum, Tim - get familiar), but he's not far behind Carpenter and Wainwright out in St. Louis in terms of performance.
But wait a minute!
Um...well...ok, we're sort of at a loss. This sort of seems like a team without a chink in the armor. They're top 10 in MLB in both runs scored and prevented (6th and 8th, respectively), and with good reason: all of their starters has had a very good and - with the exception of Aaron Cook missing some time - very healthy seasons. This has been a team with amazing continuity among their rotation ranks. Their lineup has been very good, despite Garrett Atkins' having forgotten how to play baseball effectively. They've coaxed a banner year out of oft-injured Huston Street, and Franklin Morales has been exceedingly effective in Street's absence.
But hey, we're here to hate on Roxtober. So let's point out this extreme oddity: only eight (8) pitchers on their entire roster have thrown 40+ innings. And that includes five (5) starters. So manager Jim Tracy trusts only three (3) of his relievers: Huston Street, Franklin Morales, and...wait...no...seriously? Josh Fogg? You've got to be kidding us. Josh Fogg, of the 5.05 career ERA? The guy who's had 1,158 innings to prove that he's a below league-average pitcher? We demand an invite to the next Rockies tryout.
Speaking of guys who have demonstrated a remarkable turnaround since coming to Coors Field, how about Jason Marquis? Let us be up front here: we have no good feelings for Jason Marquis. We wish nothing but ill upon him. First a petulant prospect for the Braves, then an underperforming, overpaid starter for the Cubs, Marquis has done just about everything he can to win his way out of our hearts. And yet...he comes to the most famous hitters' haven in recent memory, and becomes a stud? Not on our watch, buddy. Let us show you why he's going to be a fairly epic failure in October: he can't strike anybody out (4.75 K/9). He can't control his pitches (3.31 BB/9). He's stranding a below-league average 70.7% of baserunners. His FIP this season is .72 runs below his career average. He's barely approached his 212 IP this season since 2005's 207 IP. And he posted a 6.02 ERA in 33 starts with the Cardinals! WHY ISN'T HE REMEMBERING THAT HE'S AN AWFUL PITCHER?! Our prediction is that he'll do precisely that in the playoffs. And since he's been among the league leaders in wins, Jim Tracy will likely be only too happy to stick him in the rotation ahead of a more deserving pitcher - any of Aaron Cook, Jorge de la Rosa, or Jason Hammel.
And for that matter, Aaron Cook could fail just as easily as Marquis. For a couple years now, he's proven that he can be effective in Coors Field thanks to his extreme groundball tendencies. But the guy can't stay healthy, and he's gotten in just two starts since a recent shoulder strain. He's looked sharp in those two starts, but do you trust him in the playoffs? Can he stay healthy for a prolonged run, especially given that his shoulder's already been weakened? And how about Jason Hammel, a Rays' castoff? He has been very good this year, though this is the first time he's thrown over 100 IP (174 this year)in his MLB career. He's been hittable (201 H in 174 IP), though he has demonstrated above-average control (3.12 K:BB). Unfortunately for him, many of those hits have been dongers - he's got a .88 HR/9 this year, and a career rate of 1.11. Someone's going to hit a key gopher ball off of him. And as for Jorge de la Rosa, he's quite adroit at missing bats (9.35 K/9), but he doesn't really have a feel for his command (4.1 BB/9, 1.40 WHIP).
Honestly, if we didn't dislike them so much for beating out the Braves for the Wild Card (as it was said in Happy Gilmore, you will NOT sweep the Dodgers, ya JACKASSES! Or something like that. It's been awhile since we've seen it.), we'd be jumping all over this bandwagon. We can't fathom how their pitchers have managed to be so effective this year, but...they have. They've got depth in their lineup that no team in the National League can match. Their rotation has been healthy and effective, which most teams merely dream of. Their bullpen, though little-used, has enough talent not to squander games. They...well, they scare us. We don't know if we're ready for another Roxtober so soon. So, um, if Jason Marquis, Jason Hammel, and Jorge de la Rosa could go ahead and revert to their old, ineffective forms...well, that'd be just great.