Rockies Mailbag: Can the Rockies surprise and be a playoff contender?
Denver Post sports writer Patrick Saunders with the latest installment of his Rockies Mailbag.
Pose a Rockies — or MLB — related question for the Rockies Mailbag.
What chance do you give these Rockies at making the playoffs? I saw Fangraphs gave them a 1.5% chance despite their fast start. I think they have a better shot than that. The rotation is strong and we have some bats this year that can provide run support. What do you think?
— Micah, Fort Collins
I agree with your assessment that they are being underestimated. The Rockies — 13-9 heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Nationals — have a much better chance than the 1.5% that FanGraphs gives them.
In addition to staying healthy, here’s what needs to happen for the Rockies to stay in the playoff hunt:
• Get more production from Kris Bryant once he comes off the injured list. He has yet to hit a home run and has a .689 OPS.
• Be more competitive in the tough National League West. Last year, they were 6-13 against the Dodgers, 4-15 against the Giants, 11-8 against the Padres and only 10-9 against an Arizona team that lost 110 games.
• Survive a brutal August schedule that has 16 road games and includes series at San Diego, St. Louis, the New York Mets and Atlanta.
• Play better defense — all of the time. So far, Colorado’s glovework has been either sizzling hot or ice cold.
• Have at least one player exceed expectations. Second baseman Brendan Rodgers qualifies for that role.
• Make a significant move at the July trade deadline.
Good day, Patrick. It is early in the season, but the Rockies’ run differential is minus-6 (entering Tuesday’s game). Looking at the full MLB standings, it’s apparent that extreme run differential matters. What is the larger concern, runs scored or runs allowed?
Also, what can MLB do to decrease and penalize the amazing amount of batters being struck by pitches? Could it be poorly made baseballs (no way!) or a general lack of control? This isn’t Bob Gibson nor Don Drysdale’s style of play. Thank you.
— Robert Emmerling, Limon
Robert, two good questions that I had not even considered.
Less than one full month into the season, I don’t put a lot of stock in run differential, although as we get deeper into the season I think it’s worth paying attention to. But to your point, I would think that the runs against a team are more important because pitching still rules the game. I think that holds true even for the Rockies, who are always going to have crazy games and crazy splits because of Coors Field.
As for your second question, I don’t have a theory as to why batters are getting hit more. I’m not even sure that’s true league-wide, but the Mets certainly have been plunked a lot. Mets pitcher Chris Bassitt insists it’s because of “bad baseballs.” Here’s what he told The New York Times:
“It’s extremely annoying to see your teammates constantly get hit, and if you get hit by certain pitches it is what it is, but to get hit in the head the amount that we’re getting hit is unbelievable.
“I had some close calls tonight, and I’ve been hit in the face (by a line drive), and I don’t want to do that to anybody ever, but MLB has a very big problem with the baseballs.
“They’re bad. Everyone in the league knows it. Every pitcher knows it. They’re bad.”
Appreciate your coverage, Patrick. What do the Rockies plan to do with Colton Welker going forward?
— Nathan, Lamar
Nathan, Welker has shown that he can hit, there’s no doubt about that. But the corner infielder continues to struggle to stay on the field. First came the pandemic, which wiped out his 2020 minor-league season. Then came his 80-game suspension last year for using a performance-enhancing substance. He lost most of this year’s spring training because of a bacterial eye infection.
Now he’s out with a left shoulder injury and I’m told that he could be out for a while.
I could see Welker playing for the Rockies as a bench player late this season, a September call-up — if he gets healthy.
Patrick, is Connor Joe the real deal? It sure looks like we stumbled upon a solid, dependable leadoff hitter for the foreseeable future.
— Mike, Denver
Mike, I’ll say yes, without hesitation, that he’s the real deal. He rarely takes a bad at-bat, has got some power and he knows how to get on base. Entering Tuesday’s game against Washington, Joe was hitting .282 with a .371 on-base percentage and four home runs.
I don’t know if I would use the phrase “stumbled upon” in describing Joe. He’s a former first-round pick and his potential has been discussed for a number of years. You have to give former general manager Jeff Bridich credit for signing Joe, as well as C.J. Cron, the National League’s home run leader.
In case you missed it, my colleague, Sean Keeler, wrote a terrific profile on Joe for Sunday’s Denver Post.
How long is Kris Bryant out for? Is his back something we need to be worried about?
— Frank T., Salt Lake City
Bryant is eligible to come off of the injured list on Friday when the Rockies open a three-game series at Arizona. Manager Bud Black expressed hope that Bryant would be ready by then, but the team’s $182 million outfielder tempered expectations for a quick return.
“I guess, in the past, I’ve been in situations where you say you are coming off on this day, and then it doesn’t happen and it creates more of a story than you want it to be,” he said on Sunday. “I guess I’m hesitant to put (a timeline) on it. I’m just working day-to-day, but I’m optimistic (I’ll be) ready when I can be.”
From everything I’ve been told, the Rockies are not overly concerned about Bryant’s back. There is no structural damage. But they would rather get him healthy now rather than allow the injury to linger throughout the season.
Patrick, the scoreboard reflects a pitcher’s total number of pitches thrown, broken down by balls and strikes. How are hits counted?
— Ken, Denver
Ken, that’s a great question and a lot of fans might not be aware of the answer. Anything that is not called a ball is counted as a strike in the pitch count. So hits (including homers), foul balls, groundouts, sacrifices, flyball outs, etc. are all counted as strikes.
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