Fresh off of a 2-4 road trip, the Mets head back to Citi Field to play seven games against teams that have worse records than they do. The first team to come into town will be the Colorado Rockies, who come in for four games beginning tonight. The Mets took 2 of 3 from Colorado way back in April and since then, their fortunes have taken a nosedive, as they sit at 46-73 and are in last place in the NL West. I sent some questions over to Bryan Kilpatrick of SB Nation's Rockies blog Purple Row and here's what he had to say about the team (I also answered some Mets questions at Purple Row).
Amazin' Avenue: The Rockies have had a rough year. What would you say has been the biggest disappointment with this team?
Purple Row: Without a doubt, the Rockies' starting pitching staff has been their biggest disappointment. Injuries robbed them of their top two pitchers early in the season, with Jhoulys Chacin and Juan Nicasio shelved for most of the year. Chacin is due back this week, but Nicasio won't be back in 2012. In addition, the club added Jeremy Guthrie to give them some experience, and that move backfired in a bad way. Guthrie was awful with Colorado before being shipped off to Kansas City in exchange for Jonathan Sanchez, who was also bad in his couple of starts with the Rockies before landing on the DL himself.
In addition to that, young pitchers like Alex White and Drew Pomeranz have not taken the steps forward that the Rockies anticipated. Pomeranz has shown flashes of brilliance, while White has proven to be effective in some outings. But, as a whole, their development has not happened as quickly as people would have liked.
AA: Which players have stepped up or broken out this season and shown that they can be legitimate pieces for the future?
PR: Strangely enough, despite the fact that the Rockies have been really poor this season, there have been several players who have shown that they belong at the level, and will be part of the team's future plans. Dexter Fowler heads this list, as even though he's in his fourth big league season, he's never really met expectations until now. Fowler is hitting .302/.387/.499 with 37 extra-base hits, and is looking every bit like the player the Rockies envisioned he would be. Granted, he could certainly improve his home/road splits.
Rookie catcher Wilin Rosario is another player that belongs in this category. In just 282 plate appearances, he has hit 19 homers and is slugging .529. What's almost as promising is that he has a higher OPS on the road (.861) than he does at Coors Field (.809). However, even though he has improved a bit lately, he still has a long way to go in the plate discipline department, drawing just 19 walks so far. In addition, he is, to put it nicely, a work-in-progress defensively; although he has a cannon for an arm behind the plate, he's had a lot of trouble with blocking pitches.
Josh Rutledge (.954 OPS in 129 PA's), Eric Young Jr. (.825 OPS in 196 PA's), Tyler Colvin (.865 OPS, 13 HR), and Jordan Pacheco (.312 BA) all fit this mold as well, although the latter is driven by a high BABIP.
So, in short, the Rockies have a lot to be excited about offensively, but the pitching just hasn't come around.
AA: A few months back, the Rockies switched to a four man pitching rotation that limited each starter to 75 pitches per outing. What do you think of this plan and do you think that this could work in the future, when everybody's healthy?
PR: I'm not a huge fan of it, and I think it will actually go away once everybody is healthy (although it's probably here to stay for the remainder of 2012). I don't think there is a massive difference between recovering from 75 pitches and recovering from, say, 100. With all of that being said, I think the Rockies' main reasons for switching to it are valid, such as the fact that it is partially designed to encourage pitchers to attack the zone and be aggressive with hitters. But, we've seen too many occasions where guys have pitched pretty well through four innings, only to hit their pitch limit and be pulled out of the game without getting the chance to earn the victory. And, say what you want about the real importance of pitcher wins, but they certainly are held with high esteem at arbitration hearings. As such, it would be interesting to find out what the MLBPA thinks about the Rockies' strategy.
AA: Dan O'Dowd is still the GM but he had some of his duties reassigned earlier this month. What do you think is going on with the front office and how do you think this affects the team's future plans? Also, do you think this tough season costs manager Jim Tracy his job?
PR: Regarding O'Dowd and the Rockies' front office, my guess is as good as yours. What has really hurt the team over the last two seasons, aside from numerous injuries to their best player (Troy Tulowitzki, whom we haven't talked about, surprisingly), is the fact that they drafted extremely poorly for about a four-year stretch from 2005-2008. Does that fall on O'Dowd? Probably. That would be my biggest argument for why he should be relieved of his duties. On the flip side, he has built a couple of contenders, and has a real knack for making very good trades (the Guthrie for Hammel and Seth Smith for Josh Outman/Guillermo Moscoso deals aside). Also, I've heard very good things about Bill Geivett, who is running the MLB side of things at the moment. So, we'll see. One thing the club needs to do right now, though, is hire a team president. The owners of the team are the only people that rank above O'Dowd in the organization, and they're not savvy enough about baseball to always make the right decisions when it comes to their front office. Keli McGregor was the team's most recent president, but he passed away unexpectedly in early-2010, and the void he left has partially led to the team's free fall over the past few years. The owners really need to focus on bringing a pure baseball guy in there to oversee how the club operates.
As for Tracy, my feeling is that he will be gone after this season. I will say this, though - I'm not a fan of the guy as an in-game manager, but I have to give him some credit for being a good sport about this four-man rotation thing (which was not his idea).
AA: Which Rockies players have been playing well over the last few weeks and which players have been struggling?
PR: The Rockies have had a good couple of weeks, from a decent west coast road swing in which they finished 3-3, to their recently-completed 5-2 homestand. The aforementioned Eric Young Jr. has been a big spark, hitting .408/.453/.653 with three homers over a two-week span. Several other guys have performed well recently in that timeframe as well, including Jordan Pacheco (.333/.372/.436), Dexter Fowler (.410/.465/.487), and Wilin Rosario (.345/.444/.586).
Carlos Gonzalez is the notable player who has not performed well of late, as he has posted an OPS of just .618 over the past few weeks. He only had one hit on the road trip that I mentioned above, before picking things up a bit on the homestand. He's also in the midst of a pretty significant home run drought; he hasn't homered since July 23rd, and has only hit three long balls since the middle of June.
The Rockies bullpen needs some credit here, as well. The team is 9-9 in August even though the starting pitchers got through five innings in just three of those wins. Led by Matt Belisle (3.19 ERA, 4.82 K/BB ratio) and Rafael Betancourt (2.64 ERA, 23 saves, 4.00 K/BB ratio), the bullpen is second in the NL with a 4.2 fWAR.
Thanks again to Bryan Kilpatrick for helping us to preview this series! Here are the upcoming pitching matchups: