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Rockie(s) Road 06/19/2009

Posted by sportretort in mlb, Sports, Uncategorized.
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The Colorado Rockies are currently the hottest team in baseball having won 13 of their last 14 games.  The Rocks were 10 games under the .500 mark when Clint Hurdle was dismissed as their manager.  Jim Tracy was named as the

Jason Marquis was a key off season addition to the Rockies pitching staff

Jason Marquis was a key off season addition to the Rockies pitching staff

interim manager, and the Rockies are 15-5 since he took the reins.  Their 4-3 victory over Tampa Bay yesterday evened their over all mark at 33-33.  It marks the first time Colorado has been at .500 since April 15.  The 11 game winning streak the Rockies compiled tied the team record first set during the magical end of the season run in 2007, where the team won 21 of 22 games, including a wild card playoff game win and sweeps of the NLDS and NLCS to land in the World Series.  With 94 games left in the season, it is hard to get that excited, but this club has shown what it is capable of.

The key to the current streak, as in most baseball streaks, has been pitching.  The starters have amassed a 12-1 record during this stretch, and that means that not only are the starters pitching well, but the bullpen, when called upon, is also doing their job.  Two key off season acquisitions have led the way in the pitching department.  Jason Marquis was acquired from the Cubs, and he has been a rock solid starter with an 8-4 record to lead the club in wins so far.  Closer Houston Street, acquired in the Matt Holliday trade with Oakland is 15 out of 16 in save opportunities.  In addition, Aaron Cook is 6-3 and Ubaldo Jimenez is 6-6, but has pitched well as of late, giving the Rocks 3 solid starters.  As long as the pitching continues, the Rockies will become a force in the NL playoff picture.  Who would have thought that 4 weeks ago?

While the Rockies are no threat to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers (probably the best team in the National League),

The Rockies are 15-5 with Jim Tracey as manager

The Rockies are 15-5 with Jim Tracy as manager

they have gotten back into the Wild Card picture.  The recent 4 game sweep at St Louis and 3 game sweep at Milwaukee (both teams above .500)  prove that they can play with the other teams in the NL.  It all depends on the pitching, because the Rockies have a very good offense.  They rank in the top 5  teams in the NL in slugging percentage,  on base percentage, doubbles, runs scored and home runs.  Lead by a resurgent Todd Helton, healthy for the first time in 3 years, Troy Tulowitzki, Brad Hawpe and Clint Barmes, the Rockies have a solid line up.  Dexter Fowler’s speed has paid dividends both offensively (11 stolen bases and a .400 slugging percentage) and defensively, helping to patrol the expansive outfield in Coors Field.  Ian Stewart leads the powerful line up in home runs with 12, and Hawpe (.355 avg,  9 hr,47 rbi) is giving Helton (.307 avg, , 8 hr,  46 rbi) a run for his money as the best all around hitter on the team.

When June began, the question was who were the Rockies going to trade to dump salary before the trade deadline.  A managerial change and a good, solid few weeks later, It looks like the Colorado may be looking to add a the deadline, not subtract.  Keep an eye on Colorado;  We may revisit Roctober after all.

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Inside the Numbers 06/15/2009

Posted by sportretort in mlb, Sports, Uncategorized.
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The Chicago Cubs have won the National League Central Division each of the last 2 seasons.  Coming into the 2009 season, the Cubs were again favored to be division champs.  But 60 games into the season, the Cubs find themselves a .500 ball club at 30-30, currently third in the division 2.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.  Not the start they were hoping for, but it is hardly time to panic.  Or is it?

In an an attempt to shake up the offense, the Cubs relieved hitting coach Gerald Perry of his duties and promoted their

The Cubs pennant should rise to the top of the standings flags flying over the Wrigley scoreboard by the end of the season

The Cubs pennant should rise to the top of the standings flags flying over the Wrigley scoreboard by the end of the season

AAA affiliate Iowa Cubs hitting instructor, Von Joshua, to the big club.  The Cubs are currently 13th in the 16 team National League in hitting with a .246 average.  They are 10th in slugging percentage.  To be fair, the Cubs have had their share of injuries and games missed by key players. Third baseman  Aramas Ramirez has started only 17 games so far due to a dislocated left shoulder.  Milton Bradley acquired during the off season to be the big left handed bat in the lineup has started only 38 games because of various nagging tweaks and strains, and a 2 game league suspension.  In addition, First Baseman Derrek Lee got off to a slow start, but appears to be rounding into the type of hitter he has proven to be in the past.  With these players getting healthy, the power numbers should increase.  There are indications of another problem which may be more damaging and harder to overcome.

Doubles and stolen bases are an indication of overall team speed.  (Triples are usually more a function of the ball park than sheer speed.)  And the Cubs have a problem in this area.  The Cubs currently rank 13th in the  NL in both of

The Cubs fate may depend on upgrading their bullpen

The Cubs fate may depend on upgrading their bullpen

 these categories.  More importantly, the Cubs have stolen 25 bases, but have been caught stealing 15 times.  This seams to indicate a lack of overall team speed on the ball club.  Another indication of this lack of quickness may show up defensively.  The Cubs currently rank 14th in double plays turned, indicating a lack of range.  These issues may be difficult to overcome.  Pitching would seam to be a bright spot.  Through 60 games, the starting pitchers average 6.1 innings a game, third in the league.  The Cubs are also third in team ERA at 3.82.  All this with limited contribution by team ace Carlos Zambrano who is 4-2 , having spent time on the 15 day disabled list and having served a 6 game suspension for an on field temper tantrum.  He should make this starting staff even better going forward.  The problem, however, is once teams get into the bullpen.  The Cubs have recorded only 14 saves, while blowing 9 save opportunities.  That is a 40% failure rate.  In addition, the Cubs allow just over 12 base runners per nine innings pitched.  That ranks 15th in the league.

The good news for Chicago is that they are in a competitive division.  The teams have remained bunched all year, and no one is likely to break out and run away with the division.  This means that the Cubs will rise as they get  healthy.  If they want a long run into the playoffs, however, they need to address the shortcomings in the bullpen.  Watch for them to pick up a pitcher or two before the trade deadline.