I don't know if you've heard, but a team from Denver has made quite a run to insert itself into the NL West race. After falling a season-low 15½ games behind the Dodgers on June 3, the Rockies have simply been the best team in baseball. They are 51-22 during that time, and have cut that division lead to three games, heading into a three-game series against the Dodgers beginning today.
How have the Rockies done it? Here are a few big reasons:
1) Troy Tulowitzki, MVP
After play on June 3, the Rockies' 24-year old shortstop was struggling, hitting .218/.309/.382, with just five home runs and 16 RBI. Since then, however, he is hitting .311/.395/.625, with 18 dingers and 51 runs batted in. The best shortstop in the division has emerged into the player the rest of us in the NL West feared he would be.
2) Ubaldo Is The Man
Actually, Ubaldo Jimenez improved long before Jim Tracy arrived. The Dodgers hammered him in back to back starts in April. Since then, however, Jimenez has pitched like an ace, going 11-6 with a 2.84 ERA over 22 starts. Since May 1, Jimenez has thrown 155.1 innings, averaging just over seven innings per start. Only Cliff Lee (160.0) has more innings pitched during that time.
3) Better Starting Pitching
Jimenez hasn't been the only Rockies' starter to improve over the course of the season. On the whole, the starters since June 3 have improved by leaps and bounds:
|Dates||Starts||QS||6+ Inn||7+ Inn||IP||H||ER||BB/9||K/9||ERA||WHIP|
|April 6 - June 3||52||27 (52%)||32 (62%)||17 (33%)||299.1 (5.76 per)||321||154||3.58||6.25||4.63||1.470|
|June 4 - present||73||48 (66%)||55 (75%)||31 (42%)||461.0 (6.32 per)||451||190||2.73||6.66||3.71||1.282|
Jason Marquis has also improved from a 3.93 ERA through June 3, to a 3.16 ERA afterward.
4) Don't Forget The Bullpen
Prior to June 3, the Rockies' relievers had an ERA of an even 5.00, and a WHIP of 1.527. Since then, the bullpen has improved to a 4.19 ERA and 1.262 WHIP. Rafael Betancourt, acquired from Cleveland on July 23, has been their (better) version of George Sherrill, with no runs allowed in 11.2 innings, allowing nine base runners while striking out 14.
5) Young Outfield Improvement
One of the first roster moves made after Clint Hurdle was fired was to recall Carlos Gonzalez from Triple A Colorado Springs. All he has done with the big club is hit .287/.356/.539, with a .383 wOBA. In addition, Dexter Fowler has improved from .255/.342/.388 under Hurdle to .282/.394/.446 under Jim Tracy.
The Rockies are a fun team for a fan base to root for, as they are largely homegrown. The ten players with the most plate appearances on the club were all drafted by the club, and 13 players on the current 25-man roster were drafted or signed internationally by Colorado.
The Dodgers have won 10 of 12 games so far this season against the Rockies, losing only the two games started by Jason Marquis:
April 17 - @Dodgers 4, Rockies 3
April 18 - @Dodgers 9, Rockies 5
April 19 - @Dodgers 14, Rockies 2
April 24 - Dodgers 6, @Rockies 5
April 25 - Dodgers 6, @Rockies 5
April 26 - @Rockies 10, Dodgers 4
May 25 - Dodgers 16, @Rockies 6
May 26 - Dodgers 7, @Rockies 1
May 27 - Dodgers 8, @Rockies 6
June 29 - @Dodgers 4, Rockies 2
June 30 - Rockies 3, @Dodgers 0
July 1 - @Dodgers 1, Rockies 0
Luckily for the Dodgers, they won't have to face Jimenez or their nemesis, Marquis this series.
Tuesday: Clayton Kershaw (8-7, 3.19 FIP) vs. Jason Hammel (8-7, 3.67 FIP), 5:40pm, KCAL
Wednesday: Randy Wolf (8-6, 3.97 FIP) vs. Josh Fogg (0-1, 4.33 FIP), 5:40pm, Prime Ticket
Thursday: Vicente Padilla (8-6, 4.93 FIP) vs. Jorge de la Rosa (12-8, 4.07 FIP), 12:10pm, Prime Ticket
This should be a fun series. Let's get it on!