This just in: The Rockies don’t suck. In fact, the Rockies have won as many games in 2007 as the Yankees have (though Colorado has lost two more). No longer Todd Helton and a bunch of scrubs, the Rockies are a legitimate .500 team that has some youth and promise that could represent the beginning of a small turn around for a franchise that has never won more than 83 games in any single season in its entire 14-year history. Note I said small. The Rockies are not the Brewers, Diamondbacks, or even the Marlins. Their future isn’t quite that bright, but it’s still about as bright as it’s ever been if not more so.
Start with the pitching staff. Josh Fogg and Rodrigo Lopez are filler, even if Lopez is having an excellent though injury-shortened season, but Jeff Francis, Jason Hirsh, and Aaron Cook (of whom the 28-year-old Cook is the oldest) form a solid top three with third-year lefty Francis showing continued improvement as the defacto ace, Cook serving as the National League’s answer to Jake Westbrook, and 25-year-old Hirsh (the key prospect in the Jason Jennings trade) succeeding despite a scary fly ball rate. With additional thanks to Lopez, the Rocky starters have posted a 4.52 ERA this far, which is a minor miracle for a team playing in Coors Field. Mix in strong showings from closer Brian Fuentes and hard-throwing, side-arming sophomore set-up man Manuel Corpas and surprising performances from lefties Jeremy Affeldt (more walks than Ks, but zero homers) and Tom Martin, and the entire staff’s ERA+ is a dead-average 101, while the team’s road ERA is 3.85, which is the third-best in the NL behind the Mets and Padres.
On offense, the Rocks have a solid outfield and left side of the infield, with the oldest of those five men being 28-year-old right fielder Brad Hawpe. Matt Holliday is a legitimate All-Star (.318/.374/.546 career and .321/.372/.522 on the road this year). Hawpe is a lesser version of same (.281/.371/.483 career on the road). Center fielder Willy Taveras (who also came over in the Jennings deal) is a fantastic defender in that big park and has solid on-base numbers both at home (.373) and on the road (.358), though he could stand to be more selective about his stolen base attempts. In the infield, Garrett Atkins got off to an awful start, but has turned it on in June (.327/.441/.673), and 22-year-old future-star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has been playing gold glove defense while waiting for his bat to come around. Throw in solid contributions on both sides of the ball from reclamation project Kaz Matsui and a healthy Helton and, well, the Rockies don’t suck.
Josh Fogg kinda sucks, though, and he’ll take the mound tonight against the Yankees. One might not be surprised to find that Fogg’s only two wins came on the road and that his ERA at home is 2.77 runs higher than his road mark, though one might be surprised to find out that those two wins game against the Mets and Red Sox. What’s more, the Rockies have won Fogg’s last three starts and Fogg’s ERA over his last four starts (two home, two on the road) has been 3.91. Then again, opponents have hit .326/.375/.495 against him in those four starts, so, even when he does well, Josh Fogg sucks.
As for Mike Mussina, he was fantastic in his last two starts (13 2/3 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 11 K, 1.98 ERA), but I’m still not convinced, as the two teams Moose faced in those games, the White Sox and Diamondbacks, comprise half of the four worst offensive teams in baseball. The Yankees have visited Colorado during the regular season once before, in 2002. In those three games, the two teams scored a total of 70 runs. Coors Field isn’t quite the launching pad it was then thanks to the humidor (the 2002 park factor was 121 compared to 107 for 2006 and 2007), but I don’t think it’s out of the question to expect that kind of game again tonight.