2012 MLB Season Preview: Colorado Rockies

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The once streaky, hot, exciting, and promising Rockies came crashing back to earth last season.  As we continue the season preview series, we’ll look at what went wrong last year, and what we can expect of the Rockies going forward.

2011 Colorado Rockies Season Recap

The Rockies finished 2011 with a 73-89 record, a far cry from the success they had in 2007, 2009, and 2010.  These Rockies last season lacked an identity.  Their superstar ace of a pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez faltered and was traded, their surprise manager of 2010, Jim Tracy, could figure things out, and they simply didn’t have the offense to overcome their pitching woes.

This, of course isn’t to say they lacked offense.  Quite the contrary actually.  The Rockies were third in the National League in runs scored, fifth in home runs, and fourth in team batting average.  They had an offensive park factor of 116 according to Baseball-Reference.  Save for the offense, the Rockies may have lost 100 games due to their pitching.

The Rockies had the second worst ERA in the National League last season at 4.43.  They gave up the fourth most hits, blew the seventh most saves, and allowed the third most home runs in the National League.  THe gains they had been making over the previous few seasons in the Mile High City seemed to fade away last season.  The doctored (humidor) balls were not helping their pitching staff from being lit up.

In 2010, Ubaldo Jimenez was 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA.  He was a Cy Young favorite for much of the year.  Then last season with the Rockies, Jimenez saw his ERA balloon to 4.46 in 21 games with Colorado.  While the Rockies had a team-friendly deal in place for Jimenez, they chose to trade him away after he had struggled for more than half the season.  Jason Hammel didn’t fare much better.  He started 27 games and posted a 4.76 ERA.  Hammel was never known as a low ERA guys in Colorado, but his peripheral numbers have been on the declined.  Coupled with the high ERA, Hammel was of little help to the Rockies.  He struck out fewer batters last season (5 per 9 innings compared to 7.1 in 2010), and he walked more (3.6 per 9 innings compared to 2.4 in 2010.  But Jimenez and Hammel weren’t the only problems on the Rockies staff.  Of their pitchers who started at least 10 games, they had just two with an ERA under 4.00.

There were some areas in which fans can take solace.  Todd Helton continued his normal success at the plate with a .302/.385/.466 line.  Carlos Gonzalez is becoming one of the best young outfielders in the league, and he can hit too.  Gonzalez posted a .295/.363/.526 line.  And then there’s the ever-present Troy Tulowitzki.  With Helton in the final years of his career, Dante Bichette and Andres Galarraga long gone, Tulowitzki has become the face of the Colorado Rockies.  He hit .302/.372/.544.  As mentioned previously, the offense was not a problem.