The Rockies are a game below .500, and they haven’t exactly been the model of consistency this year, but there sure are reasons to be optimistic. The biggest reason for that is something that hasn’t been a strength for them for a long time – their pitching. They obviously have Ubaldo Jimenez – the second best pitcher in a ridiculous strong cast of National League pitchers so far this year. His ERA is a ridiculous 0.93, and he has been absolutely ferocious. He has lost just once, and that was in a seven inning, one run game in which his team totally let him down offensively. I expected him t be very good this year, and he has exceeded all expectations.
Speaking of exceeded expectations, there’s nothing bad you can say about Jhoulys Chacin, either. I was skeptical when he made his first start this year – he’s 22 and only had one career start and nine appearances last year. He couldn’t have been any better this year, though. In two starts and 15 and a third innings he has yet to allow a run. His 16 strikeouts and 5 walks is a very nice ratio, and his WHIP is a very nice 0.78. The kid will fall back to earth at some point, but he obviously has some talent, and he’s earned a spot in the lineup until he proves he doesn’t belong there.
A spot in the rotation is a very important thing for this team because what I like almost as much as the guys who have been so good so far is what they have waiting. There are a ridiculous number of injured pitchers. That’s annoying now, but they are healing and getting ready to return, and they are going to provide a number of boosts for the lineup along the way. Jorge De La Rosa has been pretty solid this year, and he’s not likely to be out long with a finger injury. Jason Hammel is about to make a rehab start on his way back from a groin problem. He wasn’t great before the injury this year, but he was a very functional 10-8 last year, and could come back strong. Those two are pretty nice, but on top of that they also have Jeff Francis – a very nice lefty – getting closer to returning from a shoulder injury. He hasn’t pitched in eons, but he won 17 last time he was healthy, the surgery went very well, and he was solid in his first rehab start last week, with a second one due in double-A tomorrow. He’s not far off.
Put that all together and you have a lot of pieces that can make up a very solid rotation. If it all falls into place then this will be a team to watch. The best thing they have going for them is, despite their early struggles, they aren’t out of touch in the division. San Diego is only four games up on them, and I expect the Padres to remember that they are the Padres at some point. They are also just 3.5 games out of the wild card. That’s nothing in early May.