Winnable division is doable for Rockies

BY LESLIE MONTEIRO

It does not look good at first glance.

The Rockies finished the pre-All-Star break with a 46-50 record.

Despite being 4 1/2 games out, it would be hard to take any team with a losing record seriously as a playoff team.

That’s what logic tells us anyway.

With that said, the NL West is a mediocre division at best. Not one team stands out. That’s why the Rockies are contenders in spite of themselves.

It’s on the Rockies to take advantage of the opportunity to win in a division that is weak. They don’t get opportunities like that often. It’s hard to think this is going to be the case every year. The Giants, Dodgers and Diamondbacks are not going to be mediocre year in and year out.

Shame on the Rockies if they don’t win the division. This season would be a failure if they don’t win it.

The talent is there to win the division.

The Rockies have three good starters that produce quality starts in Jorge De La Rosa, Tyler Chatwood and Jhoulys Chacin. That’s a good foundation to win the division.

They are not in the class of Clayton Kershaw, Matt Harvey and Adam Wainwright, but they are efficient. Efficient can do this season in winning the NL West.

De La Rosa is 9-5 with a 3.21 ERA.  He could have won 12 games if he had run support this season, and if he had 12 wins, he would have been an All-Star.

De La Rosa has been consistent all season when it comes to throwing strikes and putting on a good performance. He makes pitching at Coors Field easy by getting out of jams and getting ahead of the count. He finds a way to get outs when he is in a jam.  He uses all of his pitches to get outs such as fastball, slider and curveball. He knows what he is doing out there.

Chatwood has been a revelation since he was called up in May. He pitched well in eight of his last 10 starts, and that should be enough of a sample size to say he is a legitimate starter.

He averages six innings a start, and his command has been a difference in him being a good starter. He worked on developing his slider to help him throw strikes, and it paid off for him this season in getting guys outs in the majors. He knows how to mix in a slider with a curveball to get hitters out. The 23-year-old starter has finally found the confidence and stuff that turned him into a better pitcher.

After a rough start, Chacin turned his season around by pitching well in his last seven starts. He figured it out after a June 11 start against the Nationals where he threw strikes to get the Nationals out after he gave up a 2-0 lead. Since then, he found a way to throw strikes and not create a big inning. He is working faster, and he knows how to protect leads.

If Juan Nicasio or Drew Pomeranz can get it going, the Rockies are going to be in great shape where they can trot out four good starters every fifth day.

Good starting pitching sets the tone in winning games, and the Rockies have that.

They also have a great bullpen where they can protect leads after the sixth inning. The Rockies expect their starters to go six innings, and after that, they give the ball to Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers and Rafael Betancourt.

Belisle, Brothers and Betancourt have been reliable in protecting leads. They throw strikes, and they throw zeroes when they are on the mound. It’s a good feeling for Rockies manager Walt Weiss to have.

Pitching may have been the Rockies’ bugaboo for a long time, but this is not one of those years. This is actually their strength.

The hitting has been up and down for the Rockies, but the talent is there to win games.

As long as Troy Tulowitzki is healthy, the lineup should be good.  Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez will benefit with the Rockies shortstop being in the lineup as they will see more pitches to hit. That wasn’t the case when the Rockies All-Star was on the disabled list.

Nolan Arenado and Wilin Rosario have to play better than they have showed. They have done okay, but okay should not be good enough for those two that are capable of being great hitters.

The Rockies are in the top 10 in runs scored as they are ranked 10th in runs scored by scoring 426 runs. Still, they can do better. They have to stop making inferior starters look better than they are as they demonstrated against Chris Capuano last week.

The lineup is good enough to perform. The output can be better. The Rockies are banking Tulowitzki’s return will be the difference.

Not only do the Rockies have talent, but their competitors are not good.

The Diamondbacks leave a lot to be desired with their pitching. Their starters have not pitched well, and their bullpen leads the majors with 19 blown saves.

The Giants have struggled to score runs, and their pitching has been inconsistent.

The Dodgers have played well, but their pitching is a question mark outside of Kershaw.

The Padres are not good enough to win the division. Their pitching is a question mark, and their hitting is nothing to write home about.

When comparing the Rockies to other teams in the division, it would be a shame if they fail to make the playoffs.

Follow me or contact me @TalkinRockies on Twitter.

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