Colorado Rockies 2011 review: Five keys to the season, and how they led to suckage
Examining the Rockies' season is a lot like an autopsy. Something has gone horribly wrong and now it's time to figure out why. At the beginning of the season the Rockies had very legitimate aspirations of winning their first National League West division title, if not more. The Rockies finished at 73-89, fourth in the division. This is hardly the result the organization hoped for when it shelled out $250 million in contracts before the season.
Let's examine the body.
Before the season, we outlined the top five storylines that would determine how the 2011 campaign unfolded. So let's go back and see how those stories turned out.
5. Starting pitchers not named Jimenez: In March, I wrote of Jimenez: "He's as close to a sure thing as there is pitching at this elevation." And he was, which goes to show you how unpredictable pitchers are at altitude.
Before games started counting, Jimenez was the one pitcher the Rockies didn't have to worry about. He was coming off the best season a Rockies pitcher has ever had. But he produced more questions than the rest of the staff combined -- namely, "What's wrong with him?" and "Will he be traded?" Due to injuries, he started poorly, and by the time he righted himself, the team was all but ready to write off the season.
Since Jimenez was easily the best starting pitcher available on the trade market, and because the Cleveland Indians grossly overrated how close they were to contending, the Rockies were able to nab Cleveland's top two pitching prospects, along with two other minor league players, in exchange for Jimenez.
When the anchor of the staff came lose, it set the entire staff adrift.
As for those other pitchers, their performance probably doomed the season more than any other aspect of the team. Jorge De La Rosa made it until late May before suffering an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery. Recovery from the operation typically takes about a year.
Jhoulys Chacin was a beast through the first three months. He held a sub-3 ERA as late as June 21 and finished at 3.62. But he showed signs of inconsistency, especially with fastball location, through the second half of the year.
Aaron Cook was injured and then awful. Jason Hammel was mainly just awful. He didn't win a game in May and had a 7-plus ERA in both July and August. Rookie Juan Nicasio showed potential, especially at Coors Field, where he posted a 1.98 ERA in seven starts, but was hit by a line drive so brutal it fractured his neck. His future is uncertain.
The Rockies' starting pitching got so bad they brought in Kevin Millwood, who hadn't pitched in the majors this season and led the league in losses last year.
Rockies' pitchers named Jimenez or not finished in the bottom half of the National League in almost every statistical category, including second to last in ERA and dead last in quality starts.