To preview the Washington Nationals vs. Colorado Rockies series, we sat down with Jeff from one of the best Rockies blogs on the net, Purple Row, to talk baseball, the Hall of Fame, and commercials.
The Nats Blog: How does it feel to have a worse record than the Nationals right now?
Purple Row: Considering the horrible circumstances the Rockies have been faced with so far this year (death of team president, injuries to 3/5 of the starting rotation, the closer, and several key position players, etc.), I'm quite pleased with the performance of the Rockies thus far (16-17). I mean, their run differential is +29, giving them a Pythagorean record of 20-13. In other words, the Rockies are playing very well.
The fact that their record happens to be worse than the Nationals is inconsequential to me. There are two reasons for this reasoning: One, the Nationals' pitching performance (especially in the bullpen with Clippard and Capps) has been ridiculously unsustainable -- and their -16 run differential is reflected in their 15-19 Pythagorean record. Two, in the NL West, while the division-leading Padres have a great record (and actually deserve it), they are not a long-term threat to the Rockies, who are still positioned well for a run at the NL West Crown and another playoff berth.
The Nats Blog: Jhoulys Chachin has been nasty in his first two starts. Tell us a little bit about the kid and what you expect from him down the road?
Purple Row: Chacin is a beast. Word from scouts has him at a 2/3 starter ceiling, but his great command of 3-4 pitches (especially his changeup), low 90's fastball, and extreme groundball tendencies have Rockies fans looking for big things from Jhoulys Chacin (pronounced yo-lease sha-sheen). Add in a decent strikeout to walk rate to this package and I expect Chacin to be a mid-rotation starter this year with potential to be the 2 to Ubaldo Jimenez going forward. For more info, check out his Fangraphs page.
The Nats Blog: Is Todd Helton a Hall of Famer?
Purple Row: There are a number of schools of thought on this subject. Here's an article on one of them. My opinion on the matter is that Helton, who is probably a fringe candidate given his stats and previous HOF voting patterns, will get in because he has been identified as Mr. Rockie and the Hall will want a Rockie represented. In my opinion Larry Walker might be a better choice for this slot, but Helton is more "famous" and he played in the post-Humidor era, after which Coors has merely become a good hitter's park and not a huge outlier. The Coors Canaveral argument has created a bias against Rockies hitters that is probably more than a little unfair, but in the case of Helton I believe that he'll make it in eventually, especially if the Rockies win a ring in the next three years.
The Nats Blog: What do the Rockies need to do better to win this series?
Purple Row: To win this series, the Rockies have to keep up what they've been doing for the first six innings of games, but then in the last three they need to improve their performance considerably. They've been the worst team in the league offensively from innings 7-9, which has contributed to their poor record in close games. They've also performed poorly in high-leverage (otherwise known as "clutch") situations this year (rating 28th in the league according to Fangraphs), which has also contributed to some of the close losses. In terms of pitching, the Rockies will be helped by having both Jimenez and Chacin pitching, as well as the projected return of Jason Hammel (3.9 WAR last year) and Jeff Francis. These favorable pitching matchups (I see a Colorado advantage in all four so long as Greg Smith isn't pitching one of them) should lead to a 4-0 or 3-1 series win.
The Nats Blog: Approaching June, what moves would you like to see Colorado make to improve?
Purple Row: In terms of moves that need to be made with this team, I quite frankly don't see any right now that need to be made. Despite the turmoil this year, the pitching staff ranks 4th in MLB in WAR (with 5.3). If Jorge De La Rosa returns healthy and Chacin continues to pitch well, I don't see any need in terms of starting pitching. In addition, the bullpen is loaded right now and will add closer Huston Street and set-up man Taylor Buchholz in the next month, so there isn't a need there.
In terms of offense, the Rockies' depth is such that several injuries haven't harmed the team's performance so far. A move that gets catcher Chris Iannetta and outfielder Seth Smith more playing time would be welcome, as would manager Jim Tracy more consistently getting his best players in the lineup, but I'm seriously happy with our roster as is.
The Nats Blog: All time favorite Rockies commercial?
Purple Row: My favorite Rockies commercial would probably have to be one of the Humidor commercial from 2007, the player endorsements commercial from 2009, or the 2008 Toddfather commercial. There really have been a lot of good ones.