The 2012 Colorado Rockies don't appear to be going anywhere. They're eight games under .500 and 10.5 games behind the pace in the NL West. Their franchise shortstop just landed on the disabled list. Manager Jim Tracy might be one of the most overmatched skippers in the game. There's such a desperate nature to the starting rotation, Jamie Moyer was given a two-month tryout.
But at least we can still enjoy the fruits of Coors Field. When you put the Rockies into their home stadium, magic routinely happens.
The Rockies completed a four-game sweep over the Astros with an 11-5 laugher on Thursday. Colorado outscored Houston by a 40-23 count for the week. The Rockies are far and away the top scoring team at home this year (177 runs, 32 clear of Boston), and they also lead the majors in home slugging and home OPS. They're third in batting average, third in OBP.
Colorado also has a losing record at home, 13-14, which tells you something about their pitching (worst ERA in the NL). But here's the bottom line: humidor or not, Coors Field is still a beast to be reckoned with, a place where batting averages get inflated and ERAs go to perish.
I received a few start/sit questions about Bud Norris in advance of his Thursday start, which surprised me. There's no way I'm exposing any non-star pitcher to this park, and I might skim the elite arms off the schedule, too. Norris didn't have a chance Thursday, allowing seven hits and nine runs in 1.2 messy innings of work. His ERA jumped from 3.34 to 4.52 in about 60 minutes of real time.
With that in mind, I would absolutely bench Chris Capuano for his Friday turn in the thin air. I realize his six career appearances here have been surprisingly good (2.94 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) and obviously he's been money in 2012, but I'm not trying to be a hero in Coors Field. Disaster starts are too common, and the Rockies are swinging the bats especially well right now. If you play in a league with uncapped innings or starts and you want to dial up Capuano, that's one thing; if you're on a short leash with your starting assignments, this is not the logical time to use him. Aaron Harang and Nathan Eovaldi are obvious bench guys for the next two days.
It's not just the long ball that punishes a pitcher in Denver; the expansive outfield also levies a tax. Doubles and triples are very common in the gaps, and cheap singles come by the bushel as the outfielders are forced to play deep. Over the last three years, Coors Field has improved run scoring by 32 percent, batting average by 14 percent and home runs by 25 percent. And strikeouts take a 13-percent dip in this atmosphere.
Tracy's men weren't just doing it with the bats Thursday; Colorado also stole four bases. Jordan Pacheco copped an early bag while Norris was still in the game, and Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario turned the trick against the Houston bullpen, even with the score already out of hand (Fowler's swipe came in the seventh inning). I salute this kind of baseball, especially in a park where no lead ever seems safe. Keep playing aggressive, and if the other club doesn't like it, too bad. Play better.
I'm going to have some fun with Pacheco (three-percent owned) and Rosario (eight percent) while the Rockies remain at home; nine of the next 12 games are at Coors (and they're missing Clayton Kershaw this weekend). Pacheco is a 26-year-old corner without any pedigree, but he's carrying a .304 average and respectable run-production stats. For all the buzz about Nolan Arenado, he hasn't done much at Double-A thus far (.298/.338/.434, four homers) and he just turned 21. There's no imminent callup with him.
Power is Rosario's game (seven homers in 92 at-bats), and he's also been a steady run producer (18 RBIs, 14 runs). Although we start just one catcher in the Yahoo! Friends and Family League, I'm not opposed to using a second catcher in a utility spot as an occasional offensive streamer. I'll probably carry Rosario as a bench player and spot starter through the rest of Colorado's home stretch.
Most of the other Colorado lineup options play themselves. Obviously Gonzalez is on a ballistic run at the moment (six homers in five days), and Michael Cuddyer should have a blast as the new cleanup man. Fowler has been Mickey Mantle at home this year (and Mickey Rooney on the road); you know what to do with him. Marco Scutaro, the No. 2 hitter, gets a push from the park and qualifies at both middle spots. Todd Helton (14 percent) has been a mess against lefties, but he's a .270/.373/.460 man against righties (beware the occasional sitdown, however; Tracy likes to give him a weekly rest). These aren't the Blake Street Bombers from the 1990s, but they're welcome on your fake roster.
The Dodgers should have fun in the thin air this weekend, too — Colorado has a very spotty rotation — but it's harder to find streamable bats. A.J. Ellis (44 percent) is still underowned, and he's no longer burdened by a poor batting slot. He'll probably sit Friday, as he normally does when Capuano pitches. Bobby Abreu (five percent) is hitting .318 since he joined the Dodgers, albeit without any power. I can't imagine the Dodgers recalled Alex Castellanos with the idea of not playing him, though he didn't start Thursday against Milwaukee. Perhaps he'll make a splash in Denver.
• Just how popular are low-sodium diets these days? I can't quite figure out why more gamers aren't welcoming Jarrod Saltalamacchia into their fake lives. Salty has five homers in his last ten games (including a walk-off shot last weekend against otherwise-flawless Fernando Rodney), and for the year he's the No. 6 backstop in the Yahoo! game. Here's another case where you might want to carry two catchers and use one as a utility man, or platoon your two catchers as you hunt down the best matchups.
Salty's batting average gets a 38-point float at Fenway Park, but this hasn't been a home-field mirage: his slugging and OPS are higher on the road (.611 and .921, respectively). For all of the mishaps in Boston this year, the Red Sox still have an elite lineup (third in runs scored). You'll want to avoid Saltalamacchia against left-handed pitching, but he's been mashing against righties. Boston is up against three northpaws (Alvarez, Drabek, Hutchinson) in the YYZ this weekend.
• Many of you will be hitting the free-agent wire with Tulowitzki out of action, so let's audit some middle infielders. Some of these names might sound a little ugly, but we take what we can get.
Kyle Seager (59 percent) qualifies at three infield spots and has been a line-drive machine of late; Gordon Beckham (10 percent) quietly has five homers this month and has hit safely in 11-of-12 starts; Marco Scutaro (15 percent) bats second in Colorado and qualifies at both middle spots; Darwin Barney (seven percent) is a ham-and-egger, but he's put up two steals and two homers over the last two weeks, including a walk-off shot against the Padres; Danny Espinosa (31 percent) will hurt your average, but he brings category juice to the equation; Everth Cabrera (three percent) has finally started to hit a little bit and already has four steals (three in his last three games); if nothing else, you know the Phillies have to play Freddy Galvis (seven percent) every night.