The Colorado Rockies' 2010 season was a disappointment by many standards. The team was often hailed as the leading contender to win the NL West. And then the burden of expectations caught up with the Rockies. After a slow start to the season the Rockies were within one game of the division lead just before the All-Star Break. As late as Sept. 18 the Rockies were one game behind in the division.
And yet the Rockies faltered over the last two weeks of the season and played out the season as if they were lost on the field. But there is a time and a place to examine why that happened and what the Rockies should do to help this team reach the postseason in 2010.
For now, let's look at the top five performances from this past season.
5. Sept. 25, 2010 - vs. San Francisco, W 10-9 (10)
While one may ask why the last game the Rockies won this season makes this list, it's not because it was the last Rockies' win. It's what Troy Tulowitzki did. But first, remember that this game featured poor Rockies pitching. After six innings, Jason Hammel and Esmil Rogers combined to allow nine runs (and Rogers didn't even record an out while giving up five runs). A solid effort by five relievers kept the Rockies in this game, too.
But Troy Tulowitzki was the real star of the this game. To say Troy Tulowitzki went 4-for-5 with five RBI would be an understatement. BaseballReference.com and Fangraphs.com each calculate WPA, or Win Probability Added, which tells us how important a particular event is during the course of the game. Basically, a three-run homer in the eighth inning of a blowout game will have a negligible impact on the game, but a two-run single in a one-run game will greatly add to a team's chances of winning.
Baseball Reference (click the link above) places Tulowitzki's WPA at 0.978 and FanGraphs puts it at 0.948 (they calculate WPA differently). Most of that came from a two-run home run that put the Rockies up 5-4, a a two-run double that tied the game at nine and a game-winning RBI double in the 10th inning.
A lone bright spot during a dismal end to the season.
4. Sept. 15, 2010 - vs. Padres, W 9-6
I assure you this is not a Troy Tulowitzki top games piece, but Troy Tulowitzki is the subject of this game as well. The Rockies scored early and often on Clayton Richard, giving him eight runs allowed in three-plus innings. Tulowitzki started in the first with an RBI single, followed in the third inning with a three-run homer and finished in the fourth inning with another three-run homer. In all, the shortstop went 3-for-5 with seven RBI and two runs scored. Carlos Gonzalez drove in the other two runs.
3. July 6, 2010 - vs. Cardinals, W 12-9
This is the one team performance that makes the list since the Rockies scored nine runs in the bottom of the ninth to overcome the Cardinals' 9-3 lead. Jeff Francis and Jhoulys Chacin took the hook for the Cards' nine runs, but the Rockies would have none of that. Here's how Bryan Kilpatrick relates the events of the ninth:
The guys who hit the big flies in the final frame aren't the only ones who deserve credit for what transpired in the inning. Miguel Olivo led off the inning with a single. Then, after Seth Smith lined out hard to Albert Pujols, Melvin Mora hit in the pitcher's spot and singled Olivo to third. Iannetta's homer followed, and Dexter Fowler immediately doubled to keep the rally rolling. Brad Hawpe then hit for Jonathan Herrera, and nearly hit an infield single but was thrown out at first on a close play. It was left up to Carlos Gonzalez, who laced a single into right field that scored Fowler. Jason Giambi came up next, and hit a single that went far enough into the right-centerfield gap to score Gonzalez all the way from first, which tied the game. Aaron Cook pinch-ran for Giambi, and Miguel Olivo hit his second single of the inning, which brought Cook to third. Then, Mr. Late Night [Seth Smith] himself put the finishing touches on the most epic of Rockies' comebacks.
It was a game reminiscent of July 4, 2008. Now that was another epic comeback.
2. July 31, 2010 - vs. Chicago Cubs, W 6-5
A single to right field in the first inning. A triple to center field in the third. A double to left field in the fifth. Dang, only a sac fly in the seventh. A walkoff home run on the first pitch in the ninth inning. That was Carlos Gonzalez's night to close out July: a cycle completed on a walkoff home run. Gonzalez hit the sixth cycle in Rockies history, joining Dante Bichette, Neifi Perez, Todd Helton, Mike Lansing and Troy Tulowitzki.
After the game, Troy Renck tweeted:
It was the 29th HR to go into the third deck, estimated distance 462 feet. That's some kind of exclamation point cha-ching
While he ultimately lost out on a chance for the Triple Crown, Carlos Gonzalez did win the NL batting title with with a .336 batting average. Thirty-four home runs and 117 RBI aren't shabby either. We should expect Carlos Gonzalez to receive strong support in NL MVP voting, as well as fellow Rockie Troy Tulowitzki.
1. April 17, 2010 - at Atlanta Braves, W 4-0
Zero hits, zero runs, six walks, seven strikeouts was all Ubaldo Jimenez needed to pitch the first no-hitter in Rockies' history. Wow, right? Both to the no-hitter and to the amazing catch Dexter Fowler made to preserve the no-no. This put Ubaldo Jimenez on the national scene, because Rockies pitchers have failed to receive national recognition over the years (except Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle). Here was a young pitcher who was blessed with a fiery fastball and inconsistent control of the strike zone throwing a no-hitter against a good Atlanta Braves lineup.
Ubaldo Fever took over and reached its crescendo around the All-Star Break when he was 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA. Could he reach 30 wins? How low could he keep his ERA, especially since he pitches at Coors Field? As it turned out, the real question turned out to be: Will he reach 20 wins? Even though he won four games in the second half to finish the season with 19 wins, Jimenez should finish in the top three of NL Cy Young voting. He may receive a few first place votes, but a second- or third-place finish is expected.
Did I leave out better ones? Should the Aug. 25 comeback against the Braves made it?