|Fowler, Rockies Struggle in Lackluster Season|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on September 09, 2011
This was supposed to be Dexter Fowler's big season, the season he broke through, the season he became the Rockies leadoff hitter, the tablesetter that this team needed to take its play to the next level and which would allow them to regain their place at the top of the National League West.
After a rough start, namely a miserable first half, Fowler has taken a big step forward and become the leadoff hitter that the Rockies wanted him to be. His OBP sits at a career best .370, he's raised his average by 37 points by hitting .313 in the second half, and he is poised to set career best numbers in every single category except steals.
And if you only counted the second half stats, you might say that Fowler in fact has had a breakout season, albeit a small breakout. He's not a danger of being a 20-20 guy, or driving in 100 runs, or even stealing 30 bases this year. What he is, is a role player and one who should have helped the Rockies stay on the right side of .500 this season, if all had gone according to plan.
Ubaldo Jimenez, the ace who is no longer wearing a Rockies uniform, had a particularly brutal time of it, especially on the heels of last season's almost superhuman performance. But he was hardly the only one who struggled.
With less than four weeks left in the season the Rox are in danger of finishing with only a single starter who crossed the 10 win line. And if it weren't for that starter, Jhoulys Chacin, who leads the team in just about every pitching category, the season could have been a whole lot worse.
Clearly you can't build a pitching staff around a humidor. That's a lesson the front office learned this season. The other was that no matter how well someone has pitched in the past, it's hard pitching in the Majors, not just in Colorado. That's why trading away ace starter Jimenez made good sense, especially in terms of the haul that they received and how poorly Jimenez has fared in the AL thus far.
This offseason, the Rox won't be worrying much about offense, despite the fact that their offense has slid in production every season since 2008. What they'll need to focus on is pitching and the market for pitching is likely to be very thin. There won't be an ace out there to be acquired as a free agent, and the club already has too much money tied up in its hitters to be big spenders for upper echelon type pitching. But even with minor upgrades the Rockies could be contenders once again.
They'll hope they have some young arms ready to make an impact next season, sign a journeyman or two and rely on hitters like Troy Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and the maturing Fowler at the top of the lineup -- young players who still have upside and could conceivably get even better.