12/27/10 10:00 AM EST
Rockies experience season of ups, downs
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
The Rockies finished the year 83-79, and took a wild route to that record. On the plus side, they finished with a winning record for a third straight year, something they'd accomplished just once in their history. Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez won a club-record 19 games, and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez piled up the postseason hardware after cementing their places among the game's best young stars. After winning 13 of 15 games in early September, the Rockies found themselves one game out of first place.
However, whether it was the weight of having to fight through repeated injuries to key players, as well as the unexpected death of club president Keli McGregor during a business trip in April, or whether it was an age-old problem -- a lack of offensive production on the road -- the Rockies simply ran out of steam. They lost 13 of their final 14 games.
Having to watch the playoffs was made even worse when the Giants, who ended up winning the NL West, won the World Series. The Rockies and Giants split their 18 games in 2010, but the Giants won two key series -- one at AT&T Park in August, the other at Coors Field in September.
Here were the top storylines of 2010:
5. Ouch, that hurts
Injuries to key performers were a major reason the Rockies' performance was disjointed in 2010.
Closer Huston Street suffered a shoulder injury in Spring Training and missed the season's first 69 games. Left-handed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa, the No. 2 starter in the rotation, suffered a torn sheath of a tendon in his left middle finger and missed 12 starts. Just before the All-Star break, and not long before peers elected him to his first All-Star Game, Tulowitzki suffered a fractured left wrist when hit by a pitch and had to miss 33 games. Although first baseman Todd Helton has seen a decline in power, the time he missed this past season highlighted how he important he is to Colorado's plight. In the last four seasons, twice (2007 and '09) he was healthy throughout and the Rockies made the playoffs, and twice he has missed significant action with back injuries ('08 and '10) and the team missed the postseason.
4. The road to nowhere
The injuries might have created instability with the lineup and the rotation, but those who have followed the Rockies over their existence could pick up a familiar, yet unwelcome, pattern.
Specifically, they don't perform nearly as well on the road than at home. The Rockies were 31-50 away from Coors Field. They hit .298 at home and an NL-low .226 on the road. And how much would have a little better relief helped? They suffered 10 losses in the final at-bat losses on the road, and went 28-30 in one-run games.
All of this occurred the season after they fashioned the first winning season on the road in their history.
3. Losing their leader
McGregor was a respected and beloved figure. After an athletic career that included time in the National Football League as a tight end, McGregor became accomplished at the business side of sports, at the college and pro level, before joining the Rockies and making a mark with the organization. McGregor and general manager Dan O'Dowd honed the club's build-from-within approach and established a demand for high-character players that has become the Rockies' calling card.
So it hurt in so many ways when McGregor was found dead in his Salt Lake City, Utah, hotel room on the morning of Aug. 30. He was felled by a rare heart virus.
2. Big-time producers
Even with all the setbacks, the Rockies found themselves in position to make the playoffs until late September. Much of it had to do with Gonzalez, the NL batting champ, and Tulowitzki, who became a force as the cleanup man. Not only were they the league's best at their positions offensively, but they won Rawlings Gold Glove Awards for their defense.
Look at what they did after the All-Star break. Gonzalez, completing his first full season in the Majors, sizzled with a .363 batting average, 17 of his 34 home runs and 57 of his 117 RBIs. Tulowitzki hit .323 with 18 of his 27 home runs and 61 of his 95 RBIs. Gonzalez was just the sixth player since 1959 to lead the league in hitting and finish in the top four in home runs and RBIs. Tulowitzki had to temper his power swing for a few weeks after missing time with the wrist injury, but his 15 home runs and 40 RBIs in September were the second-most in history in that month. Babe Ruth went deep 17 times and drove in 43 in 1927.
1. Jimenez emerges
For much of the history of the franchise, it was believed that putting forth effective starting pitching in Colorado was not possible. That theory seemed proved when the Rockies spent a total of $172.5 million on contracts totaling 13 years on Mike Hampton and Denny Neagle before the 2001 season, only to get little production. Jimenez changed all that in 2010.
Jimenez (19-8, 2.88 ERA) went 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA before the All-Star break. He proved human afterward, tailing off to 4-7, 3.80 in the second half. But he clearly should have been the team's first 20-game winner. The Rockies did not score with him on the mound five times, and on a few occasions leads were blown late.
Jimenez, the first Rockies pitcher to start an All-Star Game, set club marks for wins, ERA, strikeouts (214), opponents batting average 9.209) and fewest home runs yielded (10).
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.