What is behind the Colorado Rockies’ recent sucess?
On Sunday, June 14, 2009, the streaking Colorado Rockies won a franchise record tying 11th game in a row. This is a stunning turnaround for a team that fired its popular manager after a dismal 18 – 28 starting record. In fact, the Rockies fired their manager just seventeen days ago, on May 29. Obviously, the change in leadership had some kind of impact on the team, as it took only five days apart from their old manager to start this incredible winning streak.
The Rockies new manager, Jim Tracy, is being handed the majority of the credit for this remarkable run, though he would be quick to shift the credit to his players. Tracy is a manager that believes in a soft touch — not the kind of guy who tosses his weight around in the clubhouse, not the kind of manager that will sap a player’s strength for the sake of a single win.
So what is responsible for the Rockies eleven game win streak? You could look at it from a philosophical point of view — the Rockies have more points than their opponents at the end of the game. Or you could credit their big hitters for putting those points on the board in the first place. Whatever force you credit, the Rockies are surprising everyone.
In their most recent win, against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday, Garrett Atkins and Todd Helton had three hits apiece, and the Rockies confidently beat the Seattle Mariners 7-1.
Another interesting stat — Colorado’s starting pitchers have won 10 times during the streak — this shows the skill level of the starting pitchers, and also the strength of the offense. Ten wins for the starters means that the offense has come on strong early in most of these games.
The Rockies now stand with a solid 13-4 record under interim manager Jim Tracy — those four losses all came at the beginning of their stretch with the new manager, including dropping three straight to the slumping Houston Astros. Listening to Todd Helton, probably Colorado’s biggest star, you’d think that the Rockies were in the middle of a playoff race.
“Every day we walk out on the field we expect to win. In the big leagues you’re facing good teams and sometimes it doesn’t happen and that’s why you don’t get too down when things go bad because you can always turn them around.”
This isn’t the first streak for the Rockies in recennt memory — you might remember a time when the Colorado team won 11 straight games from Sept. 16-27, 2007. This included a surge from the back of the pack to win the National League wild card. They won 14 of their last 15 that season, including a one-game playoff against San Diego to win that wild card spot. The Rockies then won seven straight playoff games, a feat known as “Rocktober”. The team swept Philadelphia in the National League Divisional playoff series and also swept the strong Arizona Diamondbacks in the following National League Championship Series before finally succumbing to Boston in that year’s World Series.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, and for MLB ratings, the current sweep is happening in June. However, the Rockies have continued their strong play against the powerful Mariners, a team with four straight series wins under their belt, and 9 wins out of their last 13 games before starting the series against the Rockies this past weekend.
The Rockies are entering uncharted territory this week — the Tampa Bay Rays are headed into Coors Field on Tuesday, June 16 for the first game of a three game series of Interleague Play. Should the Rockies win, they would set a franchise record for consecutive wins.
The Rockies will attempt to set that record against a Rays team with a respectable 34-31 record. Should the Rockies pull off the win, they’d reach the proverbial .500 point, having won as many games as they’ve lost. This from a club that held a dismal 20-32 record before starting their streak .
Don’t forget — if the Rockies win on Tuesday, they will own Major League Baseball’s longest winning streak for the season. The other competitors for this claim are the Red Sox, who won 11 consecutive games from April 15-27. For most of the Rockie’s players, seeking a 12 game winning streak is a new thing. In fact, most of the Rockie’s players weren’t on the roster for the 2007 “Rocktober” sweep. Even though a potential 12 game streak is something these players have never dealt with before, according to the players, this streak has brought the team together. Listen to Helton talk about the streak’s ability to bond players:
“Obviously it has, because we’re playing good baseball right now. We’ve always been confident. I think guys are showing up and saying, ‘Let’s try to make it happen,’ I know on a personal note, I’m showing up and just excited to be here, especially when we’re playing well.”
The only obstacle for the Rockies was a day off on Monday. Sometimes, days off in the middle of a streak can be murder for player’s confidence. Rockies manager Jim Tracy expects the players to continue playing the way they have when they return to the game on Tuesday, saying he’s “fairly convinced” that his team will show up with the same edge they have had for the last two weeks. In fact, Tracy says — “I know they will.”
And that makes all the difference.