The 20% Mark: Fielding

When the season started there were a lot of people wondering if this might be the best defensive team the Rockies had ever had. The opening series in Miami was uneven, allowing a fair number of infield hits and even the first week at Coors Nolan had some sloppy errors that extended pitchers and caused the bullpen to put in extra work. But 20% into the season, they have been just about as good as advetized. Tulo has his legs under him and according to ESPN saved 10 runs by himself in April. DJ has been excellent almost every night (sadly Rutledge’s glove continues to be a real issue in his ability to get playing time). Justin Morneau has been better than Todd Helton of the past 4 or 5 years, making scoop after scoop that we came to associate with Todd, as well as playing great infield defense on every pitch. Wilin and Jordan Pacheco, while not making anyone think they are Yadi Molina, have provided most nights adequate defense behind the plate, and both players framing of pitches has been much improved. In the outfield Drew Stubbs glove and speed has been a huge factor late in games, both on the road and in the expanse of Coors. CarGo seems well on his way to another Gold Glove (did you hear that the two finalist in left field last year for the NL were CarGo and….EY Jr? – wow!). The mix of Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson has been good enough on most nights, though you can tell both players have growth room in their outfield play, but they are hard workers, most nights taking good routes and have not allowed their arm strength on etiher player to be an issue. Brandon Barnes had one bad game at Coors, probably partially due to newness to the field and the sun that day, but has been otherwise a solid defensive glove.  We have not seen much of Cuddy in the past 2 weeks, and given his range issues before the hamstring, one wonders how he plays when he comes back in the next weeks. Right-field at Coors is a far harder field than almost anyone knows, which is why some guy named Larry Walker was given the spot and made it his own particular Gold Glove domain. Can Cuddy at age 35 continue to provide the needed defense in that spot? And then there is the guy at 3B. Nolan is worth a highlight every night. As great as Tulo was in April, Nolan was every bit as good, creating a left-side of the infield that changes games. Even with the recent mass-migration to defensive shifts, the Rox are among the least “shifting” team because they can already cover so much ground with just those two players, giving them freedom with what they do with the DJ and Justin. The bad thing is that sometimes Nolan does still, and at 23 we should not be surprised, have just bad errors. In the ill-fated game on Wednesday night against the DBacks a line-drive went right through him, allowing an eventual run to score, forcing Lyles out after 6 instead of perhaps 7, and strating the chain-reaction of the loss. Now, as Nolan and Walt Wesiss said, he is still young and these things will happen. But he makes more plays, easier than any 3rd bagger I have seen in my life – and I watched the later stages of Brooks Robinson, the great Graig Nettles, Michael Schmidt and Scott Rolan. Arenado has made 3 plays this year that are among the best I have ever seen and probably ever will see. To think…he was an offensive player coming up. He probably won’t ever hit for the power that Manny Machado will eventually grow into, but the way he plays defense its going to be a pleasure to watch Machado and Arenado play 3B for the next few years. Fielding: I am tempted to give this team an A+ for the first 20% of the season but there have been just a few too many small errors that extended innings and more infield hits than an A+ warrants. Add to that the fact that Rosario and Rutledge are still defensive “in progress” players. But I would not be surprised to see this team get at least 3 Gold Gloves by the end of the Year. And that might be the max just because of the politics involved.

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