During this past offseason, Colorado didn't make many moves, except in its coaching staff, but the Rockies have been challenging for the top spot in the division. Earlier this season, they endured injuries to Todd Helton and Michael Cuddyer, but they didn't let the injuries derail them from having a good year. Even though these players have an important role on the team, they don't have as much impact as Tulowitzki.
After missing over half of the 2012 season with a groin injury, Tulowitzki has returned to the lineup as a player on a mission. Even before this injury that occurred while he dove for a ball in the eighth inning of Thursday's game, he had developed a reputation for being fragile.
Tulowitzki had the best slugging percentage and on-base plus slugging percentage in the NL. His 16 homers and 51 RBIs are third and fourth most, respectively, in the league. No team can find a replacement for this kind of offensive production, but Colorado has enough offensive power in its lineup to score enough to remain competitive for the NL West title.
In addition to the injury to Tulowitzki on Thursday, Dexter Fowler was hit on the pinkie by a pitch and couldn't start Friday. Although he doesn't have the same statistics as Tulowitzki, the Rockies will have a more difficult time finding a replacement for him than for Tulowitzki.
Fowler is Colorado's leadoff hitter and center fielder. To combat the high altitude in Denver that causes the ball to travel further than in most stadiums, Coors Field has the biggest center field in the NL. Finding a center fielder who can cover the territory is difficult. Fowler has enough speed to do the job and has a strong throwing arm to keep opposing runners at first or second base. He should be considered for the Gold Glove every year.
This year, Fowler has played an essential role in the Rockies' new aggressiveness that has helped the team to be close to the lead in the division. He has gotten on base frequently and has scored the sixth-most runs in the NL. Other than Eric Young, Jr., who is a defensive liability anywhere he plays, Fowler has the most speed of any other Rockies player, enabling Weiss to create better scoring opportunities.
Although Carlos Gonzalez played Friday night and homered, Colorado received a scare during Thursday's game. While standing in the on-deck circle, taking a few practice swings, a foul ball struck Gonzalez's ankle. He immediately left the game, but X-rays were negative.
Gonzalez leads the league in home runs and runs scored. The opponents respect his offensive abilities so much that he has the fifth-most walks in the league. Unlike most great power hitters, Gonzalez utilizes his speed to have the ninth-most stolen bases.
While Gonzalez's offensive skills might make him a NL MVP Award contender, he might be more valuable to the team because he is the best left fielder in baseball. He is a two-time Gold Glove winner. Gonzalez routinely prevents hits and runs by covering much territory. No knowledgeable runner will attempt to take the extra base on "CarGo", because he possesses one of the best arms in baseball. While most teams put their weakest outfielders in left -- because it's the closest to third base and has a straight shot to home -- the Rockies put one of the best outfielders in baseball there. If Colorado lost both Tulowitzki and "CarGo" for a significant period on the same day, the team probably wouldn't have been able to overcome the emotional shock and disappointment to remain in the race for the division title.
Last season, the Rockies had the worst pitching in baseball. Though injuries had a lot to do with that, they had to do something about this if they wanted to be considered a potential elite team. Everyone understands that Colorado won't ever have the best pitching staff, but the club can have an average pitching staff.
The widely publicized scheme devised by the Rockies' front office to have a competitive pitching staff received much scrutiny and criticism from the media last winter. We didn't understand it and believed using traditional baseball techniques to handle the pitching staff would work in Colorado. So far, Colorado's front office looks wise, as the Rockies have the ninth-best ERA in the league, even though they lost their closer.
It will be interesting to see how the Rockies will perform without Tulowitzki and during the dog days of the baseball season. If they can rebound from a 98-loss season to win the NL West, it will be remarkable, and their executives should be recognized.