Looking at the Colorado Rockies it's hard to fathom that this very team made the World Series in 2007.
It just goes to show you what a couple hot months down the stretch can do for a baseball team.
Obviously, 2008 was a step in the wrong direction for a variety of reasons. The Rockies went from 90 wins in 2007 to 74 in 2008 with roughly the same team returning but injuries ruined their chances early.
Troy Tulowitzki had the epitome of a sophomore slump: a batting average around the Mendoza line and a load of unlucky injuries. Tulowitzki rebounded toward the end of the season to post a respectable .263 average thanks to a .330 average in the final month of the season. His power numbers were in the single digits, however.
The face of the franchise didn't escape the injury bug either. Todd Helton, a 35-year-old first baseman, posted the worst numbers of his career and played in the lowest amount of games (83) since his rookie season in 1997. Helton has a chance to rebound because his trade isn't solely relient on power numbers. Despite a .264 average in 2008, Helton has put up a .300-plus average in every full season he has participated in at the major league level.
Third baseman Garrett Atkins also took a step backward after posting career highs of 29 home runs and 116 RBIs in 2007. Atkins numbers weren't far off in 2008 with 25 home runs and 85 RBIs but the majority of it came during a three-month stretch from June to August when he clubbed 19 home runs and 57 RBIs. In April, May and September he posted poor power numbers coupled with a dreadful batting average.
The lineup, however, wasn't the only culprit for Colorado.
After a phenomal stretch of late season pitching by the Rockies in 2007, the bottom fell out early in 2008 much to the dismay of many baseball experts that expected the young guns (Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales) to build on their late season progress that led the team to a National League title.
Jimenez bounced back after a rough early going to finish 12-12 with an ERA of 3.99 but Morales was banished to the minors after posting a ERA of 6.39 that featured a loss of control with his pitches.
World Series starter Jeff Francis struggled as well with a 4-10 record along with a 5.01 ERA.
Aaron Cook was a breath of fresh air for the rotation. Cook posted a 3.96 ERA coupled with 16 wins for a troubled rotation.
To make matters worse for the immediate future, the Rockies had to trade left fielder Matt Holliday to avoid the risk of losing him after the 2008 season without any immediate compensation.
The haul brought back in exchange for the all-star was solid. Huston Street struggled in the closer role in Oakland during the 2008 season and dealt with injuries but a permanent move to the set up role should be helpful as Manny Corpas takes over for departed free agent Brian Fuentes. Greg Smith also came over in the deal and should help fortify the back end of the rotation while the gem of the trade should be an opening day starter as well.
Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez didn't do anything earth shattering in his first half-season in the MLB but he's had a five-tool stud label attached to him since he was in the Arizona Diamondbacks system. Gonzalez should give the Rockies more speed at the left field position.
All in all it's not unreasonable to see Colorado compete for a division title in the wide open NL West but it requires a lot of things to its way. The team will have to be healthy while hoping that their younger players across the board take the next step. I would guess they fall in between their 2007 and 2008 win totals and will be somewhere in the 80s.
Look for a Los Angeles Dodgers preview to come in the next day or two.