Can the Rockies repeat at National League champions in 2008, or will they fall back to their non-contending status? Tim Kurkjian made the cases for and against the reigning NL champs and he stops by Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET to talk about this and more.
The case for the Rockies
They were stunningly good down the stretch and through the first two rounds of the playoffs, winning 21 of 22 games during one stretch. That was no fluke.
During that stretch, they posted an ERA of 2.80. After finishing the first half of the season with an ERA 43 points above the league average, the Rockies led the league in ERA in the second half of the season, an amazing turnaround. And their pitching staff at least appears as if it should be better in '08. Jeff Francis (17 wins, tied for the most in a season ever by a Rockie) was terrific once he became the ace after Aaron Cook got injured. Now Cook is healthy. The Rockies have have Ubaldo Jimenez (''hardest throwing young pitcher we saw all year,'' one Dodger said) for the whole season, and they added veterans Josh Towers, Mark Redman and Kip Wells to compete with Franklin Morales (another hard thrower) for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. And maybe Greg Reynolds, their No. 1 selection in the 2006 draft, will be ready by late in 2008. Plus, Manny Corpas, who had 19 saves last year, will be the closer on Opening Day.
The Rockies have a dynamic offensive team (''they won't have an out in the lineup, one through eight,'' one scout said), led by left fielder Matt Holliday, who finished second in the NL MVP voting last season. Holliday, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, third baseman Garrett Atkins and outfielder Brad Hawpe received multi-year contracts, another sign that this team plans on being together, and winning together, for a long time. But the biggest reason they can repeat is their defense, which set the NL record last year for the highest fielding percentage. It will miss second baseman Kaz Matsui, who signed with Houston, but it still has Tulowitzki, who was the best defensive shortstop in the league last year as a rookie.
The case against the Rockies
Seasons such as last year happen once in a lifetime. The Rockies were the fifth team ever to go from last place to the World Series, and the sixth team ever to go from nine games under .500 to the World Series. It was the first time in their history that they'd won more than 84 games in a season. Maybe 2007 was the start of something great, but they will miss Matsui's defense, and his speed at the top of the order. And is that rotation good enough to win again? The Diamondbacks, who finished in first place in the NL West last year, added Dan Haren to go along with Brandon Webb. If Randy Johnson makes a comeback, Arizona's rotation will be much better.
The National League isn't very good right now, but it's also very hard to repeat these days. The Mets, with Johan Santana, are the best team in the league. The Rockies are a contender. They may not return to the World Series, but they're closer to getting there again than to falling back to the 75-win level.
Vote: Are the Rockies a contender or pretender?