Rockies week in review: So many career years… but can Colorado be better than mediocre?

Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon are all having stellar season, even if the Rockies’ record doesn’t reflect that.

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Nolan Arenado. 
Colorado Rockies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates Coors Field, June 9, 2016. (Jessica Taves/For Denverite)

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Nolan Arenado swings in a game against the Pirates in June. (Jessica Taves/For Denverite)<br /><br />

Nolan Arenado is a cool customer. The Colorado Rockies’ All-Star third baseman is reserved with the media and on the field. He seems to prefer going about his business — mashing home runs and making barehanded infield plays look routine — rather than discussing it.

But there are exceptions.

At the start of June, cameras captured Arenado yelling inside the Rockies’ dugout. Arenado appeared to let loose a couple four-letter words — frustration boiling over in an eventual loss to the Padres.

Then there were Arenado’s comments following the Rockies’ 5-3 loss to Toronto on Wednesday, which dropped them to 3-3 on the week and 13-14 in June.

“We kind of gave this month away,” he said. “We had a lot of chances to win a lot of close games. We had the lead going into the seventh or eighth. It’s frustrating, but we’re in a better position than we were last year. We’re getting to the last stretch toward the All-Star break, and hopefully we can keep playing good ball.”

Arenado’s frustration is understandable. The 25-year-old has been spectacular this season, even while his team’s record (37-41) has not. Through Friday, he’d hit 21 home runs and 65 RBIs, and was slashing career-high marks (.296/.372/.578) across the board.

He’s one of several Rockies having career years, along with center fielder Charlie Blackmon and second baseman D.J. LeMahieu. Which makes you wonder: Can the Rockies be anything more than mediocre in a season where so many guys are playing the best baseball of their careers or close to it?

Blackmon is on pace to hit the most runs (he’s at 12 right now) in his six years of big league ball, while enjoying career-high marks in on-base (.372) and slugging percentage (.510). And LeMahieu, like Arenado, is posting career-high slash marks (.326/.394/.496) in all three categories.

Three key guys, three career years. I suppose you could throw Trevor Story in that category too (kind of cheating, though, because he’s a rookie).

Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez, while maybe not eclipsing his 2010 season, has also been stellar in smashing 18 HRs, 51 RBIs with a .329 average.

The Rockies have five every-day players who are among the best at their position in the National League — and yet the team continues to play sub-.500 ball. Arenado’s frustrations make a lot of sense in that context. If the Rockies can’t be good when they’ve got this many things going for them, when will they?

Charlie Blackmon. Colorado Rockies vs San Diego Padres. June 10, 2016.  (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Charlie Blackmon jogs off the field in a game against the Padres in June. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Quote of the week

“Yeah, I think .500 is totally a benchmark. You want to get there first and then go above and beyond. We’ve been flirting with it. We kind of close in on it and then lose a couple.” — Rockies manager Walt Weiss

Base hits 

Rockies reliever Jake McGee is close to making his return from the 15-day disabled list. The 29-year-old left-hander could be back Saturday, after completing a rehab assignment with single-A Modesto earlier in the week.

McGee went down with a sprained left knee against the Padres on June 10. He was handling closing duties before the injury. Since then, Carlos Estevez has taken over and saved four games in six tries. It’s unclear who will handle them going forward.

Starting pitcher Eddie Butler had another rough week. Butler was shaky yet again in the rain-delayed game against Toronto, lasting just 3 1/3 inning and surrendering five runs on hits and walking three.

In his last seven outings, Butler has made it at least six innings just once. His ERA is all the way up to 6.96 on the season.

“It comes down to consistency with Eddie,” Weiss said. “Again, fastball command. He’s got to be at the bottom of the zone with his two-seamer. It’s a good two seamer. But when it gets elevated, it’s hittable. If he can establish the two-seamer, his slider becomes a weapon because he stays in good counts. He can finish with the slider. That’s what it comes down to.”

Might his days in the rotation be numbered?

Looking ahead

The Rockies are heading west for a six-game road trip. They take on the Dodgers in a three-game series starting Friday and then head north to San Francisco for three more against the Giants.

It’s an important stretch of games heading into the All-Star break. The NL West-leading Giants have a 11 1/2 game lead over Colorado, while Los Angeles is in second in the division.

Sports reporter Christian Clark can be reached via email at cclark@denverite.com or on Twitter @_ClarkChristian.

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