Daniel Wettstein takes a look at the Rockies’ recent performances and considers just how successful they can be this season.
The Story So Far
Since my season recap at roughly the quarter-mark of the season a little over a week ago, the Rockies have gone 4-4 and lost their first series of the year in an abysmal showing of the “Coors Field Effect” in their 3-game series against divisional rival and yearly Boogeyman, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
To drive this point home, Jon Gray gave up 6 runs in the 3rd and 4th-inning of his start against the Dbacks on Monday, August 10. He did so with only giving up 1 hit that was hit at least 95-MPH (The standard for a “Hard-hit Ball” by Baseball Savant). This was a theme throughout the series. We all expected a market correction, but this was brutal.
So we now know what we should have already, always take the Over on the game run total at Coors. If you blindly took the Over on every game played with a line of 6.5 at Coors this season you are undefeated. Keep printing money. This offense is too good, and the pitching staff will always be volatile. If the First-5 is your liking, blindly taking the under on a line of 5.5 you are 11-7 for the season.
Below I will explain why these trends are going to continue. Now, I am not promising any specific win rate or that you will stay undefeated in anything unless you are Floyd Mayweather. Just giving you an explanation of why you should continue to bet with confidence.
Why are these trends going to continue?
Before this series the bullpen sextuplets of Yency Almonte, Daniel Bard, Jairo Diaz, Phillip Diel, Carlos Estevez, and Tyler Kinley had a 1.80 ERA through the first 15 games of the season. After the Diamondbacks finished their Death by a Thousand Cuts remix, that number sat at 4.20—and yes this more of what was expected coming into the season and isn’t terrible when you call Coors home. You really can’t hang anything outside of the 8-run 7th-inning that was just unreal to watch.
It seemed as if no matter what was thrown at the Dbacks by 4 different pitchers, they knew exactly what was coming. All but one batter that inning was put in a pitcher’s count of 0-2 or 1-2, yet no matter who was throwing, they could not put the hitter away.
The starters did not fare much better outside of Freeland. Gray who looked like the Ace that was drafted in the top-5 the Rockies believed they were getting, and Senzatela who was looking like another gem found in the Latin amateur-signings, got roughed up too. Gray giving up 8 earned-runs bloating his ERA to 6.41. Senza gave up 5-earned of his own, boosting his ERA to a still respectable 3.91. This is what you would call a market over-correction. Which seems on-par with the year of extremes that is 2020.
There doesn’t seem to be a happy medium in anything, including baseball. But does this really surprise us? For me, this is why I love the game, no matter how many thousands of games that have been played. When you have a game that requires a human to use a round bat, to hit a round ball squarely. You never know what new and exciting moment/play may happen that nobody has ever seen before.
This is why I will not linger any longer on the negative and start the highlight the positive that was buried by the chaos that is baseball at a 5,280 ft. Garrett Hampson for example, put his stamp on the lead-off spot with 7 hits in the series, giving the Rockies a lineup that can boast up to 5 players that clock a sprint-speed of 29+ ft/sec. The slowest player on the team is Nolan Arenado at 24 ft/sec(Yes, Daniel Murphy is actually faster, at 26+ ft/sec), this is the league avg. Tapia(another of the 29+ ft/sec. club) had 8 hits of his own to raise his batting average to .300. Ryan McMahon showed signs of coming out of his season long slump with a 2-5 perfomance that included his 2nd HR, both 400+ ft. opposite field blasts. Charlie Blackmon continued his torrid stretch until his hitting streak was snapped at 16-games on Wednesday. Daniel Murphy stayed hot as well.
All this and I haven’t even gotten to the best part, despite the series loss, was the emergence of Nolan Arenado. The perennial MVP candidate went 8-for-13 with three home runs in the series, raising his OPS to over .900. This is something I pointed out in my series recap; they were 8-3 at the time with Nolan hitting below .200 with only 2 homeruns. They went 1-2 despite Nolan finally showing why he is the best 3rd-baseman in the MLB. Outside of a couple bonehead plays like Tapia overthrowing the cut-off man leading directly to an “earned run” his pitcher had to wear. Or Daniel Murphy forgetting he was the first-baseman on one of the “thousand-cut” slicers. The gloves were there no matter what the scoreboard said.
There was a litany of golden plays made across the diamonds from Nolan continuing to cover whatever part of the Earth is not covered by water. To Hampson continuing to show why his speed and arm plays no matter where you line him up in the field. The team has a Team D-WAR of 1.2(3rd-best in NL/7th in MLB).
These developments combined with (my mouth to whatever deity will listen) never seeing their own home turf turn completely against them again. Has this being what happens in baseball, a grind. An off-day Thursday I am assuming was spent by using every socially distanced measure that can be done to exercise demons. Will be a welcomed respite after 13 straight days and 2 plane rides without one.
This team is nowhere near as bad as the last series showed. Nor is it as dominant as the first 15 games suggests. They are more towards the middle of the top-half of the league in overall pitching. That 4.20 bullpen ERA is about where they will end up, this is not necessarily a bad thing though. As evidenced by the combined ERA for all relievers that pitched for the Rockies in every playoff season since 2000(Numbers courtesy of FanGraphs.com):
- 2018 4.62
- 2017 4.40
- 2009 4.53
- 2007 3.85
This proves they do not need a top-5, or even top-10 bullpen, when it comes to ERA to win. The only need a league-average one that doesn’t implode nightly, with a league-average rotation, then add in a top-5 offense and you have the recipe for Rocktober. You cannot argue that is not what this team has, at least. As I noted in my previous Rockies-centric article:
“This team has showed it can win in a variety of ways as the power potential has not yet fully materialized. The team when you filter for Trevor Story only has 9 home runs and 11 doubles in 10 games. They play small ball while leading the entire MLB in sacrifice bunts and hits of any kind. They lead the NL in batting average, but only crack the top-5 in 2 other categories(OPS+ and OBP). This historically offensive heavy franchise, with historically poor pitching in the “best hitters’ park” in MLB is being carried by a flame throwing pitching staff that shows no fear.”
I have not budged an inch from my projections or analysis. Their offense now ranks top-5 in the NL in literally every major offensive category from batting average to stolen bases. Even after the baseball series that proves Murphy’s Law correct. The pitching staff still ranks middle-of-the-road. Unless someone broke a mirror, while being crossed by a black-cat, under a ladder, with an upside-down horse-shoe, tied to an umbrella they were using indoors. I don’t see an outlier of a series being the “truth” of what this team is.
This is not a violet-tinted glasses look at a home-town team. This is refusing to make a knee-jerk reaction to saying this team is bad because of 1 poorly pitched half-inning, that came in their last game of a 13-game mini-marathon. They were tired of winning I guess? With a day off to recharge, I look for a revenge tour for the slights and “i-told-you-so’s” coming out of so many in the “Power-Rankings” community that has absolutely refused to give this team any respect whatsoever the entire season. The “I have to see that Dodgers series” and “Come on, it’s COORS!” crowd have come out in full force. Every team will hit a patch this season, it’s about who limits it to just a few, and who lets it snowball.
Even sportsbooks have a dim view after the series, the team with the best winning% in the NL is an underdog Friday night against the 8-9 Texas Rangers who they took 2 out of 3 against in Arlington. Here is the line from FOXBet:
I understand Lance Lynn has continued his career-best 2019 season so far into 2020. But as the Rockies just learned, market corrections are always just around the corner. He likes to work up in the zone and relies on weak contact in the air. This is a dangerous recipe as anything in the air can leave the yard.
You also can’t go wrong on which end of the spectrum you want on the run-line from FOXBet as well:
Something about the way this pitching staff continued to attack and refused to get outside of themselves no matter how trying this last series was. It tells me they have the resiliency to bounce back and stem the tide. Kyle Freeland and the emphatic stopper he placed on this hot Diamondbacks offense is a lunar-like bright-spot in the middle of that Sharknado. Will keep this team on the upward trend, just maybe not at all-time historic levels.
The 2019 Washington Nationals squad is all the further back you have to look to find a team that didn’t have the best everything, but found enough in the sum of the parts outside Scherzer, Soto and Strasburg to make an all-time ending.