About a week ago, I had a whole ton of words written up about the Rockies hot start and why even regression would be unlikely to keep them from a postseason spot given the shortened length of the season and the 16-team playoff format.
Well, regression heard me. The Rockies have lost 8 of their last 10 and are in free fall. As of this writing, they’re staring a sweep at the hands of the Astros in the face ahead of an extremely tough trip to Chavez Ravine to take on the white-hot Dodgers. Rockies fans have seen this story before, and it never ends well.
But, that’s not entirely surprising right? Even the most optimistic of Rox fans wouldn’t have had this team as a division contender given the competition out West and a 13-11 record to start the season has them very much in the postseason picture. Avoiding that nightmarish 8-18 start (hello, Boston) was all they really needed to do in order to keep a glimmer of hope alive into the second half of the season.
In many ways, this is exactly who we expected the Rockies to be: a team capable of hot streaks but ultimately a long way short of the serious contenders both in their division and across the league. Win a few of the close games and maybe they’ve got a shot at a wildcard spot.
But, on the other hand, this iteration of the Rockies is barely recognisable. Which is pretty odd given they did absolutely nothing of note during the Winter. The 2020 Colorado Rockies are currently second in the Majors in pitcher fWAR and yes, I feel weird even typing that out. The rotation has a 3.44 ERA through 138.2 innings. The Rockies… can pitch?
This comes with a pretty big caveat of course. German Marquez is a legitimate ace who has gone underrated for a long time, Kyle Freeland is probably a better pitcher than his 2019 performances did him credit for and the bullpen has – a few shaky late-inning performances aside – looked more robust than it has in a long time (check Gav’s article on maybe the Majors’ best story of the season so far for more info on that).
The Coors Effect I know, you see, turns even the most froggy of hitters into a Prince of hits, runs and dingers. A theory that – to their credit – the Rockies are trying their best to prove this season by giving lots of meaningful at-bats to players like Matt Kemp, Chris Owings, Sam Hilliard and Tony Wolters. Only, it isn’t working. And former prospects David Dahl and Ryan McMahon have taken a step back. And perennial MVP candidate and world’s most handsome man Nolan Arenado is struggling. The Rockies… can’t hit?
As a team, the Rockies have put up a WRC+ of 87, a mark that betters only the murderers row line-ups in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Texas and Pittsburgh. Even playing half their games in a cavernous launching pad, their team slugging percentage is 13th in the Majors. Take Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story out of the equation and the team’s struggles are even starker.
The problem is, there isn’t much they can do it about it now. Brendan Rodgers – the only position player prospect of note at the big-league level – has been called up and to his credit Bud Black is at least consciously trying to change things up from day to day. But the front office appeared to truly believe that a lineup constructed of Nolan, Story, Blackmon and a few warm bodies would compete and there was no back-up plan in case career .285 OBP Chris Owings turned out not to be a very good hitter actually.
And yet… the Rockies are exactly where we hoped they’d be. At 13-10 they’re right in the playoff picture with almost 40% of their schedule completed, and all it would take is a lick more offence to get this team a few more wins if we’re to believe that Rockies devil magic is somehow turning their rotation into a serviceable group of arms.
With a tough stretch coming up of 19 consecutive divisional fixtures, including 13 against the Dodgers and Padres, it really is now or never for the new-look Rockies. They are exactly who I thought they’d be, only not at all.
Featured image credit: @Rockies Twitter