Believe it or not, this is the best the Rockies can be.
Coming into 2018, the Colorado Rockies were considered to be a very talented team who won 87 games and made it to the postseason for the first time since 2009. The team had a potent offense led by Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. A young but questionable rotation led by ace Jon Gray and German Marquez, and a brand new bullpen led by the signings of relievers Bryan Shaw and Wade Davis. Expectations were sky-high; the NL West was going to be a competitive division, and the Dodgers and Diamondbacks and the Rockies all had a legitimate shot at the postseason.
It is July 10th, 2018, as of writing this article, and the Rockies are 46–44. The defining moment of their season, incredibly, came almost a month ago. The Rockies bullpen once again bore the blame for a 13–12 loss to the struggling Texas Rangers on June 14th. Wade Davis walked 4 batters in the 9th, giving up one run via the walk, and then gave up a walkoff 2 run single. This was seen as a death blow to the Rockies team, the final straw in the bullpen follies. Colorado could not finish out the Texas Rangers, after the struggling offense provided 13 runs and a fairly decent start from Jon Gray. This was seen as a dark day, pushing them even farther back in the NL West race being 5 games back and in 4th place behind teams playing their best baseball all season.
Many of the losses stem from the bullpen, which is pitching as a whole to a 5.49 ERA. The only relief pitcher with a sub 4.00 ERA with over 10 appearances is Adam Ottavino. Clearly, there is a problem. Bryan Shaw, who was supposed to be a critical piece of the bullpen, has a 7.08 ERA and -1.05 WPA. This is not all Bryan’s fault, part of it is bullpen management as well. Even though Bryan has clearly struggled, he leads the Rockies bullpen in appearances with 38! Many in high-leverage situations that then cost the Rockies a game. Granted, he has a .379 BABIP, which is certainly above average. He is not the only flaw in the bullpen. Chris Rusin, who was arguably the ace of the bullpen last year and was touted as a “super-reliever”, has a 7.25 ERA and a 2.17 HR/9. This is high even considering all his home games are at Coors Field. I could go on with this for just about every reliever, Wade Davis has struggled at times but overall has been solid. The rest of the assorted bullpen members have been abysmal.
The offense has been struggling as late. Nolan Arenado has been hitting very well this season ( .310/.401/.551) but key producers like Charlie Blackmon (.278/.358/.485) and Ian Desmond ( .209/.275/.422) have not played as well as they can. While Gerardo Parra is having a sneaky good season, ( .297/.341/.392) there are too many key players not producing, and the aren’t getting any help from an ailing pitching staff.
What is also not helping the ailing pitching staff is a oddly poor defense. With the Rockies having one of the best defenses in 2017, Charlie Blackmon has -19 DRS, the lowest DRS of his career. Nolan Arenado oddly enough has -1 DRS, which is not something we are used to since he is a stellar defender.
To talk more about the Rockies spending habits normally backfiring, here is fellow upset Rockies fan and writer for NG, Brian Schlosser:
The Rockies don’t have a history of good contracts. In fact, they have quite the opposite. If you look at all of the deals of over $100 million in their brief history, almost none of them have panned out. Todd Helton was given a 9 year, $141.5 million deal prior to the 2003 season, and proceeded to have two more elite level seasons. For the following 7 seasons, he continued to get on base at an elite level, but never again had the power numbers that earned him that deal in the first place. Another example of relating to a Rockies icon is the 6 year, $118 million deal that was given to Troy Tulowitzki. It’s not to say that Tulo didn’t deserve his deal. He was far and away the best shortstop in baseball at the time and nobody really came close. That being said, everybody knew about his injury problems, and it was questionable at best to commit that kind of money to somebody who was going to miss half the season almost every single year. Possibly the worst deal of all time, the legendary Mike Hampton signing of 8 years and $121 million. The largest deal in baseball history at the time for a guy who only spent 2 years of that deal with them because he was so atrociously bad that they had to ship him somewhere else for the sake of the team. Unfortunately, history repeats itself, and it has for the Rockies in the worst of ways. Ian Desmond was gifted a 5 year, $80 million deal following a great season as the Rangers center fielder. However, Desmond was signed with the intent of being the everyday first baseman. Aside from playing a position he had never played before, the Rockies already had a much cheaper, and still productive option in Mark Reynolds. While Reynolds wasn’t replicating his 40 homerun power from his Arizona days, he had still hit .282/.356/.450 the year prior. In addition to Reynolds, they had top prospect Ryan McMahon working his way through the minors, and a long term commitment to a first baseman made no sense.
Currently, the Rockies infield consists of Ian Desmond, DJ LeMahieu, Trevor Story, and Nolan Arenado. For some reason, the Rockies have shelled out $125 million in total money to four members of the bullpen: Mike Dunn, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee, and Wade Davis. They just can’t seem to find a good formula to win, but they decided that now would be a good time to over commit to the bullpen with the impending free agency of perennial All-Stars Arenado and LeMahieu coming up in the next two seasons. To say that the experiment has failed would be an understatement. The “big four” of the bullpen has combined for a 6.32 ERA this season. That’s bad. Really, really bad. The questionable choice to spend that money on the bullpen instead of extending their stars could end up costing them a generational talent at third base. DJ is going to hurt as well, but with Brendan Rodgers on the way, the Rockies may finally be ready to give way to youth. I’m just a 20 year old, frustrated fan, so hopefully the paid professionals know better than I do. As it stands right now, the Rockies seem doomed to continue to be on the wrong side of most every monetary decision they make.
Overall, I think Rockies fans are slowly getting more aware. The Rockies would have to go 57–34 (.626) even to reach 90 wins! The team needs a fundamental change to itself. Whether that means selling at the deadline, it is still too early to say but the Colorado Rockies are not playing the way everyone expected they should. In the history of the Rockies, they have had one legitimate postseason run in their 25 years. After some very tough years, the 2017 Rockies brought hope that there is a talented young core in Colorado that will be fun to watch and perhaps make it back into the playoffs. As the Rockies sink below .500, the hope is fading and it is not going to get any better since Nolan Arenado is approaching free agency. There need to be changes in Colorado, baseball is already treated poorly by the Denver media and this season does not help the cause for the Rockies to be seen on the same level as the Broncos. It could be another rough few years for the Rockies, but this is what I signed up for rooting for the boys in purple.