The Colorado Rockies, who forced the mighty Dodgers to a Game 163 last season, overcame the odds and beat the Cubs at Wrigley in the Wild Card game in 2018 are in last place. Since July 1st, the Rockies have won a grand total of 9 games. Overall this season, they are hovering around .500 at home and 14 games under .500 on the road. They are 3-10 against the Dodgers and 6-10 against the Giants. What happened? In March, I wrote my preview article, saying there were going to be glorious highs and crushing lows. So far, we have seen a lot more of the latter. I said Kyle Freeland is “a fan favorite and one of the best pitchers to watch in baseball” while he posts a 6.13 FIP/5.16 xFIP which is not very good. Even if he overperformed last season, this is beyond regression. These were the things that I got wrong, but some of what has happened this season would not have come true even in my worst nightmares.
Perhaps I am a little naive. Maybe the glaring payroll issues and dedication to playing veterans was apparent to a more pessimistic eye. I trusted this teams front office and management, they handled virtually the same team in 2018 with great results. Perhaps the Rocky Mountain luck ran out, or perhaps the Rockies are dealing with a systemic issue. I think it’s a little of both, losing notable players like David Dahl and Brendan Rogers to heart-wrenching injury is hard to recover from, but still, a lot of the same players are on the field for the Rockies.
Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story all have an OPS+ over 100 but beyond that, a sea of nothing. As good as those three players are, they cannot bail the team out. Here is a list of the top 5 Rockies by OPS+ among qualified hitters and their respective numbers as of August 16th:
Charlie Blackmon: 125 OPS+
Trevor Story: 116 OPS+
Nolan Arenado: 114 OPS+
David Dahl (Out Indefinitely): 104 OPS+
Ryan McMahon: 89 OPS+
Comparing this to their division rival in Phoenix, the lowest qualified players OPS+ there is 83, 10 points higher than the lowest player on the Rockies, Tony Wolters.
It is incredibly easy to blame the Rockies season solely on pitching because of Coors. This team would still be in a bad position even if Kyle Freeland pitched as he did in 2018. Offensive issues were an occasional flaw in 2018, like when the bats fell dead in the NLDS, but the departure of DJ LeMahieu and replacing him with a steadily declining Daniel Murphy gave one of the best infields of the decade a massive hit in defensive ability and offensive force.
Let’s talk about the pitching. In particular, let’s discuss the arms in the bullpen. At least there’s Scott Oberg! Scott has a 3.59 FIP which looks bad compared to his 2.29 ERA, but alas, his season has just ended due to a blood clot. Another in a long list of Rockies injuries this season.
The Rockies bullpen are pitching to a 4.87 FIP, which is just 0.03 points higher than their xFIP, so this is what the Rockies should basically expect from a bullpen starring Bryan Shaw, Wade Davis and Jake McGee who are being paid a combined $36 million, approximately, this season.
The Rockies have problems on both ends, but these were problems that existed for years before and were not fixed. The fact that the Rockies did not sign another outfielder, like Michael Brantley, so that Ian Desmond would not have to start in center field. Or sign a catcher like the incredibly affordable Yasmani Grandal so that way Dom Nunez can develop in the minor leagues and one of the worst catching cores in baseball can have a massive lift. Chris Iannetta was designated for assignment, and truthfully, there was no reason why he was on the roster for as long as he was.
I think it’s easy to place the blame on Jeff Bridich. Not only have his comments this year been really weak, attacking the media and defending his lack of moves in the offseason is not the smartest way to go about talking, but all the bullpen signings were applauded at the time. He did sign Nolan Arenado to a long term contract, giving us the blessings of Nolan for years to come. It has been a mixed bag, but I think Bridich can redeem himself. It is time for the Rockies to go all in, open up the wallet and sign some star players to make a run in 2020. The farm is thinning, and there is very little they can do besides go all in or completely tear down the core. It is unfair to the fans and to the players to tear down this team, with 3 generational talents still on the roster, so they have to make a push for another Rocktober. If not, it is time to clean house and get ready for another grueling Rockies rebuild.