After making consecutive appearances in the postseason for the first time in franchise history, the Rockies stumbled badly last year, escaping last place in the National League West on the final day of the season.
The team’s decision-makers view 2019 as an aberration that can be rectified with better performance and better health. But to have any hope of contending this year, the Rockies must pitch considerably better. A key to an improved rotation is lefthander Kyle Freeland rebounding from a dreadful 2019, when he fell far from the lofty heights he reached a year earlier. Reliever Wade Davis, whose struggles last year cost him the closer’s job, could enhance the bullpen by bouncing back as well.
If the assessment of the front office is right, things will fall into place this season as they did when Colorado won 87 games in 2018 and 91 a year later. If the Rockies are wrong and they suffer through a second straight disappointing season, big changes loom.
Opposing Scouts Size Up the Rockies
“There’s not a whole lot to like here with a team that slipped badly last year. The big sleeper story with the Rockies is that they’re actually a really bad offensive team. They’ve got three above-average hitters in Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon, but that’s it. David Dahl can hit, but he’s always hurt. They overrate Tony Wolters as a starting catcher, and Ian Desmond is 0-for-2 as we speak. They just don’t have a sound offensive plan — just kind of grip-and-rip. I don’t worry about their rotation as much as a lot of people do. Jon Gray had a really good season, and German Marquez is a durable guy who attacks the zone, a competitor who’s still really young. Kyle Freeland is somewhere between the ace of 2018 and what we saw last year. His stuff is fine, and he’s a mentally tough kid who will bounce back. Their bullpen is very expensive and not very good, but Scott Oberg is an exception.”
Beyond the Box Score
Power Surge Trevor Story hit 35 home runs, making him the first shortstop in major league history to begin his career hitting at least 20 home runs in four straight seasons. Story once led the league in strikeouts (191 in 555 plate appearances in 2017) but struck out “only” 174 times last year in 656 plate appearances.
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The Rockies went 6-19 in July, a .240 winning percentage that was the lowest for any full month in franchise history, and followed that up by going 9-19 (.321) in August, tied for the worst August record in franchise history. After a franchise-worst 3-12 start, the Rockies climbed to 40-34 on June 20 before being doomed by their poor play in July and August.
Nolan The Great Nolan Arenado set career highs in batting average (.315) and on-base percentage (.379) and hit 41 home runs while striking out 93 times. He’s the first NL player since Albert Pujols in 2010 to hit 40 or more home runs and strike out fewer than 100 times.
Coors Collapse Kyle Freeland had a 9.25 ERA in 10 starts at Coors Field, a dramatic decline from 2018 when he had a 2.40 ERA in 15 starts at home, a franchise record for a starter in a full season.
Staff Ace German Marquez led the Rockies with 174 innings, and no other starter topped 150. He didn’t pitch after Aug. 22 due to soreness in his right forearm and biceps. With the Rockies out of the race and Marquez completing the first year of a five-year, $43 million contract extension, the risk of bringing him back toward the end of the season far outweighed the reward.
What Happened? Wade Davis had an 8.65 ERA last season, marking the fourth straight season his ERA has increased. It was the second-highest ERA by a reliever with a minimum of 50 appearances in major league history. Davis’ 11.10 ERA at Coors Field is the highest home ERA in major league history (min. 25 appearances). From 2014-16, Davis had a 1.18 ERA and 0.89 WHIP with the Royals.
Home Warrior First baseman Daniel Murphy had more errors (seven) than home runs (three) at Coors Field, where he made 249 plate appearances in 67 games. But he did hit .317 with an .820 OPS at home compared to .237 with a .736 OPS on the road.
Big Draw Despite their franchise-record 20-win decline, the Rockies — coming off consecutive postseason appearances — drew 2,993,244, the fourth-highest attendance in the NL and sixth best in MLB.
RF Charlie Blackmon (L)
SS Trevor Story (R)
CF David Dahl (L)
3B Nolan Arenado (R)
1B David Murphy (L)
2B Ryan McMahon (L)
LF Ian Desmond (R)
C Tony Wolters (L)
UT Garrett Hampson (R)
OF Raimel Tapia (L)
OF Sam Hilliard (L)
C Drew Butera (R)
INF Josh Fuentes (R)
RHP Jon Gray
RHP German Marquez
LHP Kyle Freeland
RHP Antonio Senzatela
RHP Jeff Hoffman
RHP Wade Davis (C)
RHP Scott Oberg
RHP Jairo Diaz
RHP Carlos Estevez
LHP Jake McGee
RHP Bryan Shaw
RHP Jesus Tinoco
RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez