“I think we can play .500 ball”
The Colorado Rockies are in a fierce battle with Washington, Reds, Cubs and St. Louis (?) of who will take home the title of worst team in the National League.
That isn’t what Rockies ownership had expected; in January of this year Dick Monfort, the Kendrick of Colorado, expressed that his team could be able to balance out the wins and losses of the season.
Anything is possible, of course, we have seen Leicester City becoming Champions of the Premier League not that long ago, but they were realistic and aspiring a lot less back then. The Rockies...we have no idea what the Rockies have been doing these past few years, trading star players away for nuts, signing an injury-prone player like Kris Bryant to a big fat contract, letting guys like Trevor Story and Jon Gray walk away freely into free agency, while they have probably been even more apathetic to signing starting pitching than the Diamondbacks.
“As much as we all, myself included, love to complain about Ken Kendrick, the Rockies are living proof that it could be much worse. They are a team without direction, and they seem perfectly content to stay that way.” - Imstillhungry95 in Series Preview #9, April 2023.
So, the Rockies being this bad isn’t probably a surprise to anyone but their ownership. And that is a shame, because Denver and their fanbase deserve a lot more for their loyalty and cheers than what they are getting.
Before they got what they have now, they also lost some in the past off-season.
At the end of 2022 the Rockies declined the 2023 option they had and said goodbye to Scott Oberg, who had a promising rise to a closer role in 2019 but saw his career completely derailed by blood cloths since then, spending 3 seasons on the IL. Flame-throwing righty Carlos Estevez was lost to free agency after a “career” year, defensively-limited but useful Jose Iglesias went back to free agency, former prospect Garrett Hampson was non-tendered while Connor Joe and Sam Hilliard were traded to resp. Pirates and Braves.
They were members of a team that went 68-94 and probably weren’t going to be missed, but of the remaining players just 3 (Cron, Bryant and Bouchard) had an OPS+ higher than 100 and another 3, pitchers, had an ERA+ of over 100, one of whom was Carlos Estevez who left in free agency.
Where did the optimism of Rockies’ ownership come from?
The Rockies didn’t do much in free agency in the off-season. When Monfort expressed his thoughts of playing .500 ball they had only signed reliever Pierce Johnson to a $5MM contract. The strong man in Denver was probably thinking of a bounce-back season from Germán Márquez and Brendan Rodgers, the return of Antonio Senzatela, an injury-free Kris Bryant and a repetition of success for a few others like former Diamondback-coach Daniel Bard.
They did add a few late signings in Brad Hand and Jurickson Profar to the mix, but all in all playing .500 in a division with the Dodgers, Padres and upcoming Diamondbacks was probably more wishful thinking than anything else.
By the way, good old Matt Koch was also an addition to the Rockies organisation, but it doesn’t matter how much I love him, he won’t pitch in the majors with an ERA over 9.00 in AAA.
Where are the Rockies now?
The season has been a complete disaster for the Rockies until now. Brendan Rodgers didn’t make Opening Day and was placed on the 60-day IL with left shoulder dislocation leaving a wide gap in the infield. He was soon joined by Randal Grichuk and Daniel Bard, the latter with anxiety issues after also playing a miserable WBC. A few games more into the season and TOR Germán Márquez was due for Tommy John surgery. Antonio Senzatela went back into action and returned to the IL with an elbow issue after just two starts.
And so, with the Colorado Rockies heading to Arizona, they currently have almost $43MM on the IL and $19.5MM deferred ($16MM owned to Nolan Arenado and $3.5MM to the DFAd Jose Ureña).
They are 3 guys short in their rotation, with only Kyle Freeland and Austin Gomber on the 26-man roster with MLB starting pitching experience. Recently they claimed former Diamondback and veteran Chase Anderson off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays, who has had some positive early results.
Their top relievers have been doing really fine though. But Jake Bird, Brent Suter, Justin Lawrence and Brad Hand haven’t been able to contribute much. They rank last in the entire MLB in holds and saves and save opportunities, but their save% with Melancon-like Johnson is one of the best in the league. Their low number of losses in relief also shows some of their bullpen power. It is just that the Rockies hardly ever are in a win-situation when they take the mound.
A good bullpen with some lousy starting pitching. But what about their hitting?
Before they scored 23 runs in their 3-game series this weekend against the Mets (21 in the last two games) the Rockies weren’t much of a hitting team and their OPS+ only left the Cleveland Guardians behind. With CJ Cron and Brendan Rodgers on the IL the infield had lost its slugging. Top prospect and shortstop Ezequiel Tovar (#25 in MLB Pipeline Top 100) is still adapting to MLB pitching with a 58 OPS+. In the outfield Randal Grichuk is good since he came back, Profar is being Profar, while Kris Bryant’s performance has been disappointing. The Rockies have some hope pinned on rookie Brenton Doyle, who has shown some good defence in center field, while Charlie Blackmon has been contributing well too offensively. Most threat so far, though, has come from the man behind the plate: Elias Díaz.
The Venezuelan is hitting .333/.387/.519, but like his batting line suggests, he isn’t walking that much, just like the rest of the squad. The Rockies either hit or they don’t and aren’t exactly a threat on the bases either since their total of stolen bases is bottom of the MLB.
Defensively Elias Díaz is also having a stellar year. Pitch framing isn’t his strength but he has been great with his defensive work toward the bases, being just behind Gabriel Moreno in most aspects of that part of the catcher game. If Díaz continues to play like this, he might be the Rockie that goes to the All-Star game.
What’s the game plan here?
The Diamondbacks can’t sweep a 3-game series so they will certainly not sweep a 4-game series against the Colorado Rockies. Besides, the Rockies did slug their way against the Mets, so maybe they’ve somewhat built a small momentum, who knows.
But while hitting can turn around overnight, that is less probable with pitching. Either match with Freeland or Anderson on the mound could be a lost game if the game stays close and their toreros come out of the bullpen. The trick is to slug on their other starting pitching and walk away so their better relievers don’t show up and the party can continue. Since Díaz is doing well defensively this year, I wouldn’t be too aggressive on the bases and just let the knocks move over the runners.
Game #1 Mon 05/29 1:10 PM MST, Karl Kaufmann (COL) vs Ryne Nelson (ARI)
- Karl Kaufmann. 2 GS, 8.2 IP, 0 W-2 L, 9.35 ERA, 5.48 FIP, 2.08 WHIP, 1.20 K/BB.
- Ryne Nelson. 10 GS, 52.0 IP, 1 W-2 L, 5.02 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 2.40 K/BB.
Not the greatest matchup that will bring people to either the stadium or the couch. Nelson was good in his final start, against the Phillies, going 6 innings of 1-run ball. That came on the heels of a runless 5.1 innings in Oakland. You’d be inclined to say that this upward trend should be able to continue against the Rockies.
Especially since the opposing starter is Karl Kaufmann who hails from Germany...no, wait, he is from Michigan, which also makes sense. Kaufmann made his debut some weeks ago against the Rangers and got a second start against Miami and you can see in the stats a bit above how that went. FanGraphs had him #26 on their 2022 Rockies farm ranking, with a FV of 40 (dropped to 35+ in 2023) and had this to say about him (amongst other things):
Kauffmann is a one-seam sinker/changeup righty with a pretty firm, inconsistent mid-80s slider. [...] He’s tracking like a backend starter fit for Coors.
The opener will go to the Diamondbacks.
Game #2 Tue 05/30 6:40 PM MST, Kyle Freeland (COL) vs Zac Gallen (ARI)
- Kyle Freeland. 11 GS, 58.1 IP, 4 W-5 L, 3.86 ERA, 4.35 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 3.00 K/BB.
- Zac Gallen. 11 GS, 66.2 IP, 6 W-2 L, 2.97 ERA, 2.10 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, 5.36 K/BB.
This will draw people to the stands and the television. Great matchup and beside Merrill Kelly probably the best way to beat Kyle Freeland, Colorado’s starter numero uno.
Freeland hasn’t gotten a win against the Diamondbacks in his final 5 starts against us, so there’s that. His final start against the D-backs was a month ago when he went 6 innings and gave up 3 runs and got the loss.
Gallen hasn’t seen Colorado yet this season, but pitched 5 times against them last season, getting 3 wins and 2 no-decisions.
So, the Diamondbacks will take game 2 as well.
Game #3 Wed 05/31 6:40 PM MST, TBD (COL) vs TBD (ARI)
At the moment of writing there is no confirmed starter for Colorado, nor for the Diamondbacks. Both teams probably will go with a long man/spot starter or swing man. For the Rockies that could be Connor Seabold. For the Diamondbacks it could be Drey Jameson, or maybe Tommy Henry.
If it goes that way, I have much more confidence in our kids than in 5.94 ERA Seabold.
Here is to our third win!
Game #4 Thu 06/01 12:40 PM MST, Chase Anderson (COL) vs Zach Davies (ARI)
- Chase Anderson (for the Rockies). 3 GS, 15.2 IP, 0 W-0 L, 1.72 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 2.00 K/BB.
- Zach Davies. 3 GS, 12.2 IP, 0 W-1 L, 5.68 ERA, 5.66 FIP, 1.74 WHIP, 1.25 K/BB.
If there is one game you’d be inclined to say that we will lose, I’d put my wagers on this one. Maybe we have already exhausted our main relievers once match 4 dooms up and with Davies pitching, it might all be just too much. Chase Anderson looks to have overperformed thus far for the Rockies but is probably still pitching better than Davies.
This will be the game that prevents the sweep.
Sweep or no sweep?
This poll is closed