About two months into the season and in the midst of a 27 game straight schedule, the Rockies are doing a little bit better than I would’ve expected. But that does not tell the whole story, not even barely.
The Rockies have lost four straight series, winning only 4 of 12 games, yet they are still only three games under .500 and are within view of reaching an even 26-26 as they enter a series with the Reds. The Rockies have competed for much of the season, and while this does happen most years, with the Rockies starting the season looking good and quickly fading into obscurity come June, this year looks to have a different future. The Rockies have three starters who give a good chance to win every time they take the mound.
Tyler Chatwood has been far and away the best starter for the Rockies. Aside from a few rough starts at home, Chatwood holds a sub 3.00 ERA and is the Rockies winningest pitcher at 6-3. Chatwood has certainly established himself as a front man starter and there is no look to him slowing down.
Chad Bettis has been another bright spot for the Rockies. While I wouldn’t label him or his stuff as number 1 or 2 starter quality, he will be an anchor for the back of the rotation that is able to consistently go 6+ innings. Bettis is a completely different pitcher than he was two years ago and that means a whole lot for his future as a starter and for the Rockies. Bettis is an average pitcher, but he has heart and can compete for a team that is always in need of a solid 4 and 5 starter.
And of course, no post about pitching goes without mentioning Jon Gray. Gray has had bad starts this year, there is no denying that, but he has also shown flashes of dominance that resemble a number one starter. Gray is still a very young pitcher and the development for a pitcher can go for three or four years. The fact that Gray has come out this year and pitched like he has against great teams like Boston, New York, and San Francisco shows he has what it takes to be a number one. His typical baseball stats like ERA and his win total don’t reflect that, but looking into the more telling advanced statistics tells a much more complete story. Gray has a FIP (fielding independent pitching, a statistic that is much more reliant on what a pitcher can control and is graded on a scale similar to ERA) is only 2.96. That is half of his ERA, but is much more telling of some tough luck that Gray has been running into. Gray has very much shown he has what it takes to be a big league starter and I expect great things from him going forward.
Those three pitchers will be a part of this organization going forward and will help the Rockies win a lot of games, but it takes five men to form a complete rotation and while the Rockies don’t have those starter in the majors yet, they are not far off. Kyle Freeland and Jeff Hoffman are two starters that are very close to being a part of this big league team and if they pitch even close to like how they have pitched in the minors, this Rockies rotation will be scary. With Chris Rusin and Eddie Butler manning the back end of this rotation right now, it is only a matter of time before one of Freeland or Hoffman gets called up. Both Butler and Rusin have shown some good performances, but neither seems to have a permanent place in the rotation. If either is to stay, it should be Butler who has pitched much better this year, but still needs to show more consistency.
The bullpen is another piece of this Rockies team that has a bright future. Pitcher like Carlos Estevez and Miguel Castro have shown the ability to be shutdown pitchers for the seventh and eighth inning. With Adam Ottavino on the way back and eyeing a return soon, Jack McGee will be another piece that could solidify the back end of games. The Rockies are very close to replicating the formula of the Royals and Yankees of shortening games once they get to the eighth inning. With four shutdown pitchers at the back end of a bullpen, the Rockies will win many more games than they have in years past.
The offense has been hit or miss for the Rockies at times this year, but overall there have been some great consistent players and some pleasant surprises. Nolan Arenado is being Nolan Arenado. He is hitting for average and power, but is also walking at a much higher rate than he has in the past years. This is a great sign as Nolan’s one flaw was not reaching base as often as he should.
Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu have also shown the consistency needed out of a leadoff man and number two hole (DJ should be the permanent two hole). They are both hitting over .300 and don’t strike out a lot. With those two at the top of the order, the Rockies get men on base for Nolan and Cargo.
Two pleasant surprises have been Trevor Story and Mark Reynolds. After Story’s historic start, he cooled off a bit, but he is still a big producer for this team and is a threat for a home run anywhere in the lineup. The strikeouts are a minor concern, but they will go down as he matures as a hitter. Mark Reynolds is a player reborn with a new approach. Reynolds has cut his swing down and is putting the ball in play very often. He is striking out at career low rates and is hitting for average. He still has pop, but I would much rather have this new Mark Reynolds than the one in the past who struck out 8 of 10 times and hit two home runs the other two at bats.
The disappointments for this offense lie at two positions. Catcher, manned by Tony Wolters primarily, and left field, manned by Gerrardo Parra. Parra has been about what you would expect, but he has been a base running nightmare this year. He isn’t walking very much and he isn’t producing with men on base. He will get better, but if not Ryan Raburn and minor leaguer David Dahl will be threatening to replace him.
Tony Wolters has been about what you could expect, but it doesn’t make his production, or lack there of, any less disappointing. With Nick Hundley injured, Wolters has been thrust into a starters job behind the dish. He has been terrific defensively and at handling the pitchers, but he is not doing well at all at the plate. Right now, the Rockies are content to keep him back there for how he handles the starters, but come the future and if the Rockies are competing, Wolters may find himself in jeopardy of the starting job for someone who is hitting better.
Going forward, the Rockies may not compete for the playoffs, but they will certainly be close to .500 and will be competitors next year, of that I am almost certain. This team is a much different one from the past years and the only thing holding them back now is everything meshing together. The pieces are there and they will only be getting better, it is just having them all work together.