Last season, the Colorado Rockies finished tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the National League West at 91-71. After losing to the Dodgers in a Game 163, 5-2, in Dodger Stadium, the Rockies were the road team in the NL Wild Card Game for a second consecutive season. Unlike the year before, they prevailed in the one-game playoff — and in impressive fashion. Beating the Chicago Cubs in 13 innings, 2-1, in Wrigley Field, they overcame a team that was viewed as an NL powerhouse. But the rest of the week wasn’t as kind to the Rockies.
Getting swept by the Milwaukee Brewers in three games in the NLDS while scoring just two runs in the series, the Rockies ended an encouraging season on a sour note. Based on how returning to the postseason is never a given, getting eliminating early in back-to-back postseasons could be viewed as the Rockies missing a window for success; look at the Arizona Diamondbacks as a model for how quickly it can go south.
In 2017, the D-Backs beat the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game, but were swept by the Dodgers in the NLDS later in the week. Last season they were in first place in the NL West in August, proceeded to collapse, finished 82-80, and aren’t viewed as a threat going into this season. Now, while the Rockies won the NL Wild Card Game and were swept in the NLDS — like the D-Backs in 2017 — here are three reasons why they won’t follow in their division rival’s footsteps in 2019.
The featured part of the Rockies is their starting lineup — which, for the meantime, isn’t going anywhere. With the likes of Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, David Dahl, and Ian Desmond in place, manager Bud Black has a potent lineup.
Arenado is a career .291 hitter, has totaled 37-plus home runs and 110-plus RBIs in each of the last four seasons, and is arguably the best third baseman in Major League Baseball; Story has come into his own as an elite shortstop and a threat at the plate, hitting .291 while totaling 37 home runs and 108 RBIs in 2018; Blackmon is one of the best outfielders and hitters in the sport and still hit .291 while totaling 29 home runs in what was a down year for his standards; Dahl has been productive when called upon, totaling 16 home runs and 48 RBIs in just 77 games in 2018; while he hit just .236 last season, Desmond continues to hit for power (Desmond totaled 22 home runs and 88 RBIs in 2018) and serve as a versatile individual on the team’s depth chart.The @Rockies and @Dbacks are very similar franchises, but unlike Arizona, who fell apart last season and then lost some of their best players, here's why Colorado will remain in pennant contention. Click To Tweet
While losing former batting champion DJ LeMahieu is a blow, the second baseman hit a career-worse .276 in 2018, and management did well replacing his services by signing Daniel Murphy. Murphy has recorded batting averages of .299, .322, and .347 over the last three years while being an excellent pure hitter and one of the hardest players to strikeout in the sport. Murphy’s arrival continues what will be a dangerous Rockies offense in 2019.
Relievers Capable of Having Bounce-Back Seasons
Last offseason the Rockies spent a combined $106 million on relievers Wade Davis (three-year, $52 million deal), Bryan Shaw (three-year, $27 million deal), and Jake McGee (three-year, $27 million deal); it didn’t go as planned. All three relievers struggled to get three outs, were hit hard, and vital reasons why the Rockies bullpen was one of the least productive units in MLB; the Rockies bullpen was 26th in MLB in ERA (4.62), 23rd in strikeouts (526), and tied for 16th in opponent batting average (.247) in 2018.
At the same time, Davis, Shaw, and McGee were all steady relievers before 2018, and given their proven track record, there’s reason to be of the mindset that the three, or two of the three, can have bounce-back seasons. Davis has been one of the most dominant relievers in the sport in recent memory, whether it be as a closer, or a setup man; Shaw never recorded an ERA over 3.52 prior to joining the Rockies and was able to work out of trouble; in his first season with the Rockies, McGee was a consistent arm capable of pitching in multiple situations. The Rockies also have reliable right-handers Scott Oberg and Seunghwan Oh in their pen.
The loss of Adam Ottavino to the New York Yankees in free agency means that the Rockies need others to step up and fill the void created by the right-hander’s departure. And they’ll need their pen to have an improved season, regardless. Luckily for Black and the Rockies they have individuals capable of doing as such.
Blossoming Starting Rotation
For the better part of the current century, the Rockies have boasted an unreliable starting rotation. Going into 2019 it’s an uncharted situation for the Rockies, as they have one of the most promising young rotations in the sport, headlined by Kyle Freeland (25), German Marquez (23), and Tyler Anderson (29).
Last season Freeland established himself as the Rockies ace. Recording a 2.85 ERA in 33 starts, he was a steady force on the rubber every fifth day, pitched deep into games, and gave the Rockies confidence that they could come away victorious whenever he took the hill. The highlight of the left-hander’s season was his performance in the NL Wild Card Game. Tossing 6.2 shutout innings while totaling six strikeouts, he got the better of the Cubs lineup and had his coming-out-party at the most opportune time.
In his second full season starting on a consistent basis, Marquez was an encouraging development for the Rockies. While he put runners on base often, he was able to work out of trouble, finished with a 3.77 ERA, and totaled an impressive 230 strikeouts. Marquez gets great movement on his curveball, keeps hitters guessing, and is 23; he can only improve from here on out. While his 4.55 ERA isn’t eye-popping Anderson was productive in spurts in 2018, and if he can garner consistency moving forward, he’ll give the Rockies another capable southpaw. Plus, right-hander Jon Gray (27) was considered the team’s ace before his shaky 2018 campaign. If healthy, a quartet of Freeland, Marquez, Anderson, and Gray gives the Rockies a reliable starting rotation.