Two seasons ago the Colorado Rockies had a compelling starting rotation spearheaded by Kyle Freeland and German Marquez; it fell off a cliff in 2019. This season it has made a return, helping the Rockies get out to a 13-10 start.
Going into 2019 the Rockies had one of the best top-of-the-rotation duos in Major League Baseball in Freeland and Marquez; they looked like aces in the making.
Freeland finished 2018 with a 2.85 ERA across 33 starts and tossed 6.2 shutout innings in the Rockies’ National League Wild Card Game victory over the Chicago Cubs. Marquez recorded 230 strikeouts, which was eighth in MLB, a 3.77 ERA, and a 3.40 FIP across 33 starts.
Last season these two were unrecognizable.
Freeland put an overwhelming amount of runners on base, struggled to provide length, and was sent down to the minor leagues in the middle of the regular season. He finished with a 6.73 ERA across 22 starts.
Marquez gave the Rockies length but little more. He surrendered 29 home runs across 28 starts while recording a 4.76 ERA.
The 2020 season has been reminiscent of 2018 for these two; they’re pitching like the best version of themselves.
Across five starts (31.2 innings) Freeland has posted a 2.56 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 207 ERA+. The southpaw is a pitcher of deception with a consistent four-pitch arsenal (changeup, four seamer, slider, and curveball). This is a result of his four seamer registering in the low 90s. He relies on hitters to bite on his off-speed pitches, setting them up to wave at such an offering or an ambush fastball late in the count.
By inducing soft contact, Freeland is able to provide the Rockies with quick outs and therefore length, alleviating pressure on their bullpen.
Across five starts (32.0 innings) Marquez has recorded a 2.25 ERA, 30 strikeouts, a 2.81 FIP, a 1.09 WHIP, and a 235 ERA+. The right-hander gets considerable movement on his four seamer, which registers in the mid-to-high 90s, and throws a dirty curveball and slider.
Marquez is a power pitcher. He forces the issue, and is doing so successfully this season.
There are few superb and/or flawless starting rotations in MLB. At the moment, the Rockies have one of the better ones. Added onto Freeland and Marquez, right-hander Antonio Senzatela is off to a scorching start, his latest dandy coming on Tuesday afternoon, where he tossed eight shutout innings while surrendering zero runs and three baserunners on the road against the Houston Astros.
Sure, Jon Gray is off to a bumpy start (Gray owns a 5.74 ERA across five starts). That said, having two pitchers take a positive 180 and another turn a corner is more than anything the Rockies could’ve realistically wished for from their rotation.
Manager Bud Black has a formidable lineup card at his disposal. Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, and Daniel Murphy, among others, form a high-octane offense that can hit its way back into any game. They hit for contact and power and produce at a high level. The Rockies are third in MLB in batting average (.265), tied for fifth in hits (209), and tied for seventh in runs (121).
Their offense is now getting assistance from its pitching counterparts, and it puts the Rockies back in contention.
The Rockies’ division, the NL West, is a potent five-team grouping this season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are loaded from all aspects of the game; the Arizona Diamondbacks are a young, yet highly competitive team; the San Diego Padres appear to be taking the next step; the rebuilding San Francisco Giants, 9-16, are putting up a fight.
The Rockies were an NL Wild Card team in 2017 and 2018. In the latter year, their rotation collectively improved. Last season they collectively took a step back, and the team finished 71-91. This season their rotation has returned to form, and the Rockies are a playoff team. It’s not a coincidence. This team goes as its starting pitching goes.
Colorado has possessed a core which has been in place for the better part of the last five years. It’s a matter of consistency and execution. They’ve been better at both this season.
Yes, the Rockies have lost seven of their last nine games, which is far from ideal in a 60-game regular season. Simultaneously, all they have to do is finish second in the NL West or have one of the eight best records in the NL to make the playoffs.
If their offense comes through with more timely hits, which has been the impetus behind their recent cold streak, the Rockies are a force to be reckoned with. Based on the persistence of that unit in years past, it’s fair to expect such an improvement to take place.
Starting pitching gives you the chance to win games. Hitting allows you to take advantage of those opportunities. Freeland and Marquez are the ones paving those yellow brick roads for the Rockies.