When I sat down to start writing this piece, my first instinct was to revisit this column from a year ago in order to establish a sort of baseline for the team heading into 2020. The subtitle for that piece was “slowly but surely the Rockies are climbing the mountain”. Well, if 2018 was a step forward, then 2019 was most certainly a step (or two) back.
The Flipside of the Coin
The Rockies finished the 2018 season with a 91-72 record (having to play that 163rd game to settle final playoff implications). Their 2019 record was essentially the opposite, going 71-91. In 2018, they finished second in their division and 4th in the NL. The 2019 season landed them 4th in their division and outside of the playoff picture.
From The Mound…
It’s no secret that pitching in Colorado can be – tough. Trying to contain power hitters in ANY park is challenging, but trying to accomplish that feat in the thin air of Denver – oof! Despite the obstacles, there was a reason for optimism coming into last season. Players like Kyle Freeland and Wade Davis came with great expectations and failed to deliver. Freeland went from being in the Cy Young conversation to being demoted mid-season. Davis was eventually removed from the closer role after notching 43 saves in 2018. To be fair, maybe the biggest issue this pitching staff faced was injury – and mediocre performances when they weren’t injured.
To The Plate…
Unlike the issues from the arms, the bats weren’t as prevalent an issue in 2019. Quite the opposite actually – as their offense was pretty solid throughout the season. Veterans like Trevor Story, Ian Desmond and Daniel Murphy all performed relatively “on par” with their previous seasons. They also had good showings from the fresh faces on the big club – guys like Garrett Hampson, Raimel Tapia and Ryan McMahon. They all acquitted themselves nicely. I think the question heading into 2020 will be which bats will end up getting the bulk of the playing time. Does management & ownership stick with the familiar faces, even if they aren’t delivering the way they used to? Or do they start turning things over to the kids? That question, of course, brings us to the elephant in the room:
To… Nolan Arenado
If you were to ask 10 baseball fans who or what comes to mind when you say “Colorado Rockies”, I’d be willing to bet that the majority of them would utter Arenado’s name before you even finished asking. He was the biggest cause for hope heading into 2019 – especially after THIS happened:
The face of the franchise had just signed a long term deal to stay in Colorado – and Rockies fans breathed a huge sigh of relief. Of course, he has continued to deliver just like always. However, given the disappointment of last season and the hefty price tag he carries, talk has been swirling about whether or not a trade may be in the near future. His isn’t the only name being tossed around (Charlie Blackmon anyone?) – but his is BY FAR the most intriguing. After all, he’s widely considered to be one of (if not THE) best third basemen in the game (**side note** you know who could use a third baseman? THE METS… just sayin’ **wink, wink**).
To The Future…
So, heading into 2020, which Rockies team will show up? The one that went to two consecutive Wild Card playoff appearances, or the one that stumbled through injuries and inconsistency to a 4th place division finish and an early off-season? Personally I think they’ll get back to their winning ways and that last season was more of a blip than a trend. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see – as Chris Berman famously says: “That’s why they play the games!”
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