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30 in 30

The Turf’s 30 in 30: The Colorado Rockies

Slowly but surely, the Rockies are climbing the mountain.

Coors Field by Alex Juel is licensed under CC 2.0

The Turf’s 30 in 30: The Colorado Rockies


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Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

2018: Record: 91 – 72

2018 Finish: 2nd in the NL West, 4th in the National League

Surprises in 2018

Kyle Freelandโ€Œ

There’s turning things around and becoming an all-star caliber player, and there’s Kyle Freeland’s 2018 season. After a so-so 2017, during which he posted a 4.10 ERA, an 11-11 record, along with a 1.487 WHIP and a 6.7 K/9, Freeland turned on the jets and exploded into the 2018 season. Over the first month of the season, his 1-4 record, 4.24 ERA, and 1.265 WHIP seemed normal for a Rockies pitcher.

The problem with pitching for the Rockies will always be the games you play at home. The other 29 teams have the benefit of home-field advatange, but the Rockies lose that edge by playing in Denver. In the same way that Larry Walker‘s years in Colorado are hurting his Hall of Fame chance, taking the mound at Coors Field is going to hurt your chances of putting up solid numbers.

Not the case for Kyle Freeland.

After his tough April, Freeland would finish the season 16-3, going 9-1 in his 13 starts at home.

If there’s a takeaway from Freeland’s season it’s that he’s nasty good at Coors Field. If there’s a weakness in his game it’s pitching away from Coors Field. At Coors, Freeland was 10-2, with a 2.40 ERA, a 1.174 WHIP, an 8.3 K/9, giving up 79 total hits, over his 15 starts at home. Away from Coors, Freeland’s 3.23 ERA, 1.307 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, and 103 hits surrendered, were good enough for a 7-5 record.

Freeland has mastered pitching a mile above sea-level. All he needs now is to figure out how to pitch away from elevation. And I think that’s a much easier thing to learn.

German Marquez

Another welcomed surprise in the Rockies rotation was 23-year-old German Marquez, who followed up his 2017 season with a stunner. After finishing 5th in Rookie of the Year voting in the previous season, Marquez began 2018 slow, going 1-3, with a 5.14 ERA and a tough 1.571 WHIP. With the impending sophomore slump on the horizon, Marquez faced a mountain similar to the ones seen from Coors Field.

May proved to be a settling period, as Marquez dropped his WHIP .200 points, and saw his ERA drop to below 3.50 for the month. June was less kind to the young Venezualen, getting hit for 4+ earned runs in 5 of his 6 starts at the beginning of the summer.

With his ERA once again above 5.00, and his WHIP sitting just below 1.400, Marquez was once against facing a mountain of disappointment. And that’s when he began to climb.

The first start of the second half for Marquez saw him get roughed up by division rival Arizona for 5 earned runs on 8 hits over 5 innings of work. That would be the last time a team would be able to get more than 3 runs off Marquez for the rest of the season.

In his remaining 13 starts, Marquez would stifle opposing hitters to the tune of a 2.25 ERA, a 0.983 WHIP and a 12.1 K/9. If Marquez can keep that trending going into 2019, he’ll be solid candidate in the NL Cy Young race.

Disappointments in 2018

Bryan Shaw

In 2016 and 2017, Bryan Shaw was part of the three-headed dragon of the Cleveland bullpen. The lineup of Andrew Miller, Shaw and Cody Allen was something to behold when they were firing on all cylinders. Opting to leave Ohio during free agency, Shaw signed a 4-year, $35 million dollar deal with the Rockies.

If Shaw benefited from being sandwiched between Miller and Allen, it became evident in Colorado. Shaw’s numbers skyrocketed across the board in 2018. In the first half of the season, opposing hitters were teeing off on Shaw, hitting .335 against him.

The biggest issue with Shaw was that he was completely unreliable in close games… or really any games for that matter.

Clutch Stats
SplitGPAABRH2B3BHRSBCSBBSOSO/WBAOBPSLGOPSTBGDPHBPSHSFIBBROEBAbiptOPS+sOPS+
2 outs, RISP283531181121220461.50.355.429.6771.10621000000.391144203
Late & Close3093832429304208162.00.349.402.530.93244601112.391108167
Tie Game12443771610200640.67.432.512.6221.13323301010.452155214
Within 1 R2289802531117208141.75.388.443.6881.13155401012.407150209
Within 2 R3412410929383173012211.75.349.407.587.99464601212.373121173
Within 3 R4416914936488175217342.00.322.387.530.91779601212.373104153
Within 4 R4718115841528175219361.89.329.394.525.92083601312.381105154
Margin > 4 R1776661018702009182.00.273.368.470.83831110001.34887123
Ahead3010796202810130010292.90.292.355.510.86649300103.38592144
Behind281069124264045212211.75.286.368.462.82942110200.32486121
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/15/2019.

After looking at those numbers, is there any point in a game where you would trust Bryan Shaw? Not particularly. What a disappointment.

Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond continued his disappointing tenure with the Rockies. There’s not much more I can say that hasn’t already been said. It’s just sad to see all that money go to waste.

Looking Ahead to 2019

If progress is incremental, then the Colorado Rockies will make their first NLCS appearance since 2007 this season. In 2017 they fell to the Diamondbacks in the National League Wild Card game. In 2018, they made it to the NLDS, but failed to best NL MVP Christian Yelich and the Milwaukee Brewers. If that pattern holds, the Rockies will advance to the NLCS, after taking down the Washington Nationals in the NLDS.

While 2018 might feel like a failure, it’s not. Taking down the Cubs at Wrigley Field is no easy task, just ask Clayton Kershaw. After slaying Goliath, to then go toe-to-toe with the hottest team on the planet, the Rockies were behind the eight ball from the get-go.

Perhaps if they won Game 163, things would have been different… the past in the past. Let’s talk about the future.

What Bud Black has been able to do over the last two years shouldn’t be a surprise, considering he’s done a bang-up job with starters in the past. Since taking the wheel in 2016, the Rockies pitchers have seen their collective numbers drop from a 5.04 to 4.33 ERA, and a 1.513 WHIP reduced to 1.310. This is a turnaround that Bud Black had with the Padres, and with the Angels.

If Bud Black can continue his mastery with this pitching staff, they’ll overcome their biggest disadvantage: pitching at Coors Field.

If the Rockies can keep moving forward, there’s no stopping them in 2019. This team is ferocious, young and ready to dominate the NL West.

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