What happened to the Colorado Rockies? On June 30, the Rockies record was 44-40, and they were in second place in the National League West behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Granted, they were already 12 games behind the Dodgers, but no one in the NL West was going to compete with LA this year anyway. According to MLB.com, the Rockies were playing well enough to be tied for the second wild card spot, and they were only one game behind the first wildcard. Enter July.
Rockies in July — Begin the Downfall
The Rockies opened with a two-game set against the Houston Astros at Coors Field and a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. Colorado lost all five games heading into the All-Star break, finished the first half of the season at 44-45, and have not been above .500 since. The Rockies went 6-18 in July. Colorado went 3-10 on the road and 3-9 at home in July, including being swept in a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants. The Rockies had two six-game losing streaks during the month. They scored three runs or fewer in 14 games, including six games with one or zero runs scored. The pitching staff gave up seven or more runs in 12 games.
Rockies in August
August has not been any better. The Colorado Rockies are 2-5 in August, and, at the time of writing, are on a four-game losing streak. They have given up six or more runs in five of the seven games. The Rockies are now last in the NL West with a 52-64 record and are 8 1/2 games back in the wildcard.
Colorado is not having any issues with their bats. They are first in the NL in hits, doubles, and batting average and are top three in runs, slugging percentage, and total bases. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is batting .306 with 25 home runs and 85 RBI. Shortstop Trevor Story, who is leading the team in WAR at 4.5, is batting .336 with 26 homers, 65 RBI and 15 stolen bases. Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is fifth in all of baseball with a batting average of .326, fourth in the National League in slugging (.604), and fifth in the NL in OBP (.976). If the bats are good, then it must be the pitching.
Downfall of Rockies Pitching
The Rockies had the ninth-best pitching staff in 2018. They were led by Denver-area native Kyle Freeland and closer Wade Davis. In 2019, Colorado is next-to-last in overall pitching in Major League Baseball, barely ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. They are last in the NL in ERA, hits, runs, earned runs, saves, and strikeouts.
Freeland was sent down to AAA earlier in the season, and Davis has been removed from the closer role. Freeland just had his 10th loss of the season; in all of 2018, he only had seven. He has a 7.06 ERA with a 1.614 WHIP. Last season, he had a 8.44 WAR last season, but this season, his WAR is -0.6. German Márquez, the Rockies second-best pitcher in 2018 with a 4.66 WAR, has given up a league-worst 83 earned runs this season. The next guy, who happens to be Freeland, has given up 69. The Rockies have four starting pitchers in the bottom 10 of earned runs.
Davis has a 6.42 ERA with 35 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings. “In 21 games at Coors Field, Davis is 0-5 with an 11.29 ERA and 11 walks and 18 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings” – Jack Etkin of Forbes. Scott Oberg is the new closer for the Colorado Rockies.
Baseball, especially at the Major League level, has always been about pitching. The reasons for increased scoring do not matter, whether it be juiced baseballs or a higher concentration on launch angles. The best way for a team to win games is to give up less runs. The Rockies must address their pitching, most specifically their starting pitching, or they will continue to face an uphill battle. With the trade deadline past, Colorado will have to wait until the offseason to improve their pitching. Until then, Rockies fans are in for a long rest of the season.
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