For Rockies It’s a Work in Progress

The season is over for these Colorado Rockies.  Manager Walt Weiss is gone already.   Finishing at 75 wins turned out to be about 12 too few to get a playoff opportunity, but things are looking up for the Colorado Rockies.  The 9-game improvement this year over the 2015 campaign may not be much to write home about, but here are some reasons to look forward to next year.

  1. Pitching was much improved and should improve more next year.  John Gray, Tyler Chatwood, Tyler Anderson…the starting rotation was solidified and performed rather well.  The starters collected 78 quality starts, and improvement of 24 from the previous year – a 44% improvement.  They moved up from dead last in the majors all the way to 12th in this category.  Why does that matter?  Because the bullpen was once again a disaster at middle relief and the quality starts kept the team out of middle relief and into late relief more often.  Quality starts are a big deal for the Rockies.   Along with those great starts came an ERA- of 100, which tied the Rockies for 18th in the league, up a few notches from 21st last year (with an ERA- of 110).   When the Rockies break camp in 2017, expect Jon Gray to take the helm as the team’s ace, and the rotation to be joined by Jeff Hoffman as 2017’s pitching story.  Look for the Rockies to work hard in the off season on that leaky bullpen of theirs.  If the Rockies can improve their ERA- into the mid 90’s, they will have a chance to win 90 games and make a playoff run.
  2. Offense was improved and even small improvements can make the Rockies a playoff threat.  Although most people wouldn’t notice it, the Rockies actually struggle offensively when compared on a park-adjusted basis like WRC+.  The Rockies one next to last in the MLB in 2015 in this crucial measure, but improved  to 21st this year with terrific performances by rookies Tevor Story and David Dahl, and the usual heroics of Gonzalez, Arenado, and LeMahieu (who won the NL batting title).   This team has amazing offensive talent, but their problem has often been getting consistent performance when going from Coors Field to sea level.  The Rockies hit a WRC+ of 92 this year.  If the Rockies want to win 90 games with the same pitching performance as this year (ERA- of 100), they would need to post a WRC+ of about 118, which would make them the No. 1 offensive team in baseball by quite a large margin.  That’s not likely to happen, but by improving pitching a touch and offense just a touch, they can get to those 90 wins – think low 90’s for ERA- and mid to upper 90’s for WRC+.  With T. Story coming back in 2017 and Dahl likely to supplant Perra in the outfield, the Rockies can focus their off season moves on getting some power at 1b and catcher. If they are successful, we could see that WRC+ value nudge ever upward.
  3. Better management can only help.  Lots of people seemed to like Walt Weiss.  He was a very popular Rockies player in his time, but his track record as a manager has left a lot to be desired.  He averaged 69 wins over three seasons.  Based on the Rockies stats, the team should have won at least 78 games this year instead of 75.  Three games may not sound like much, but the team did under perform.  Good management can get you more wins than the numbers would predict, and Weiss has never shown he can do that.  The manager job is the wildcard going into the off season.  The Rockies need to make a solid selection with an experienced manager who can handle the oddities of trying to perform at a mile high one day, and one day later at sea level.  It’s never been an easy task, but it has been done by the likes of Jim Tracy and Clint Hurdle.  The team the Rockies have assembled right now is capable of winning 85-90 games; the right manager can take them there.

 

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