By: Chris Larson
The Colorado Rockies, a team once known for assembling a group of hitters nicknamed the Blake Street Bombers, have their eyes set on making it to October again and getting the team back to the World Series, something that hasn't happened since 2007. Given that the team currently sits in second place in the NL West, with a 6-4 record over their last 10 games, and is a game and a half back of the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks, you'd think they would be the talk of baseball right now, but that is far from the truth.
Rather than raging the headlines like an avalanche coming down the Rocky Mountains or a boulder rolling down from high atop Pikes Peak, the Colorado Rockies are being treated like an outcast and are basically a stealth-like team this season with the lack of attention that they have been given. That's about to change because this article will be full of all stuff Rockies related and give some much needed love to those impactful names on the Rockies 25-man roster.
Let's start with something that hasn't been a normal trend for the Rockies during recent seasons, a successful starting rotation. Looking over the past five years, the Rockies really haven't had much starting rotation success until parts of last season, but it has really come to a head this season. Sure, when the team had Jorge De La Rosa anchoring down their starting rotation, De La Rosa figured out how to be effective at Coors Field, but it seemingly didn't carry down to everyone else in the rotation.
On the year, the Rockies starting rotation ranks 20th in baseball in ERA (4.31 over 703.0 IP), but since the beginning of July, the Rockies starting rotation has compiled a 3.58 ERA over 236 innings of work. Heading into the season, many in the Rockies organization and around baseball expected, Jon Gray, to be the team's ace, but Gray has once again struggled and was sent down to the minors at the end of June to allow him to work on his mechanics and find himself again in a much less pressurized environment. Since being recalled from Triple-A on July 14th, Gray has a 2.57 ERA over 42.1 IP and started the month of August throwing 8 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers with his latest start against the Atlanta Braves lasting 7 innings.
Although Jon Gray hasn't lived up to expectations, you could almost say that Kyle Freeland, who has been yet another bright spot for the Rockies, has exceeded expectations. Freeland leads the Rockies starting rotation in ERA (2.96 over 152.0 IP) and has a 82.6 left on-base percentage so far this year. Two tremendous figures for someone who most people around the game have never heard of before. Among the rest of the qualified starting pitchers around baseball, Freeland's ERA ranks 13th, while his left on-base percentage is 7th best in all of baseball, just behind Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox.
Beyond both Gray and Freeland, yet another name that deserves mention in the Rockies starting rotation, German Marquez. Marquez, who is still only 23 years old and has yet to reach his full peak, has been very effective so far this month over three starts, posting a 2.70 ERA over that span with an Opponent Batting Average Against of .219. Furthermore, Marquez has a 9.69 strikeouts-per-9 rate this season, putting him 18th on the list among qualified starting pitchers in that category.
Moving onto the bullpen, while the Rockies have certainly had their fair share of struggles in the pen at various times this year, there have been bright spots that have seemingly emerged. For starters, don't overlook the success that, Adam Ottavino, is having this year. So far this season, Ottavino has posted a 1.70 ERA over 58.1 innings of work, which ranks 8th among qualified relievers, and has a brilliant 12.96 strikeouts-per-9 rate, which is 11th best among relievers in that category. Over that span, Adam Ottavino has only given up 3 home runs and has notched down 25 holds, which means that Bud Black knows he can count on Ottavino in the right situations when the team needs to hold a lead, late in ballgames.
Another bright spot within the Rockies bullpen this year is recently acquired Rockies reliever, Seunghwan Oh, who the team obtained from the Toronto Blue Jays about five days before the July 31st Non-Waiver Trade Deadline. Since making his Rockies debut, Oh has a 1.86 ERA over 9.2 IP with a 0.00 ERA over the last week. With the shambles that the Rockies experienced in their bullpen earlier this season, Colorado needed a veteran arm like Oh and it could easily go down as one of the sneakier pickups that happened at this year's deadline. Furthermore, Oh is extremely valuable against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .164 batting average over the span of 140 at bats this season with 49 strikeouts.
Pitching hasn't been the only bright spot for the Colorado Rockies this year. Easily the biggest offensive contributor thus far for the Rockies has been third baseman, Nolan Arenado, who is having an MVP-like season himself. Going into play today, Arenado is hitting: .308/.391/.582 over 435 at bats with 134 hits, 25 doubles, 2 triples, 30 home runs, 84 RBI, 58 walks, and 128 strikeouts. Arenado has really carried the Rockies lineup during their offensive struggles which have seemed to happen way too much this season compared to previous Rockies teams. That is surprising considering the fact that when you think of the Rockies, you usually think of a lineup that can mash.
Along with Arenado, Trevor Story deserves honorable mention as he has 25 home runs along with 83 RBI this season and don't forget about Carlos Gonzalez either. Gonzalez has raised his on-base percentage to .346 over 348 at bats with a slugging percentage of .489. However, as is always the case with certain Rockies hitters, Gonzalez has an OBP close to 100 points better at home versus on the road and his slugging percentage is almost 300 points different between Coors Field and other ballparks around the league.
Finally, let's end the discussion with a look at how Charlie Blackmon, aka Chuck Nazty, has done so far this year after signing a 4-year extension that includes two option years for 2022 and 2023, this past April. After having a Babe Ruth like season last year, Blackmon has cooled off somewhat as he is hitting: .276/.344/.476 this season over 468 at bats, but still has 129 hits, 18 doubles, 5 triples, 22 home runs, 53 RBI, 44 walks, and 103 strikeouts. So far this month, Blackmon has been in a slump hitting only .183 over 60 at bats, but finished last month with a .351 batting average and a .392 on-base percentage. Again, buyer beware when it comes to those stats for Blackmon because his batting average is almost 100 points higher at home than on the road this year, but regardless, Blackmon has established himself as one of the better hitters in the game and you can expect the offense to pick back up the remainder of the way.
Either way, if the Rockies miss out on the postseason or end up clinching a postseason berth, this will be another season for them to remember, in most regards, and one that Bud Black has played a tremendous role in helping to shape. Black has influenced the Rockies young starting rotation and given them the potential to put themselves in a winning position everyday. Even though the Rockies have had tremendous success thus far, they seemingly continue to fly under-the-radar, like a stealth fighter, with little to no media attention. Perhaps that will change come the end of the year, when the team could follow-up last season, with another postseason appearance and introduce the baseball world to Rocktober once again.