The Colorado Rockies returned to the postseason for the first time since 2009 behind seasons for the ages by third baseman Nolan Arenado and center fielder Charlie Blackmon. Arenado and Blackmon led the Rockies to an 87-75 record–their best mark since 2009–and a third-place finish in the National League West.
Despite an August slump, the Rockies played consistently well through the majority of the season to keep themselves in the Wild Card hunt. Colorado managed to keep its focus on the Wild Card even as the LA Dodgers dominated June, July, and much of August.
Arenado and Blackman led the offensive charge for the Rockies and carried a heavy portion of the load. Arenado hit .309 with 37 homers, 130 RBIs, 43 doubles, and slugged .586. Blackmon played his part with a .331 batting average, 37 home runs, 104 RBIs, 35 doubles, and slugged a whopping .601. It was quite the one-two punch the Rockies packed with that pair.
Overall, the Rockies benefitted from hitting a ton of doubles and triples and keeping the ball in the yard. The Rockies finished second in MLB–behind the Arizona Diamondbacks–in triples, fourth in the NL in doubles, and third in the NL in slugging percentage.
Despite playing in the most hitter-friendly ballpark in Major League Baseball, the Rockies were able to rely on a stout defense to win a lot of close games. Arenado posted the best WAR among three-baggers in the bigs. In addition to stellar hitting, Arenado played to a .979 fielding percentage with just nine errors on 423 chances. The only everyday third baseman whose percentage was higher was Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals, but he had 89 fewer chances. Overall, the Rockies finished second in the bigs in fielding percentage, behind only the Miami Marlins.
So, with a team that hits the ball well and fields it cleanly, where did they go wrong? Pitching. The Rockies pitching staff wasn’t bad by any means, it just wasn’t incredibly consistent. Of the seven starting pitchers with more than 10 starts to his name, only one finished with a losing record. However, none of the rest won more than 11 games. Starter German Marquez led the staff with an 11-7 record, but tossed a 4.39 ERA.
It’s pretty easy to see that the Rockies could use a solid starter to anchor their rotation, having started eight pitchers on the season and none of them showing a dominating presence. Of the notable free agent pitchers still on the market, Jake Arrieta would be an excellent fit for the Rockies. Arrieta gave up a relatively high amount of hits in 2017, averaging 8.0 per nine innings, but a stronger defense behind him could help to clean up a 3.53 ERA, even a little bit.
The Rockies were a legitimate contender in 2017, but if they get the pitching situation figured out, they could be a force to be reckoned with in the NL West in the upcoming season.
Photo by Brigham Berthold