Rockies Season to Celebarate Ends on Sour Note, But Future is Sweet

Retired football coach Joe Glenn had a favorite saying he would use in explaining the challenges of building a champion – which he did in multiple seasons at Northern Colorado and Montana.

“How do you eat an elephant?” he would ask. “One bite at a time.”

In other words, there is no quick fix to long-term success.

There is disappointment for the folks who work at 20th and Blake, and the fans of the Rockies in the aftermath of the team being swept in the NL Division Series by the Brewers, the Rockies highly-regarded offense having betrayed a pitching staff that is forcing the national media to recognize its accomplishments.

But, as manager Bud Black explained, there are going to be 29 front offices and fan bases with disappointment by the time the world champion is crowned in the final days of October.

“A the end of all this one team is going to be happy,” said Black. “We got into the dance. We fought. We might not have played our best, but part of that is our opponent and how (the Brewers) played. Our guys came to play every day. They played hard in this series. They got outplayed.”

Look at this way.

The Rockies took the first bite out of the elephant a year ago, claiming a wild-card berth in the post-season.

They took the second bite this year, advancing to the NL Division Series.

Next? A step three that the franchise can envision being a step forward – how far forward only time will tell – instead of a step backward.

“The fans should be proud of this team and how it played,” said Black. “They came to play every night and played hard, the way you are supposed to play.”

They did wind up with 91 wins, one shy of the franchise record, and did advance to the post-season for the first time in back-to-back seasons. Those are bright spots, overshadowed right now by the disappointment of the season not continuing farther into October.

2018 Rotation W L GS ERA
Kyle Freeland 17 7 33 2.85
German Marquez 14 11 33 3.77
Antonio Senzatela 4 5 13 3.95
Tyler Anderson 7 9 32 4.55
Jon Gray 12 9 31 5.12
Chad Bettis 5 2 20 5.28
Jeff Hoffman 0 0 1 8.10

The Rockies were the consensus fourth-place pick in the NL West. It was a team that faced challenges along the way, and answered them each time, until they ran into the Brewers at the end of a whirlwind week that could have been avoided had they won one more regular-season game.

Think about it, at the end of 162 games, the Rockies and Dodgers were tied for first place in the NL West.

So instead of being a division champion, and being able to take a few days to regroup before being the host team in the first two games of the NL Division Series against Atlanta on Thursday and Friday, the Rockies got on a plane after Game 162 on Oct. 7, and flew to Los Angeles for a Game 163 against the Dodgers.

Rotations W L Pct
Dodgers 57 38 .600
Rockies 59 43 .578
D-backs 59 45 .567
Braves 60 46 .566
Cardinals 59 46 .562
Cubs 59 50 .541
Brewers 54 46 .540
Nationals 55 53 .509
Pirates 58 56 .509
Mets 50 49 .505
Phillies 54 56 .491
Giants 42 59 .416
Reds 41 68 0.376
Padres 38 66 0.365
Marlins 36 65 0.356
Rockies W L ERA
2009 69 50 4.10
2018 59 43 4.17
2010 58 52 4.21
2013 54 60 4.57
2007 55 47 4.58
2017 63 56 4.59
2006 52 63 4.72
2011 53 68 4.73
2016 53 58 4.79
2014 44 65 4.89

They came up short in that game, which meant they climbed on a plane the night of Oct. 8, and flew to Chicago for the Wild-Card game against the Cubs, which they won – the hard way, 2-1 in 13 innings.

After that, they rode the bus to Milwaukee, had last Wednesday off, and then opened the NL Division Series against the Brewers, losing back-to-back games at Miller Park before returning home for what turned into the final game of their season on Sunday.

Here’s the kicker.

The Rockies were betrayed not by their pitching, which was a solid foundation for their success this season, but rather the offense, which fell short of expectations during the regular season, and then hit bottom in the final five games – Game 163, the Wild-Card game and the NL Division Series.

The rotation, meanwhile, opened eyes, and did it without one start made by a pitcher who had in the three years of big-league experience to have been arbitration eligible. With six pitchers combining to start 162 of the 163 games, the Rockies rotation had the second-best winning percentage among rotations in the NL, and the second lowest ERA in franchise history.

Left-hander Kyle Freeland set a franchise record for ERA by a starting pitcher both for the season – finishing with the fifth-lowest in the NL (2.85) – and at Coors Field (2.40). Freeland and German Marquez made 33 starts apiece, tied for the second most in the NL, on a staff that led the NL in innings pitched by the starting rotation.

2018 780 .256 .322 .435
2011 735 .258 .329 .410
2009 804 .261 .343 .441
2010 770 .263 .336 .425
2008 747 .263 .336 .415
2015 737 .265 .315 .432
2005 740 .267 .333 .411
2003 853 .267 .344 .445
2013 706 .270 .323 .418
2006 813 .270 .341 .433

By contrast, the Rockies offense was challenged. The club scored 780 runs, 15th in franchise history, 15 fewer runs in 163 games than the 1995 team scored in 144 games. They had the lowest batting average (.256) in franchise history, second lowest on-base percentage (.322) and 10th worst slugging percentage (.433),

The bottom line?

There is a foundation to build on, although there are some challenging decisions facing the front office in the off-season.

There are decisions to be made, and they begin with do the Rockies feel that between prospects Garrett Hampson and Brendan Rodgers they can afford to lose second baseman DJ LeMahieu to free agency?

The other potential free agents include outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra (who does have an option for 2019).

And there is the elephant in the room – the potential free agency of Nolan Arenado after the 2019 season, which they could attempt to deal with this off-season to give them a better idea of their long-range financial commitments and needs.

It was an approach they took last off-season in signing Charlie Blackmon to a multi-year deal, avoiding his free agency this fall.

Tracy Ringolsby2 Comments