It's About Not Allowing Runs More Than Scoring Runs

Chicks may dig the long ball.

Winners, however, know that success comes with pitching and defense.

It's not about outscoring the opposition. It's about limiting the scoring opportunities the opposition receives. It's about making the big plays defensively, taking pressure off the pitching staff. And it's about making the big pitches in the crucial situations, limiting the demands on the offense to pile up run totals.

And no team underscores that philosophy more than the Rockies.

Over the years, the success the Rockies have enjoyed has come when the pitching and defense have carried the load, not the offense.

It starts with the starting pitchers.

The 2009 Rockies rotation had the lowest ERA in franchise history. That was the season the Rockies claimed their third of four wild-card berths with a rotation ERA of 4.10. The Rockies had a 4.58 rotation ERA in 2007, fourth lowest in franchise history, when they advanced to the World Series, and 4.59 in 2017, when they claimed a wild-card berth, fifth lowest. 

Now in 1995, the Rockies rotation ERA of 5.19 does rank 11th out of the franchise's first 25 seasons, and it is the lowest of any season prior to the humidor being installed in Coors Field for the 2002 season.

It's not like the starters are on an island. They need support, and nowhere is support more necessary than out of the bullpen. The way the game has changed over the years, teams don't look for a starting pitcher to go nine innings. They are satisfied with six innings. As a result, the bullpen becomes a key factor.

In the four seasons in which the Rockies advanced to the post-season, the bullpen compiled four of the 11 best relief ERAs in franchise history, including a 3.85 ERA in 2007, which ranks No. 2 in franchise history.

And in terms of converting saves, three of the best seasons in save percentage in franchise history came during post-season runs -- No. 1 2017, No. 2 2009, and No. 4 1995. The Rockies 2007 bullpen actually finished 17th, converting only 57.4 percent of the saves, but ask the Padres about the final out of the game.

Hall of Fame reliever Trevor Hoffman was given an 8-6 Padres lead in the 13th inning of Game 163 to decide the NL wild-card, and gave up three runs without getting the three necessary outs.

Solid starting pitching and a strong bullpen create opportunities to win by the smallest of margins -- one run. The Rockies have finished .500 or better in 12 of 25 seasons, and all four of those post-season teams were among the 12. A year ago, the franchise record was set when the Rockies went 21-14 in one-run games. The bullpen converted 17 of 26 save opportunities in those one-run games.

 

What usually accompanies good pitching? Good defense. It's not a coincidence that the top three fielding percentages in franchise history were in 2007, 2009 and 2017, the three most recent Rockies post-season teams. And then there was the 1995 strike-shortened season in which the Rockies advanced to the post-season in what was a record third year of existence. That team had the 21st best fielding percentage in the franchise's 25 years of existence.

Tracy RingolsbyComment