For all the talk about getting 150 games from Tulo and Cargo and having rotation depth, it's strange that we don't talk more about the impact of rotation health on the Rockies' fortunes.
Ask most Rockies fans what the best team in Rockies history was, and they'll point to 2007. Rocktober. The only playoff series wins in franchise history. And so on.
It's a fine choice, but it's not my choice. That team went 89-63 in its first 162 games - a record that often doesn't make the postseason at all. It then proceeded to beat two not-particularly-strong teams in the playoffs (remember Arizona's negative run differential?) before getting crushed by a good one.
But hating on the 2007 Rockies isn't my point here. They were actually robbed of a number of deserved awards (MVP, ROY, several Gold Gloves), and their then-record for team fielding percentage put them ahead of their time in terms of learning to win at Coors. No, my purpose here is simply to point out a better team - the true best team in Rockies history: The 2009 Colorado Rockies.
The best record in franchise history (92-70) included an incredible 74-40 finish (after the Hurdle firing). This was the only team in franchise history to clinch a playoff spot before its final game of the season. Yes, it lost in the first round of the playoffs, but it lost to the defending world champion Phillies (who won the NL again that year), and did so only because Huston Street blew a 4-2 lead in the 9th inning of Game 4 after blowing a 5-5 tie in the 9th inning of Game 3 (on the infamous Chase Utley blown call "infield hit"). In short, one can argue that the difference between the playoff results in 2007 and 2009 was simply facing a good team sooner. Or not being quite so hot. Or umpiring.
But what really set the 2009 team apart from all other Rockies teams was its rotation. Specifically, its rotation health. In 2009, the Rockies got an incredible 155 starts from their opening day rotation. One-hundred fifty-five! Few other Rockies teams have come close to doing this. For all the talk of how lousy the replacement starters in recent years have been, who even cares if they're only pitching seven games all season!
Check out some key numbers from this group (fangraphs):
|Jorge de la Rosa||32||185||5.78||4.38||3.91||3.71||3.5|
The WAR sum is nice; certainly better than what we usually get from a collection of five pitchers. But how about that average number of innings per start?
MORE THAN SIX?!? What team is this?
It's a team that finished TENTH out of all 30 MLB teams in team ERA, FIFTH in team FIP, THIRD in team xFIP, and SECOND in team pitching WAR. That's right, this team had 22.9 pitching WAR and only 18.9 offensive WAR (which was just 13th in MLB).
I honestly don't know how a team just a couple of years removed from this thought it needed to go to a 75-pitch limit and use piggy-backing nonsense. It is clear that between this team's pitching and the 2007 group's defense, acceptable run-prevention at Coors is possible.