Sustainability is all the rage; can the Rockies do it?

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Let's look at some components of the Rockies' hot start.

The Rockies are off to a hot start. We've heard that line before--in 2011 and 2013, to be precise. Those hot starts were followed by ice ages of Precambrian proportions. So after getting burned twice by hot starts, Rockies fans should be understandably nervous. Is the bottom going to drop out of this season like it did in seasons prior?

Wins and losses can be fickle things; dozens of events go into the great fondue of a baseball game, and at the end of play it's either an "L" or a "W." But there are better ways of predicting the future than simply looking at winning percentage and projecting it forward. Have the Rockies "earned" their 22-15 record (that's a .682 winning percentage)? Let's look at the ingredients of the Rockies' season so far.

Run Differential

This is the quick and dirty measurement that even non-Sabermetricians like to look at. Baseball is about scoring more runs than you allow; whaddaya need, a road map? Wins and losses are so dependent on sequencing that simply looking at aggregate runs strips a lot of the noise away. A team that wins a game 10-0 one day, then loses 5-4 the next, probably played better than the opposing team, even if their records are identical. So how do the Rockies stack up?

Pretty well.

Rank Team R RA Diff
1 Rockies 215 165 50
2 Athletics 166 122 44
3 Tigers 148 115 33
4 Marlins 160 129 31
5 Giants 147 122 25
6 Angels 168 145 23
7 Blue Jays 178 158 20
8 Cardinals 127 110 17
9 Reds 126 111 15
10 Nationals 143 129 14
11 Brewers 139 126 13
12 Dodgers 148 141 7
13 Mariners 141 135 6
14 Braves 105 102 3
15 White Sox 184 184 0
16 Orioles 137 138 -1
17 Red Sox 141 145 -4
18 Royals 132 137 -5
19 Twins 159 164 -5
20 Mets 131 138 -7
21 Cubs 129 139 -10
22 Indians 140 151 -11
23 Yankees 141 152 -11
24 Rays 145 157 -12
25 Pirates 134 148 -14
26 Rangers 146 174 -28
27 Phillies 129 160 -31
28 Padres 92 131 -39
29 Astros 120 181 -61
30 Diamondbacks 139 201 -62

Yep, the Rockies have the best run differential in baseball, plus six on the Athletics and plus nineteen on the nearest NL team (the upstart Miami Marlins). All those blowouts contributed to the Rockies' gaudy run total. By this measure the Rockies have actually UNDER-performed. They have allowed the fifth most runs in the league, but when you factor in Coors Field, that's actually pretty solid run prevention. Naturally, they lead baseball in runs scored by a mile. Also, lol Diamondbacks.

But runs scored isn't the end-all-be-all either. As Dave Cameron of Fangraphs explains in an earlier piece on the subject, runs scored can be misleading as well. Runs are as susceptible to the vagaries of sequencing as wins; a team can go 0-15 with runners in scoring position and score fewer runs than a team that gets one or two timely hits.

So let's compare some other stats and see what the Rockies have been doing against their opponents.

Average and BABIP Differential

Team Avg Diff Team BABIP Diff
Rockies 0.052 Rockies 0.049
Tigers 0.049 Marlins 0.045
Marlins 0.033 Reds 0.033
Cardinals 0.03 Tigers 0.03
Athletics 0.028 White Sox 0.03
Angels 0.022 Cardinals 0.024
Reds 0.022 Athletics 0.023
Dodgers 0.015 Angels 0.015
Brewers 0.015 Brewers 0.013
Royals 0.014 Dodgers 0.012
Nationals 0.013 Mariners 0.004
White Sox 0.01 Royals 0.004
Yankees 0.01 Twins 0.002
Blue Jays 0.008 Braves 0
Braves 0.007 Nationals 0
Giants 0 Pirates 0
Rays 0 Phillies -0.001
Mariners -0.003 Yankees -0.001
Indians -0.004 Giants -0.005
Red Sox -0.004 Red Sox -0.005
Diamondbacks -0.007 Orioles -0.006
Orioles -0.009 Diamondbacks -0.007
Pirates -0.012 Rays -0.01
Rangers -0.013 Mets -0.011
Phillies -0.016 Rangers -0.011
Cubs -0.019 Cubs -0.015
Mets -0.025 Blue Jays -0.017
Padres -0.028 Padres -0.027
Twins -0.029 Indians -0.036
Astros -0.043 Astros -0.037

The Rockies once again lead the way, this time in (Batting Average-Batting Average Against) and in (BABIP-BABIP Against). Remember, home park has nothing to do with this one; Rockies opponents have hit in the exact same parks as the Rockies themselves. Highly correlated with this, the Rockies far outstrip their opponents on balls in play.

By almost all measures, the Rockies have been far outhitting their opponents, while pitching at about a middle of the pack rate (101 ERA-). Nothing suggests this offensive outburst has been "unearned;" however, it is fair to speculate if it's unsustainable. The components of the Rockies' hot start are commensurate with their performance. If Tulo stays unbeatable and the pitching survives, there's no reason why the Rockies can't keep pounding opponents into submission.

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