The 2015 Colorado Rockies were not a good team. After going 68-94, finishing in the basement of the NL West, and being outscored by 107 runs, it's pretty safe to say they were terrible. They had a great lineup though, right? All they need is some pitching and they are good to go. 2016 National League West champs, here we come! Right?
That certainly seems to be the prevailing thought on social media. When Eric Garcia McKinley proposed a Charlie Blackmon for Jorge Soler swap, the response on social media was predictable:
Last week, we learned the Rockies and Rays had discussed a trade for a starting pitcher. The reaction was similar:
There's also a Colorado Rockies Fans page on Facebook. Here's a few comments from the most recent post on that page (as of this writing at least):
I could keep going with more of these comments all day, but I think you get the idea. Now, the Rockies don't have good pitching. It's bad — really bad — and if the Rockies plan to become contenders at some point in the future (most likely sometime after 2016), the pitching must improve. But there's a popular misconception that pitching is the only problem the Rockies have.
It's easy to understand why people think the Rockies have a good offense. After all, they were first in the National League in runs scored, slugging percentage (SLG), and isolated power (ISO) and second in home runs, weighted on-base average (wOBA), and batting average. Those are all good things, but unfortunately they fail to address the Coors Field-sized elephant in the room.
As I'm sure you all know, Coors Field is the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the big leagues, which helped to mask some of the Rockies' flaws at the plate. Take a look at where the Rockies ranked in the National League in some important offensive categories in 2015:
The big one here — wRC+ —— is the third row that I put in bold. When adjusted for ballpark, the Rockies had the worst offense in the league in 2015. Another way of contextualizing how bad the offense was is by comparing it to other Rockies teams. Let's see where the 2015 club ranks among the last 10 Rockies offenses:
Again, 2015 comes in at the bottom of the pack. The great season from Nolan Arenado and the great second half from Carlos Gonzalez clouded the fact that the offense was actually the team's worst of the past decade.
Struggling on offense certainly isn't a new phenomenon though. Here are those same categories from the first table in the five years ('11-'15) since the Rockies last had a winning season in 2010:
That isn't good. For a bit of perspective, no NL playoff team in 2015 finished the year worse than 10th in any of those categories. Sadly, this isn't even the worst of it. Their road numbers in 2015 were even more abysmal than their overall numbers:
And while we're at it, the Rockies' road numbers over the last five years:
(*We're pretty sure the fWAR numbers are inaccurate. The Rockies were bad, but not THAT bad. Hoping to have more on that topic soon.)
Now those are some sigh-inducing numbers if I've ever seen them. It may be unrealistic to expect this team to ever be great on the road due to the Coors Hangover, but frankly that doesn't excuse being dead last in the league in almost every important offensive category.
The fix to this problem isn't an easy one, but it's one that probably starts from the ground up. The Rockies have already begun to focus on walks and on-base percentage in their minor league system, something intended to help them everywhere, but particularly on the road.
Really though, the important takeaway here is that the Rockies don't just need pitching. Adding one or two quality arms to the starting rotation, while important, would be addressing one issue while ignoring another and most likely would not be nearly enough to get this team where it needs to be.
If the main prospect coming back in any potential future Rockies trade this offseason is a position player, and not a pitcher, that's not necessarily a bad thing. General manager Jeff Bridich would do well to consider everyone available and seek to acquire good players, rather than pigeonholing himself and the team into only acquiring pitching. For this team to get to where it needs to be, the offense must get better, too.