For the fifth consecutive year, the Colorado Rockies avoided posting a losing record in April, finishing the first month of the 2015 season with an 11-10 record.
The Rockies looked much better at the beginning of the month than they did at the end, when an already weak pitching staff began to show signs of falling apart. The starting lineup and bullpen were strengths of the team in April and figure to be that way going forward, health permitting of course. But the starting rotation has posted only five quality starts through the club's first 24 games and owns a 125 ERA-, the third-worst mark in the National League.
How does that relate to the way Jeff Bridich built the team? Here's a look at some things he's responsible for:
Nick Hundley. The veteran catcher looks like a bargain so far, posting .328/.384/.463 line in the first month in year one of a two-year, $6.25 million deal. Hundley statistically isn't much better of a catcher than Wilin Rosario or Michael McKenry, but there's a non-quantifiable thing with him that has allowed Rockies pitchers to have success on certain days in spite of poor command, lack of quality stuff or both. It doesn't hurt, of course, that he's hitting well.
The bullpen. Most observers of the team thought this unit would be better simply based on regression to the mean, and that has largely been the case. Offseason additions of John Axford and Rafael Betancourt have helped, but Bridich and Walt Weiss also deserve credit for shuffling pitchers in and out of roles depending on how well-suited they are. Christian Bergman (1.26 ERA in 14⅓ innings mostly as a long reliever) and Adam Ottavino (no runs, 13 strikeouts in 10⅓ innings, most of which came in the closer role, before his injury -- UGH) are proof of that.
DJ LeMahieu and Charlie Blackmon. Sometimes, standing pat pays off more than anything. Despite LeMahieu's Gold Glove and Blackmon's All-Star appearance, there was a fair amount of clamoring to replace both players in the lineup as a result of their offensive woes (particularly LeMahieu, who posted a 76 OPS+ last year). They're proving people wrong in a big way in 2015. LeMahieu is among the league leaders in hitting, taking a .392/.435/.506 line into the upcoming homestand. Blackmon, meanwhile, is a couple of runs above average in the field and has overcome a slow start to post a .316/.365/.579 line after hitting a pair of homers on Sunday.
The rotation. Bridich's lone addition to the big league rotation has bombed in a huge way so far. Kyle Kendrick has allowed hard contact at the fourth-highest rate in baseball while struggling to an 8.73 ERA/201 ERA- in six starts. His leash is getting shorter by the day, $5.5 million contract be damned.
The rest of the unit hasn't been too good, either. Tyler Matzek and Eddie Butler have largely avoided damage but are both walking batters at an astronomical rate. Jordan Lyles was pitching well before a big step backward in his last start in Phoenix and is not listed on the Rockies' list of probable starters for this week, prompting some concern. Jorge De La Rosa is getting better with each start but is still trying to gain a feel for pitching after a groin injury wrecked his preparation for the season.
The bench. It's not enough that the Rockies' bench is one of the worst in the majors, but it's also one of the thinnest thanks to the rotation's inability to eat up innings. Bridich and Weiss did themselves a disservice by sending down Wilin Rosario, who was probably the only quality bat on the bench. Rafael Ynoa, Daniel Descalso, Michael McKenry and Drew Stubbs aren't getting it done; Stubbs, in fact, has just one hit in 27 plate appearances and has struck out 16 times.
I didn't include Carlos Gonzalez (.200/.258/.329) because trading him last offseason wouldn't have made any sense, and the only way for the Rockies to restore his value is to let him play. But he certainly hasn't been good, and that's a nightmare scenario for the team if he remains that way and they remain out of contention.
With all that said, how do you feel things are going with Bridich at the helm? As always, vote below, and explain yourself in the comments (or, if more than a couple paragraphs, FanPosts are encouraged and will get you instant street cred).