As the Colorado Rockies lost their third consecutive game to the Houston Astros and their seventh out of eight overall, it was tough not to be just a little jealous of the guys from Houston. They are all of the things that the Rockies want to be. They're young (16 of the 25 players on their active roster are 28 years old or younger), they have a low payroll (nobody on the roster makes more than $6 million this season and as a team they have the lowest payroll in baseball), and they're good (the win tonight made them 39-28 on the season). On top of that, they have just about every trait that you'd want a team playing 81 games at Coors Field to have. Let's take a look at three different areas where the Rockies need to catch up.
The Astros win the walk battle
In tonight's game, the Astros drew four walks on offense while the pitching staff didn't issue a single free pass. Obviously, the opposite can be said of the Rockies. This is really a microcosm of the entire season for both teams. The Astros entered play today with a pitching staff that was third in the Major Leagues in BB/9 and an offense that was fourth in the league in BB%. On the other hand, the Rockies pitching staff entered the game tonight 30th (dead last) in the Major Leagues in BB/9 while the offense was 29th in BB%. Walks can be killers in any park, but losing the walk battle at Coors Field can be particularly deadly. The Astros are great at both limiting opponent walks as well as earning free passes of their own while the Rockies have been atrocious in both areas.
The Astros are better baserunners
Entering play tonight, the Astros were the sixth best baserunning team in baseball. They were also third in the league in stolen bases and had a 78% success rate, an excellent number that again ranks toward the top of the league. Conversely, the Rockies came in ranked 17th in the league in baserunning, were tied for 18th in stolen bases, and had just a 62% success rate, meaning that they hurt themselves more than they help by trying to run. At Coors Field, even being on first base puts a runner in scoring position, so the consistency with which they have run into outs on the bases this season has been maddening. The team could really take a note from the Astros book. They don't necessarily need to steal the same volume of bases that the Astros do, but if they were able to boost their stolen base success rate up near 80% (or just stop running), they would likely score more runs.
The Astros are built from within
This just may be the area in which the Rockies most hope to emulate the Astros. Five of the Astros' top six players in rWAR -- Dallas Keuchel, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Lance McCullers, and Jason Castro -- have come up through the team's farm system. In addition to those five, there is also 20-year old shortstop Carlos Correa, a consensus top five prospect in baseball who has raked to the tune of .359/.375/.641 in his first 40 PA as a big leaguer, and pitcher Vincent Velasquez, also considered a top 100 prospect. The Rockies are attempting to do the same thing as they stock up what is considered one of baseball's better farm systems and can only hope that some combination of Jon Gray, David Dahl, Trevor Story, Tom Murphy, Brendan Rodgers, Mike Nikorak, Kyle Freeland, Raimel Tapia, and company can one day do the same thing for the Rockies that this current group is doing for the Astros.
Tonight's game on the surface was just one loss in what is looking like it might be a long season full of frustrating losses, but if you look a little deeper, you'll find the Rockies playing against what they one day hope to become.