For the Colorado Rockies, the narrative is almost always the same. They'll score plenty, but can they pitch well enough to win? During the first six weeks of the season, the answer to that question was an emphatic no, particularly in the starting rotation.
Let's go back to just after game one of their doubleheader on May 23 against the San Francisco Giants, a 10-8 loss. Rockies starting pitchers were averaging just under five innings per start, had a 5.50 ERA, were walking 4.64 batters per nine innings, and had only eight quality starts, all easily the worst marks in baseball. At that point, the team had a 15-25 record, the second worst in the NL.
Now, fast forward to tonight. In the 17 games since those dark days, the rotation has turned things around completely. Since then, that rotation has averaged just under 6⅔ innings per start with a 3.46 ERA, just 2.17 BB/9, and 12 quality starts. On top of that, if we don't include the game where Jordan Lyles had to leave after just 1⅓ innings because of an injury, the shortest outing from any Rockies starter has been 5⅓ innings. That's better than what the rotation was averaging over the first 40 games! Unsurprisingly, the club has gone 12-5 in this stretch and made baseball in LoDo exciting again.
The cause of the rotation's improvement is really a combination of a few different factors. One that is fairly obvious and that is probably the most heavily discussed has been the emergence of the trio of Chad Bettis, David Hale, and Chris Rusin. The three have combined for an impressive 2.96 ERA and 2.01 BB/9 across 67 innings on the season. When you consider that the majority of fans expected to get little, if anything, from that trio, the fact that all three have emerged and pitched extremely well has been a huge and unexpected boost for the Rockies.
Another very encouraging sign for the Rockies have been the last two starts from Jorge De La Rosa. After getting off to a rough start that was hindered by a groin injury and some bad luck, De La Rosa has turned in two straight quality starts that has led to two Rockies wins. Even after allowing just two runs in seven outstanding innings in tonight's 4-3 Rockies win, his ERA still sits at an unsightly 5.53. However, with a 3.74 FIP and 3.52 xFIP, it would appear that better things are on the horizon for the 34-year old lefty. Tonight was also De La Rosa's 72nd win in a Rockies uniform, which ties him with Aaron Cook for the most wins in franchise history. I'm not a huge fan of pitcher wins, but that is still something to be very proud of.
Whether or not the success from the starting rotation is sustained will likely be a significant factor in determining how the rest of the season pans out for the Rockies. If it continues, you just never know what might happen. Obviously it wouldn't make a lot of sense to look at 17 games and assume that the rotation will definitely perform that way for the remaining 105 games this season, but it's certainly a step in the right direction and is something to build on going forward.
Even if it accomplishes nothing else, the recent work by the starting rotation has already done one good thing:
First time the #Rockies aren't in last place since May 3.— Dargan Southard (@dsouth16) June 10, 2015
It isn't the ultimate goal, but it's a start.