As I sat watching the end of the Colorado Rockies' second loss of the day and 78th loss of the season on Tuesday night, I found myself wondering if they were good at anything at all. Given the second worst record in baseball, I was skeptical. On the other hand, I figured that every team has to be good at SOMETHING, so I made it my mission to find a category that the Rockies have been legitimately good at in 2015. Here we go...
Before we get too far into this, I'll set some quick parameters for what counts as "good." I wasn't too strict. All they needed was to be in the top eight in the league (roughly the top 25 percent) and it also had to be a category that would actually be useful in making a good baseball team. For instance, being "good at walking people" would not count here.
Let's look at the pitching first. As we all know, the pitching staff has been atrocious this season, so finding something they're actually good at could be a bit of a chore. Frankly, I have no idea if there will even be something. Wish me luck!
I'll start with some of the simpler stuff, then gradually go more complex until I find something they're good at. (Assuming I actually find something.)
*All stats are as of the start of play on Tuesday.
Pitcher WAR: The Rockies as a team are 29th in fWAR at just 4.5 on the season. No shock there. Time to move on.
Run prevention: Not even close. Their staff ERA of 5.10 is easily the worst in baseball. Does it get any better if we park-adjust? It does! However, their 112 ERA- is good for just 26th in the league, so we're still not in the same ballpark as "good."
FIP/FIP/SIERA: Maybe we'll have some better luck if we look at ERA predictors. If they're good in one of these areas it might suggest that the staff will improve and become good later on. Sadly, no luck here either. Their FIP of 4.62 is worst in baseball while their park-adjusted FIP- gives them only a slight bump up to 28th. xFIP is no kinder, with their 4.33 mark only 29th in baseball. Their park-adjusted xFIP is somehow even worse; they're dead last. SIERA is no different, they're 29th in baseball at 4.32.
Strikeouts and walks: I think I know where this is going. Amazingly, I'm not surprised! The Rockies rank 28th in strikeouts per nine innings and dead last in both walks per nine innings and strikeout to walk ratio. I figured that one was a long shot. Moving on.
High leverage performance: Maybe the pitching staff gets better in important situations? This would show up in their win probability added (WPA) or "clutch" rating from FanGraphs. They are...drum roll please...28th in WPA and 26th in FanGraphs' "clutch" metric! Sadly, 26th is the best I've found so far. Things are starting to look pretty bleak. Let's try one more thing.
Contact management: Have the Rockies been good at limiting hard contact or inducing a lot of soft contact? They sure haven't! They come in 28th at allowing hard contact and 27th at inducing soft contact. Perhaps they've at least done an okay job at keeping the ball in the ballpark. Ha, just kidding. Their home run to fly ball ratio is the worst in baseball.
Alright, I give. The pitching staff isn't good at anything. Hopefully the offense will save us.
Position player WAR: We aren't off to a much better start here. Rockies position players come in 27th in fWAR at 9.5 on the season. That's not good.
Run production: On the surface, this one looks promising. The Rockies have scored the fifth most runs in baseball! That would qualify! Unfortunately, we should probably park-adjust before getting too excited. Sure enough, once we do that, they drop all the way to 27th in wRC+. Darn.
Strikeouts and walks: No good news on this front either. The Rockies are 26th in walk ratio and 22nd in strikeout ratio. Hey, 22nd is the best we've found so far though! Is anyone else getting depressed?
Baserunning: FanGraphs has a baserunning metric to calculate how good or bad a team has done on the bases. This one is actually the best so far! ... The Rockies are still only 18th, though. That's not good, but at least it's only slightly below average!
Defense: Nolan Arenado is undeniably great at defense. The question here, however, is whether the Rockies as a whole are good defensively. Finally, they actually come pretty close! FanGraphs ranks them 11th in defensive value, legitimately above average! That's as good as it gets, however. Ultimate zone rating puts the Rockies 22nd while defensive runs saved has them 21st. I really thought we had something good going there. I'm running out of ideas.
Attendance?: In spite of being pretty awful, the Rockies still seem to have good attendance. Turns out that's true! They have averaged 32,107 fans per game so far in 2015, which is the 11th most in the league. That still doesn't even qualify as good, but at this point I'll take what I can get.
Farm system: This is the only thing we've got to hang out hats on. The Rockies' farm system is widely regarded as one of the best in the game and is really the only thing that is legitimately "good" about them right now. Right now, the Rockies are where the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros were about two years ago. If all goes according to plan, hopefully they'll be where the Cubs and Astros are now in two years as well. Fingers crossed.
So, there you have it. As far as I can tell, the 2015 Rockies aren't good at anything. That sucks. Baseball is always fun, but it's a whole lot more fun when your team is winning. Here's hoping we get some of that soon.