Anytime a baseball team improves from 68 to 75 wins over the course of a year, it's pretty easy to see that some things went right -- or, at least, less wrong than they did in the prior season. But for the 2016 Rockies, the moderate increase in wins doesn't tell the whole story of just how successful the season was.
The club got breakout seasons from three "veteran" players (I use that term loosely because Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu are all still relatively young) and, perhaps more importantly, fielded arguably its best crop of rookies in franchise history. The one big takeaway from the season is that these Rockies boast talent all over the field -- even within the one unit that consistently struggled.
The future is certainly bright, and we'll talk about that a lot over the coming days and months. But, for now, let's look back at the best (and worst) of 2016. First, awards. These will be your typical MVP/Cy Young/Rookie of the Year/et cetera, but with a purple-tinged twist, of course.
Larry Walker Award (team MVP)
The Rockies' biggest star slugged and defended his way to a 6.5-WAR season, topping 40 homers and 130 runs batted in for the second straight year while earning his fourth consecutive Gold Glove award at third base, where he topped 2.0 WAR on defense for the second consecutive season and led the league in Defensive Runs Saved.
Arenado is the first Rockies player to accumulate 6 or more WAR in a season since Troy Tulowitzki in 2011. Something tells me plenty more of these will be on the way.
Honorable mention: DJ LeMahieu, Charlie Blackmon, Tyler Chatwood
Matt Holliday Award (team best offensive player)
Blackmon didn't hit for power like Arenado or for average like NL batting champ DJ LeMahieu, who also led the team in offensive WAR, but he was the most consistent player in the lineup in terms of hitting regardless of venue. The bearded tablesetter hit .313/.363/.563 with 17 homers -- on the road. Overall, he accumulated 4.4 WAR on the back of a 130 OPS+ with 29 homers and a .381 on-base percentage en route to becoming one of the premier offensive center fielders in the game.
Honorable mention: LeMahieu, Arenado, Trevor Story
Ubaldo Jimenez Award (team Cy Young)
Tyler Chatwood posted the highest WAR among Rox starters in 2016, but Anderson wasn't far behind -- and he gave the club a chance to win more consistently. Though he wasn't called up until June, Anderson posted 12 quality starts in 19 attempts and was great at Coors Field, putting up a 3.00 ERA in 78 home innings. Anderson was also among the best in the NL at fielding his position, as evidenced by his 5 Defensive Runs Saved. And an adjusted ERA that came in 38 percent above league average? We'll take that, too.
Honorable mention: Chatwood, Jon Gray, Boone Logan
Troy Tulowitzki Award (team Rookie of the Year)
This one was hard. Between Story, Anderson and Jon Gray, the Rockies had a whole bunch of deserving options. But Story started the year on fire and, contrary to popular belief, was even better well into the summer before being lost for the season with a thumb injury. In just 97 games, the 24-year-old Texan broke the NL record for homers by a rookie shortstop with 27 and accumulated 3.1 WAR as a result of strong offense and solid defense.
Whether he becomes a generational talent (when healthy) like his predecessor and namesake of this award remains to be seen, but Story has already shown the ability to play good defense and produce regularly -- and, occasionally, go nuclear -- on offense. Reminds me of someone...
Honorable mention: Anderson, Gray, David Dahl
Gerardo Parra Award (team least valuable player)
Parra's -2.8 WAR ranks dead last in franchise history, behind 1999 Dante Bichette and 1997 Kirt Manwaring. He accomplished that feat by being, by WAR, the team's worst offensive and defensive player. It's hard to post a line of .253/.271/..399 while playing at Coors Field half of the time, but Parra managed to do so anyway. He walked just nine times in 381 plate appearances, which is OK for a player who can consistently barrel up pitches. Instead, Parra finished outside the top 50 among NL hitters in contact rate and swung at a higher rate of pitches than all but four players in the league.
In the outfield, Parra was eight runs below average in terms of Defensive Runs Saved. And, though he was pretty good (9.9 UZR/150) in 435 innings in left field, he was so bad (-36.8) in 122 innings in right that he still finished with a negative rating overall.
That's how you get a bad award named after you.
Dishonorable mention: Ben Paulsen, Ryan Raburn, Eddie Butler
Mike Hampton Award (team Cy Yuck)
Taking Eddie Butler and his -1.3 WAR would've been the easy way out here. Instead, the Rockies' bullpen -- a unit that finished with by far the lowest Win Probably Added (-7.4) of any in baseball -- collectively earns the award. In terms of WAR, Colorado relievers actually ranked ahead of a couple of playoff teams and 21st in the league overall. But when the group melted down, it melted down hard. The bullpen blew 28 saves, fewer than only the Giants and Marlins among NL teams, and its collective strikeout rate was fourth-worst in baseball.
Simply put, with the exceptions of Chris Rusin, Boone Logan and Adam Ottavino, these guys were largely not good. That was, quite possibly, the difference between a 75-win club and one that could've stayed in contention into the final week of the season. Hopefully Dick Monfort, Jeff Bridich and company took note of that heading into the offseason.
Dishonorable mention: Butler, Jordan Lyles, Jorge De La Rosa
Tomorrow, we'll hand out some minor league awards before diving head first into the offseason.
All WAR figures courtesy of Baseball-Reference.