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Scott Oberg took an important step in 2017 for the Rockies

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Oberg’s results may finally be matching his stuff

Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.

No. 23, Scott Oberg (0.2 rWAR)

During the spring training in 2015, the word coming out Rockies camp was that relief prospect Scott Oberg was showcasing some of the best stuff in camp. It was little surprise when he become a big contributor in the Rockies bullpen that year. While his stuff opened the door, his ability to simply stay healthy kept him there as the results were far from pretty. Oberg posted a 5.09 ERA and 5.76 FIP in 58 13 innings in 2015, walking 31, striking out 44 and coughing up 10 home runs.

In 2016, Oberg’s struggles continued, as he posted a 5.19 ERA in 26 big league innings. However, some of his peripheral numbers started to improve, as his FIP dropped to 4.49 and he knocked nearly a walk and half a home run per nine innings off his totals from the previous season. He also had a strong showing at Triple-A Albuquerque in 2016, with a 2.43 ERA and nearly 11 K/9 in 29 innings with the Isotopes.

Oberg took another step forward in 2017, looking more like the late-inning reliever he’d shown flashes of in his first two seasons as the year wore on. He posted the first-sub-five ERA of his big league career, though it was barely that at 4.94, and dropped his FIP to 3.50, a better number than both Chris Rusin and Greg Holland. His K/9 numbers also jumped from just below seven in his first two seasons to 8.5 in 2017 and he allowed just four home runs in 58 13 innings of work this season.

In addition to the improved numbers, Oberg also saw an uptick in his velocity in 2017, with his average fastball clocking in at 96.9 MPH and topping out at 101 MPH after being at an average of 95.6 and 95.5 in his first two seasons with the Rockies. He was also a bit unlucky this season, as hitters had a .367 BABIP against him, helping to explain the rather wide gap between his FIP and his ERA.

All of that helped Oberg to earn the trust of Rockies manager Bud Black, who used him 11 times with the Rockies leading by three runs or less in the seventh inning or later. He in turn rewarded his manager’s faith by allowing opponents to hit just .191/.273/.200 and striking out eight of the 23 batters he faced in high leverage situations in 2017.

Oberg’s best performance in 2017 came in September and October, in which he posted a 2.03 ERA and struck out 13 hitters in 13 13 innings. He carried that over into the NL Wild Card Game, in which he struck out both Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez, the only two batters he faced in the game, to strand Ketel Marte on third base in the second inning.

2018 Outlook

His performance in Arizona capped an overall positive 2017 season for Oberg, one that put him in the conversation as a late-inning option for the Rockies going forward. Depending on moves during the offseason and injuries during the 2018 season, Oberg could even be an option at closer at some point next year.