Greg Holland, All-Star, was leading the league in saves after the All-Star break for a Colorado Rockies team that was first in its division and thirteen games over .500. Given his success, it was natural to wonder how the Rockies could keep him. After an abysmal August, it was natural to fear that the may end up keeping him thanks to his player option. Such is the fickle nature of being a major league reliever, where over one whole month yet only a handful of innings, it’s possible to go from hero to villain.
For example, Holland had a 1.62 ERA in the first half of the season and a 6.38 ERA in the second half. Similarly, the Rockies won their first nine one-run games yet went 12-14 after that. The early season success, some of which can be attributed to luck, masked just how good the Rockies bullpen, and by extension, its team was. This isn’t to blame Holland for all those one run losses, by the way, since some of those losses came because of an offense that wasn’t all that good all year and couldn’t find a way to score those two extra runs it’d need to win those latter one run loss games. In the end, we shouldn’t have been surprised that a team many thought might win 85-89 games, despite a hot start, had the luck even out so that they ended up winning 85-89 games.
Saunders explores other late-inning options, which include Carlos Estevez, Antonio Senzatela and Germán Márquez. Generally I am not a fan of switching young starting pitchers into relievers, and Saunders agrees. I do think Scott Oberg and Zac Rossup may play major roles in the 2018 bullpen as noted in the righty’s and lefty’s Ranking the Rockies articles. The Rockies could also keep with tradition and re-sign old timer Pat Neshek. Though Neshek at just 37 years old isn’t as aged in the LaTroy Hawkins, Rafael Betancourt or even Chad Qualls sense of the word, he could be good veteran insurance for a bullpen trying to sort itself out, and a three year deal might be enough to keep him around. The Rockies have thrown away more change at lesser relievers.
If Trevor Story had done in 2016 what he did in 2017, no one would be upset. Given his history of struggling during his first taste at every level and his relative youth, there’d be every reason to think he’d get better. They would’ve seen a league average bat with a lot of pop and excellent defense at the league minimum. That’s a valuable player.
Well, chances are he can still get better. After posting a .699 OPS in the first half, he bumped that up to a .834 OPS. His defense also, as Noah Yingling notes, also improved.
Sometimes not every man on the roster is a superstar. Perhaps we’ve been spoiled a bit by how Nolan Arenado progressed from a weak hitting third baseman to a superstar, how DJ LeMahieu went from utility infielder to All Star, Gold Glove-winning batting champion, and how Charlie Blackmon became truly nasty. If this is what Story is, then that’s still a very nice player. The icing on the cake is there appears to be room for even more.
On the subject of teams looking invincible, remember when the projection systems had the Los Angeles Dodgers ahead of the Rockies in late June even though the Rockies had the better record? Remember when it seemed like the Dodgers would never lose another game? Yep, baseball is fickle. Good teams try to stack the deck in their favor as much as they can. Having more money than most small countries definitely helps. But sometimes, being unlucky (compounded by facing a very good Houston Astros team), can win out. The next time things look rough for the Rockies, just remember that even the best teams can’t guarantee a win, even in a single game where you have the best starting pitcher in baseball, the best closer in baseball, and score 12 runs.
Also remember that baseball is a fun sport and Charlie Culberson still has good hair and is having a great postseason. Enjoy the little tidbits, whether now or during the next Rockies slump. That’s what makes it easier to enjoy the fun ride through the waves of a single season or a single game. The 2017 baseball season is almost over, and though the Rockies are not on center stage right now, it was still a blast.