It’s been a pretty good offseason for Rockies fans. Coming off the team’s first postseason appearance in nearly a decade, the Rockies used the Winter Meetings to boost a bullpen corps that was seriously depleted by free agency. But as important as filling that hole in the roster was, counting on the bullpen to carry a team to success is suspect, at best. But beyond that, it doesn’t even address the team’s biggest need if they are going to contend again in 2018.
Back in August, when the team was in the midst of an awe-inspiring, nausea-inducing offensive malaise in which they seemed cursed to never score more than three runs a game, we looked at how this team stacked up with previous iterations of the Rockies and considered that it might just be the worst offense the team has ever had. With the season over we can conclusively say that the 2017 Rockies did not have the worst offense in team history.
They had the fourth-worst (tied).
Colorado Rockies Offense, 2002-2017
This table includes only non-pitchers (if you include them, the team wRC+ is 87) and only considers humidor era teams. We’re only comparing apples-to-apples here: park-adjusted stats for Rockies teams against other Rockies teams. Even still, this year’s offense is hanging around teams that lost around 90-games, whereas the previous two playoff teams are sitting at the top of the list. If that doesn’t make you appreciate the strength of the pitching staff, I’m not sure what will.
As we’ve already said, it’s hard to count on that kind of performance from the pitchers again, especially when the rules allow for you to improve multiple parts of your roster in the offseason if you so choose.
From whence might these improvements come? We’ll turn to Drag Factor (briefly explained here, and introduced more fully here) to help answer that. Someone pointed out in the comments that looking at only the bad players skews the results on a team level. However, that’s the entire point of the stat: we want to see how bad the bad players have been and which ones were the biggest anchors on the lineup.
Colorado Rockies Drag Factor, 2017
The good news is that Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story went from potentially posting the worst Drag Factors in team history (since 2002) to producing merely bad drag factors. The other good news is that many of the drags on the lineup are no longer a part of the organization (though there’s always the chance Alexi Amarista could come back).
But the bad news is really bad. For one thing, Tony Wolters finished with a Drag Factor over 3.00, just the second time one player has managed to do so in team history. And while Story did make major improvements, he still was one of four players to finish with a Drag Factor over 2.00.
In all, the 2017 Rockies had the worst Drag Factor in team history. Only four players finished with an above average wRC+: Charlie Blackmon (141), Nolan Arenado (129), Jonathan Lucroy (112), and Mark Reynolds (104). That’s not a lot of players lifting such a heavy anchor.
There are reasons to believe 2018 won’t be so bad: Trevor Story looked close to his old self again in at the end of the year, and Chris Iannetta could be a cheaper and more reliable primary backstop. And a bench that includes Pat Valaika, David Dahl, and Ryan McMahon could prove to be serviceable.
But those are all hopes and prayers. If the Rockies are serious about contending in 2018, they need to get serious about improving their lineup.