It’s hard to look at the poor numbers being put up by the Colorado Rockies’ pitching staff during an eight-game losing streak and think anything other than “the guys on the mound are holding the team back.”
Rockies pitchers over the last two weeks have a 7.12 ERA and have allowed 140 hits—and 55 walks—in 108 2⁄3 innings. None of those things are good.
But over the season’s first two months, particularly in May when the staff posted a 3.91 ERA, pitching carried the squad. And even when accounting for the dreadful performance over the last couple of weeks, Rockies hurlers are still third in the National League in WAR and park-adjusted ERA, behind only the division-rival Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
Colorado’s offense, however, has struggled all year. And it has been even worse during the team’s current skid.
The lineup has been plagued by several problems. First and foremost, as a team, the Rockies are not barreling up the baseball. That’s plain as day when using the eye test—it seems like the Rockies hit a weak grounder every time they’ve stepped up to the plate during the current road trip—and the numbers confirm it: only the lowly Padres and Giants have a lower hard-hit rate than Colorado’s 29.5 percent.
It also doesn’t help that the Rockies—who play half of their games in a ballpark that, while not the home run launching pad it used to be, rewards fly-ball contact—have the fifth-lowest fly-ball rate in the NL. If the Rockies had a lineup full of players with plus speed, that might not be a bad thing. But they’re roughly middle of the pack in that category, though more playing time for Raimel Tapia—the fourth-fastest player in the majors, per Statcast—will help improve that.
The Rockies are also just seventh in the NL in wOBA, which is not good news because that is not a park-adjusted statistic but is one that perhaps paints a more accurate picture of offense than anything else. Colorado simply doesn’t draw enough walks (7.6 percent BB rate, 13th in the NL) or, somewhat shockingly, hit for enough power (middle of the pack in SLG and ISO) to compete with the big boys offensively.
During their losing streak, things have been even worse, as they tend to be. The Rockies, since falling 16-5 to the D-backs on June 21, have hit more ground balls (114), more soft ground balls (42), and more softly hit balls overall (59) than any other team in baseball. Those are underlying validations of the team’s woeful .198/.261/.245 overall batting line during the skid.
With the dreadful recent performance, of course, comes caveats as well as reasons for hope. The Rockies’ pitching, as mentioned above, has been equally as terrible as the offense over the past week-plus, and the two could correlate; big deficits can force hitters to press, and from that comes over-aggression—swinging at pitches out of the strike zone—and weak contact.
The team also believes that Ian Desmond, Carlos Gonzalez, and Trevor Story, in particular, are going to bounce back from wretched starts at the plate. On the surface that sounds reasonable, but some data suggests the probability of bounce backs might not be as promising as the Rockies hope (our Hayden Ringer will have more on that soon).
Rockies pitchers performed well for the better part of 73 games, and that deserves much more emphasis than their level of performance over eight contests. And with Jon Gray and Chad Bettis returning soon, chances are the hurlers will find their way. But with only three good regulars to date and not a lot of help on the horizon (Gonzalez and Gerardo Parra should be back fairly soon but David Dahl is still going to be out a while), the Rockies’ offense could remain a big concern for the foreseeable future.