Just two year ago, the local company, Newmont Mining signed up with the Rockies to sponsor Project C.U.R.E. by donating $50 for every strikeout thrown by a Rockies pitcher. Anyone who has listened to a radio broadcast has heard Jerry Schemmel slide these reads in-between batters after another Jon Gray or Adam Ottavino strikeout.
When Newmont's CEO Gary Goldberg (a season ticket holder) decided to make the partnership happen, he noticed that Coors Field didn't even have a K board to tally strikeouts. Not surprising, considering the Rockies firm grasp on the cellar of basically every pitching stat imaginable. So, any company making this type of commitment must look at past performance to get an idea of what kind of financing commitment they are making. Prior to the 2016 season, the Rockies had averaged just under 1,000 strikeouts per season. Even in the most recent 10-year period, the season-average wasn't much better, sitting at only 1,086 strikeouts per season.
In 2016 however, the Rockies were just 11 strikeouts shy of a franchise record and Newmont's donation totaled $61,150 (1,223 strikeouts x $50 each). Even if you only consider the most recent 10-year period, this was 137 strikeouts more than the average season, and the second-highest strikeout total in franchise history. The 2016 season amounted to over $6,000 greater donation to Project C.U.R.E. than Newmont had likely expected. The 2017 numbers already indicate Newmont will be increasing their donation again this season...
The 2017 Rockies pitching staff sits at 8.085 SO/9, good for 14th in the MLB and just barely below the league average of 8.3 SO/9. However, these Rockies pitchers are on pace for EASILY the most strikeouts in franchise history. Their current pace would get them to 1,310 strikeouts, 76 more than the previous record (the equivalent of 9 more games, or 3 more series worth of strikeouts). It's the way these guys are doing it that is the most interesting though. It's clearly not the Rockies most successful rookie starters Kyle Freeland (5.5 SO/9) and Antonio Senzatela (5.7 SO/9), who are dragging the team-average down significantly. While the other starters have been a bit better with their strikeout numbers, none are throwing better than one strikeout per inning except for Jeff Hoffman who has only had 3 spot starts.
It's the new-look Rockies bullpen that is picking up the slack this season. Early-on, the Rox-bullpen led the MLB in strikeouts...but they currently sit at 13th in the MLB in K-rate (9.43 SO/9), and just above the MLB average. Some poor outings from Lyles and Oberg have brought this team back to reality, but there is clearly an indication that the bullpen dominance can continue through the rest of the season. Considering the imminent return of Jon Gray, and eventually plugging one or more of the young arms into the bullpen, it's realistic for the Rockies strikeout rate to even increase the rest of the way this year.
Bottom line is this: the Rockies are on pace for 1,310 strikeouts this year, a franchise record and it's not even close. Compared to the rest of the league, the Rockies pitching staff is still just average, but this team is something special in terms of Rockies history. And while that means Newmont Mining might have to dip into their checkbook for an extra $5,000 or so this year, that money will bring A LOT of extra medical supplies and equipment to developing and 3rd word countries all over the world, and it's all thanks to the much improved Rockies pitching. So next time you run into Holland, McGee, Otto, Dunn, or any of the rest of the pitching staff, tell them to keep up their charitable works this year!