The Colorado Rockies have had a lot of things go wrong lately. Their poor record in July magnified some of the issues that have haunted them all season. It also likely booted them from playoff contention.
We know what has gone wrong, particularly with the pitching staff. There will be plenty of time to keep digging into those issues and how the Rockies can fix them. For now, let’s take a look at what has gone right so far this season.
What we expected to go right
Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon are stars, and they’ve played like it again this season. We expected that, although Blackmon threw some doubt in there with his early struggles.
To put a positive spin on things, there is comfort in the fact that the Rockies can continue to build around these three guys as they try to fix things and contend next season. We’ll still probably have some questions about how Blackmon will age, but he’s shown us this season that he can adjust and keep his offensive game elite.
German Marquez has had some disappointing moments this year, and he hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations he set after last year. He has still been a good pitcher though, and he has been essential as much of the rotation has floundered around him.
Marquez is currently sitting at 3.7 rWAR and a 114 ERA+, with plenty of season left to improve relatively unsightly numbers like his 4.68 ERA. It might be as important as anything for his prospects as a number one starter that he has shown the ability to bounce back and adjust when he’s gotten roughed up a little bit.
Scott Oberg picked up right where he left off at the end of 2018. He has been outstanding in a bullpen that is otherwise a mess, sporting a 1.56 ERA and 9.3 K/9. We’ll now get to see how he responds to the pressure of the closer’s role. If he’s up for it, he will be a key pitcher moving into next season.
What we kind of expected and are starting to see
Ryan McMahon and Peter Lambert are in their own category. Given each guy’s respective hypes when they were on prospect lists, we expected them to be good eventually. They haven’t necessarily been that in 2019, certainly not on a consistent basis.
But the signs of development are there. McMahon is finally starting to come into his own as an everyday second baseman, even if he hasn’t made us forget about AL MVP candidate DJ LeMahieu just yet. McMahon’s offense has really started to come around, as he’s up to a .271/.343/.448 slash line with 12 home runs and 53 RBI. That puts him at an 89 OPS+ with the rest of the season to continue to build on that progress.
Lambert’s resiliency at just 22 years old has been impressive. His numbers this year won’t jump off the page, and there are probably more rough moments to come, but he has positioned himself for the rotation next season and beyond. That’s a definite plus for him and the Rockies.
What we didn’t expect to go right
David Dahl arguably belongs in the first category. Once he got consistent playing time, we expected him to be good because we know how talented he is. We had even seen it with the numbers he did put together in limited time in 2018. But with past seasons marred by injury or a lack of opportunities because of a crowded roster, I’m not quite ready to say we expected it the way we did with those other guys.
Regardless of how we classify it in this exercise, it’s been a joy to see Dahl play well over the course of the season. He currently sports a .302/.353/.524 slash line with 15 home runs and 61 RBI. He made his first All-Star appearance.
Unfortunately this is bittersweet to write at the moment after Dahl exited a game this weekend with an ugly ankle injury. It’s a high ankle sprain, and there’s no word on when or if he’ll return in 2019.
Jon Gray is another player whose talent was never in question. But considering the number of articles about his mental toughness after a spotty 2018 season, Gray was a question mark entering the season.
The Gray Wolf is back to form with a 3.88 ERA (137 ERA+) and 4.3 rWAR. He delivered one of the highlights of the season when he shut down the Dodgers last week. For all the issues that need to be resolved on the pitching side, the Rockies will hopefully have a good starting point with Gray and Marquez at the top of the rotation.
What we definitely didn’t expect
Tony Wolters and Chris Iannetta have formed a darn good catching tandem this year. Save for our own Renee Dechert and perhaps a few other brave souls out there, nobody expected a weakness in 2018 to turn into a strength in 2019 when it’s the same guys.
Wolters has improved dramatically on offense with a .282/.349/.367 slash line. His 74 OPS+ shows that he still isn’t going to be carrying a big league lineup anytime soon, but remember this: his 2018 slash line was .170/.292/.286. With his stellar defense, Wolters just needs to not be a black hole on offense, and he’s been even better than that.
As for Iannetta, he has slowed down considerably and his numbers show it. Perhaps most surprisingly, his on-base percentage has dipped down to .316. That’s understandable for a 36-year-old, and he has still been a solid backup who continues to provide valuable leadership.
Jake McGee is a solid reliever again. Nobody is going to go so far as to say that’s a good contract now or anything like that, but the Rockies bullpen will happily take any positive contributions it can get. Bryan Shaw can reasonably be called an honorable mention for this list. He has struggled recently but was solid for a good portion of the season.
Who knows, maybe Wade Davis will be on this list next year. It could happen.