Baseball has survived two weeks of 2020! *Pops Champagne*
AND the Rockies are good.
Normally, one wouldn’t read too much into the first couple weeks of a season, but this season isn’t like the rest. It’s special in a way only 2020 could have given us. However, it’s almost a quarter of the way through.
Anyways, things are happening in Colorado. The Rockies are 9-3, which in a normal year equals to about 24-8. It’s one of their best starts to a season in franchise history.
The quarter mark of the season is this weekend and while we don’t know how they’ll finish, we know how they’ve already started. Here are a few things we’ve already learned so far.
Pitching is important. Coming into this season, there was little concern over the offense. The Rockies’ core hitters will get runs. The concern was over a pitching group that saw little change all offseason up until Summer Camp, when relievers Bryan Shaw and Jake McGee were both released.
So far, this year’s pitching is different. Through the first ten games their collective ERA is 3.11, which is fourth best in the NL and third best in the NL/AL West region. The early results show bounce back years from Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela.
The bullpen has been better than expected. Carlos Estévez and Jairo Díaz have been leading the bullpen with ERA’s under 2.00, and look to become more consistent. Also, the Daniel Bard comeback story is fun to root for.
The only loose ends remaining for this pitching group are the fifth starting spot and closer. Though it’s only with one start, Chi Chi Gonzalez’s future as the fifth starter is in flux with Jeff Hoffman potentially given a crack at the final spot in the rotation sooner rather than later. Bud Black has already hinted at Hoffman getting a bigger role if he continues to show improvement.
Coming into the year, Black insisted he had full confidence in Wade Davis as the team’s closer. Fast forward to now and Davis is on the 10-day Injured List with a shoulder strain and last season’s best reliever and potential closer-in-waiting, Scott Oberg, could be out for the year with blood clot issues. The IL stint came after Davis blew a save opportunity on July 31st against the Padres, giving up two home runs (four total runs) in the 8-7 loss. Black hasn’t stated if Davis will resume his role closing when he is eligible to come off the IL on Wednesday, August 12th.
Matt Kemp, Key Role Player
The summer time signing of Matt Kemp might prove to be a key addition for this ball club. Kemp, who has historically swung the bat well at Coors Field, may have already established himself as the regular designated hitter in the lineup.
Kemp is hitting .292/.393/.583 with two homers and eight RBI’s in 24 at-bats. He’s also arguably been the most clutch player on the team, going 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
The 3-for-15 vs. right-handed pitchers might not matter with Raimel Tapia (the other potential DH option) struggling early — hitting just 2-for-15 (.133) with an RBI and seven strikeouts. There are no other clear candidates to DH vs. RHP besides Daniel Murphy. That could potentially open up more room for Chris Owings or Garrett Hampson, who have been bouncing between the middle infield and the outfield.
Ryan McMahon’s Strikeout Addiction
One glaring concern so far is Ryan McMahon’s high 39% strikeout rate. He’s gone down on strikes 18 times and homered just once, but is still holding a .348 on-base percentage. We saw streaks of this last season, but with more home runs.
In August of 2019, McMahon had 38 strikeouts total — a 32% strikeout percentage — and had a similar .345 on-base percentage. During that same time, he also hit his career best eight home runs in a single month.
While strikeouts aren’t necessarily worse than any other out, McMahon’s BABIP is .400. That number is probably inflated because of the strikeouts and the small sample size, but it’s evidence that once he makes contact, it’s usually solid.
With all this being said, it seems McMahon could be a high-strikeout player. Another notable high-strikeout player on the Rockies is Trevor Story, and he seems to be doing okay. This might put a ceiling on his batting average, but hasn’t proven to hurt his ability to get on base and slug.
Pieces of the team are beginning to come together. The pitching is off to a solid start led by a much improved rotation. The regular DH role seems to be Matt Kemp’s to lose, but it is also an opportunity to rest the everyday players while keeping their bats in the lineup. And even though Ryan McMahon appears to be starting slow, it hasn’t stopped him from being productive and we know he’s capable of hitting in bunches.
The team as a whole is clicking and leading the NL West early. However, it is just that: early. A lot can still happen between now and September. It’s all about maintaining pace with the Dodgers. They’re a well-oiled machine in the regular season that knows how to string wins together. No other team in the NL West is that proven.
The Rockies have a chance to start that conversation by taking care of business in these next two series against under the .500 Mariners and Diamondbacks. Two more series wins would set up the Rockies nicely for a tough test of four straight games against the Astros and a three game series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
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If you got this far, thanks for reading my first ever story on Purple Row. I’m Daren, I’m 21 and coming into my final and fourth year at Cal State Long Beach. Go Beach!
I’m from northern California and grew up watching the Giants win three World Series, which got me into baseball and eventually the Rockies. I’m a die hard Sacramento Kings fan so I know a thing or two about being tortured in sports.
I’m looking forward to contributing more and interacting with the Purple Row community as the season rolls on.
The marathon continues...