After dropping two of the first three games in the American League Championship Series, the Houston Astros were approaching the brink of elimination heading into the late innings of game five at Fenway Park. Trailing 2-1, Jose Altuve sent the first pitch he saw in the top of the eighth over The Green Monster to tie up the game and jump start the Astros march to a series victory.
It was another memorable moment in the long postseason history of Altuve, and the motivation for a stat from renowned writer Jim Passon that hits close to home:
José Altuve has more postseason home runs (21 in his career) than the Colorado Rockies franchise (20)— Jim Passon (@PassonJim) October 20, 2021
The numbers are straight forward, but come with two details that are worth mentioning. First is the elephant in the room with anything involving Jose Altuve. The 2017 sign-stealing scandal was real and the franchise was tried and punished for it in both the court of public opinion and MLB’s commissioner’s office. No one can say how many - if any- of Altuve’s homers were aided by Houston’s illegal operation, but chances are good it played a part. Second, 21 postseason home-runs is a lot. Altuve now ranks third all-time in postseason bombs, having just surpassed Derek Jeter.
But Jose Altuve’s accomplishment isn’t the point here. If it was, the tweet would have read something like “Altuve now has more postseason homers than Jeter”. No, the real meat on this bone is the nauseating history of the Colorado Rockies.
Altuve is in his sixth playoff season in the past seven years, one more than the Rockies have ever been in. Only once have his Astros not advanced beyond the division round, while the Rockies have only advanced beyond it one time. The playoff chances are heavily disproportionate in Altuve’s favor, so comparing his career postseason figures head-to-head would come out just as lopsided.
But this tweet from Passon is glorious and deserves a deeper dive, which I intend to give. With that in mind, here is a list of Rockies all-time postseason marks that Altuve has more home runs than:
The Rockies have just slightly more postseason games than Altuve does bombs. But in the franchise’s 24 games they own a 10-14 mark, less than half of Altuve’s magic number. Seven of those wins came in the “Rocktober” run in 2007. Outside of that magical run, the franchise owns a 3-10 record all-time.
Hits and RBI
No Colorado hitter has collected 21 hits in postseason play. Yorvit Torrealba owns the Rockies franchise mark with 15 hits in playoff games. Kazuo Matsui and Matt Holliday are tied for second with 14 each.
Along with being the all-time leader in hits, Torrealba is also the leader in runs batted-in for the Rockies. His 12 RBI just edges out Holliday’s ten with Matsui’s eight ranking third. Vinny Castilla is fourth on the all-time list, posting six RBI in his lone playoff appearance against the Atlanta Braves in 1995.
Todd Helton is “Mr. Rockies” and was able to reach the playoffs twice in his career with Colorado. The iconic moments he provided in 2007 will live on in franchise lore forever and his name does top the record book in one postseason category to go with his numerous other franchise records.
His eleven runs scored is the top mark for a Rockies hitter, but still well short of Altuve’s 21 dingers. He is the only Rockies hitter to score double-digit runs in the playoffs in franchise history.
Walks and Strikeouts
No, we’re not talking about pitching. Ubaldo Jiménez keeps the Rockies out of the red in most categories. His 16 walks issued is the most in team history and less than Altuve’s 21 bombs, but that’s a good thing, while his 24 strikeouts and 28 innings pitched in the playoffs surpasses Altuve’s figure.
Brad Hawpe, however, appears twice on the list of top offensive marks in team history. His 20 career postseason strikeouts is the most by a Colorado hitter and he is also tied with Helton for the most walks drawn in playoff play with eight.
None of this tells you anything you don’t already know. Jose Altuve has thrived on the game’s biggest stage as the Astros have been a fixture in the playoffs for over half a decade. Meanwhile, you can count on one hand the number of times the Rockies have managed to score a guest pass to the dance in their 29 seasons.
But the lack of postseason baseball is the harsh reality at the heart of the Rockies franchise. Numerous other franchises - in markets bigger and smaller than Colorado’s - find ways to create and maximize their windows of contention. It doesn’t always go as planned, or lead to a championship (see Detroit Tigers 2011-2014), but it does breed pride in a franchise and it’s fan base, which is what is at the heart of most “winning cultures”.
Until the Rockies franchise can start putting together consistent stretches of playoff-caliber seasons with the artillary to advance, they will continue to be little more than a footnote when the games that matter most are being played in October.
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Where does the Rockies’ payroll stand ahead of 2022? Here’s what they’re working with | The Athletic ($)
Nick Groke of the The Athletic looks ahead to the Rockies payroll commitments in the 2022 season. Charlie Blackmon’s $21M player option is expected to be exercised and will be Colorado’s highest individual figure, while Kyle Freeland headlines the arbitration-eligible group with a raise estimated to $7M next year.
Trevor Story and Jon Gray are the two biggest tickets reaching free agency for Colorado. They - along with a few others - could choose to return, but as it stands the Rockies are set to enter the off-season with a commitment below their 2021 opening day figure of $105,575,629. According to president Greg Feasel, the plan is not for it to stay that way:
“We’re going to gain ground in 2022,” Feasel said of the Rockies’ expected payroll next season. “And we think we’ll be back to ’18 and ’19 levels in 2023. That’s what the plan is.”
Joshua Fuentes, Yency Almonte, Rio Ruiz and Tommy Doyle were all outrighted by the Rockies on Thursday. Almonte and Ruiz can refuse the assignment and become free agents while Fuentes can choose minor league free agency after the World Series. Doyle remains under team control despite his relegation. The Rockies will have a number of decisions to make this off-season regarding their 40-man roster, so this is likely the first wave of many roster moves to come.
On the Farm: Arizona Fall League Edition
Ryan Vilade hit his first AFL double an Ezequiel Tovar scored a run as the Salt River Rafters fell to Mesa on Friday night. Vilade and Tovar each had one hit while Michael Toglia went hitless in three at-bats. Willie MacIver also entered the game as a defensive replacement and drew a walk in his lone plate appearance. On the mound, Jake Bird threw two scoreless innings to close out the Rafters’ pitching line for the contest. Bird recorded two strikeouts without allowing a base runner and lowered his ERA to 2.08.
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