Throughout the sports world, coaches frequently take the blame when their teams falter; sometimes deservedly so and others times not so much. The Rockies, and subsequently Bud Black — who have struggled to a combined .437 winning percentage the last two seasons following back-to-back postseason appearances — have largely avoided this fate. Black and the coaching staff have certainly made some questionable on-field decisions along the way. Still, those calls have been largely overshadowed by off-the-field moves that were out of their control, such as the Nolan Arenado trade and a handful of free-agent signings that didn’t pan out.
The coaching staff is the same as 2020, so it appears the organization is counting on experience and familiarity with the club to translate to results. It will be up to Black and company to get the most out of players if they hope to remain on board, especially if the front office tears it all down at any point during the next 12 months.
Prior to the aforementioned two-season slide, the Rockies experienced arguably their most successful stretch ever. Black led the team to two of their top four seasons in franchise history, including the 2018 season when they won 91 games and had a shot at their first NL West title, only to lose to the Dodgers in a decisive game 163.
As a former MLB pitcher and pitching coach, Black’s strength will always lie in his ability to handle a pitching staff. Given how heavily the club will be relying on their arms to carry them this season, Black’s penchant for pitching will be on full display. This rotation is arguably the most talented in Rockies history, but the four stalwarts have failed to align their successes into a single season. If Márquez, Freeland, Senzatela, and Gray can all pitch to their potential, with Austin Gomber building on the strong showing he had in 2020, this rotation could carry the team out of the NL West basement.
At this point in his Rockies tenure, Black is playing with house money. The franchise has shipped off their best player, is rumored to not be extending their new best player, and is projected to finish last by most pundits in a division dominated by two Goliaths. The bar is low for this Rockies team, and exceeding expectations would go a long way towards keeping Black at the helm after the 2022 season when his contract expires.
The Coaching Staff
The coaching staff is the same as it was in 2020, but this group will have to prove they can take a step forward and help the Rockies reach their potential, whatever that may be following the departure of Nolan Arenado. The breakdown is as follows:
- Mike Redmond - Bench Coach
- Dave Magadan - Hitting Coach
- Jeff Salazar - Assistant Hitting Coach
- Steve Foster - Pitching Coach
- Ron Gideon - First Base Coach
- Stu Cole - Third Base Coach
- Darryl Scott - Bullpen Coach
Continuing our focus on the starting rotation’s performance, Steve Foster will have a lot of eyes on his work throughout the season. As mentioned, there’s loads of talent in this staff, but Foster will have to help these guys all perform to the levels they are capable of while continuing to manage the horrors of pitching at altitude.
Darryl Scott may not have the same sort of expectation with his part of the pitching staff, but the Rockies bullpen was such a disaster last year that Scott simply must get more out of the ‘pen if the Rockies hope to have any success this season. 2020 NL Comeback Player of the Year Daniel Bard and another relief stud working on his own comeback, Scott Oberg, are the most proven players in this bunch. Those two will carry a significant load for the team. It’s up to Darryl to figure out the best way to handle the rest of the relievers and improve on last year’s numbers.
The hitting side of things follows a similar narrative in that the potential is there and the bar is low, but Dave Magadan will have to get more out of guys not named Story or Blackmon. While a lot of the focus was on bullpen issues last year, the hitting was nowhere near what it needs to be, especially given that the team plays at Coors Field. The Rockies ranked 22nd in MLB in home runs in 2020, 25th in on-base percentage, and 17th in slugging percentage. Those numbers would be low in any year, and now the team goes about their business without Arenado. The narrative is one we hear a lot as Rockies fans: The core guys are going to hit, but then what? Dave Magadan will be in charge of providing answers as the team counts on guys like Raimel Tapia, Ryan McMahon, and Brendan Rodgers to step up.