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The Rockies are off to a bad start...but how bad?

Rockies news and links for Thursday, April 15, 2021

Following last night’s loss to the Dodgers, the Rockies’ record for the year sits at an unattractive 3-9 through the season’s first 12 games. Last year, the team’s 12th game of the season was a 6-4 victory over the Giants to give them an inverse record of 9-3. Last year’s start was the team’s second-best ever. The 2021 start? The second worst. But that’s just two seasons worth of data. How has this year’s start compared to that of every other season in franchise history?

Let’s start with a quick summary of what we’re looking at this season. As you may have heard, preseason expectations for the Rockies were low, and MLB’s scheduling team didn’t exactly do the club any favors to start the season (seven of thirteen against the Dodgers...really?) Regardless, the Rockies are 2-4 in their other six games, so we can’t just blame the Dodgers – as much as we may want to. It hasn’t been all doom and gloom, however. The starting pitching has been solid for the most part, and Ryan McMahon is off to a great start, including but not limited to his three home-run outburst against the Diamondbacks. More on those two positives later.

Now, we return to the bad.

You don’t have to go back too far to remember the last time the Rockies started a season 3-9. The 2019 Rockies lost their fifth straight in game number 12 to fall to 3-9. They’d go on to lose three more, bringing the streak to eight before they went on their best stretch of the season. They hung around in the Wild Card race that season until June, only to be sunk by a 6-19 month of July and a 9-19 record in August. That team ended up with a 71-91 record, five games better than the 2005 team who hold the (dis)honor of worst 12 game start in Rockies history, 2-10.

In 2011, the Rockies got off to a scorching 10-2 start, their best ever, but finished the season 73-89, good for fourth in the division, 21 games back of the division-winning Diamondbacks. The team couldn’t take advantage of their hot beginnings as their .451 winning percentage through their first 12 games was the 10th worst in team history (tied with 2001 and 2002).

Apologies for my lack of data-viz competency here, but I put together a graph below to show how the Rockies’ win percentages through 12 games have compared to their end-of-season win percentages. In blue, you’ll find their winning percentage each year after 12 games. In red, their winning percentage at the end of each season.

If you can get over my Excel ineptitude just long enough, you’ll notice there doesn’t appear to be a strong correlation between the team’s 12 game starts and their end-of-season win percentages. In 2009, the team went 92-70 for their best season in franchise history. Their 12 game-winning percentage? Seventh worst ever for a Rockies team.

Last year’s hot start wasn’t indicative of what was to come, so maybe the struggles this year won’t be either. If you’re looking for something to hold on to, remember the 2019 World Series-winning Nationals. They started the year a dismal 19-31. The Rockies still have plenty of time to turn it around – whether or not they have the talent is a question I’ll leave to you.

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Every MLB Team’s Most Promising Sign of Hope Thus Far in 2021 | Bleacher Report

There have been a handful of bright spots during this tough start (see: above). Funnily enough, Bleacher Report has their eyes on the same positive I highlighted above: Ryan McMahon. More specifically, this article says RyMac is doing an “able” job filling Nolan Arenado’s shoes. That’s about as high a compliment as you can get.

The three-homer game gets the most attention, but we shouldn’t overlook McMahon’s play on defense. Nolan was historically good at third, but his replacement has been no slouch. The Rockies were counting on McMahon to take a big step forward this year, and so far, he’s delivered.

Rockies pitching coaches Steve Foster, Darryl Scott assess Colorado’s early-season performance on the mound | The Denver Post ($)

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone better to analyze the Rockies’ pitching staff and their performances this year than The club’s Pitching Coach Steve Foster and their Bullpen Coach Darryl Scott.

For the starting rotation, Jon Gray is leading the pack, and it’s not particularly close. Márquez and Senzatela have shown flashes of brilliance, but they haven’t been able to bring it consistently so far. According to Foster, Kyle Freeland is making good progress on returning from the shoulder injury that he sustained during Spring Training. “Our hopes are he gets back as soon as possible.”

On the bullpen side of things, the Rockies haven’t improved on last year’s tough run. Their 5.61 combined ERA puts them last in the National League. Despite that, Scott thinks better days are ahead for this group. “Yancy’s last outing was much better, Given’s last outing was much better, and Estevez is starting to get a feel for his slider and a really good feel for his changeup coming off last year’s hand injury,” he said

With Freeland’s return not looking too far off and positive signs coming from the bullpen, things could be looking up for this Rockies pitching staff before long.

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