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The two faces of the 2021 Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are a two headed monster in 2021. Which is the true face?

44 games into the 2021 baseball season and it’s painfully clear the Rockies are not and and will not be a competitive team—not in the NL West and not in the league overall—despite promises to the contrary from owner Dick Monfort and now-former GM Jeff Bridich. With a record of 15-29, the Rockies are seated comfortably in the basement of their division. They also possess the dubious honor of the worst record in baseball with two more losses than moribund Minnesota Twins (14-27) and tie them for the worst winning percentage at .341. The Rockies are bad, there’s no doubt about that. However, the Rockies are a bad team with two different faces, and it’s unclear which face is the real one.

The first face appears at home, in the beautiful Coors Field where the Rockies have a competent—if underwhelming—record of 13-12. Here at home, the games are fun, even if the Rockies lose. For example, look at the recent four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Rockies split a four-game series with the Redlegs, and even the losses were a good time. The wins weren’t close (but closer than they needed to be) with 13-8 and 9-6 final scores, and the losses were close: all one run differences. The Rockies had a combined 47 hits for 33 total runs, all without CJ Cron and despite losing Charlie Blackmon for the remainder of the series in Game 2. The rotation all pitched beautifully, with Antonio Senzatela and Chi Chi González standing out with seven inning gems: quality starts and allowing one and zero runs respectively. Even Jhoulys Chacín got the job done with a four inning spot start where he struck out three and allowed only two runs in his first start since September of 2018.

Manager Buddy Black glows with praise for his younger players pushing to prove themselves at the big league level. Newcomer Connor Joe slashes .348/.464/.435 with two doubles and five walks during his first home stand at Coors Field after being called up, and the fans chant his name. Yonathan Daza continues his red hot production and proves how well he is developing with a staggering line of .609/.640/.739 across seven games. Josh Fuentes looks to stand as his own man compared to his famous cousin and is named NL Player of the Week for his effort: .500/.522/.909, 11 hits, 13 RBIs, two home runs. This is the 2021 Colorado Rockies at home. They’re certainly not a championship team, but they’re a young, hungry, and exciting team to watch. They make you feel proud in what is otherwise a lost season.

The moment the team plane takes off, the Rockies put on a different face: the miserable road Rockies. With a record of 2-17, the Rockies are the worst traveling team in baseball this season. The moment wheels touch down at their destination (especially California), the offense dies, and the already woeful bullpen becomes even more of a liability. The Rockies have been shut out seven times in 19 games. They have been swept four times on the road, and not won or even tied a single series away from the confines of Coors Field. It’s ugly and shows no signs of letting up. Everything is worse on the road. The Rockies’ road ERA is over a full point higher than the home ERA, 4.68 to 5.70. In less than 600 at-bats, the Rockies have allowed 24 home runs on the road. At home they’ve given up 27 in 840 at-bats. In the Rockies’ rotation, only one pitcher has a road ERA under 6.00: Germán Márquez with 4.60. Compare this to the rotation at home, where only two of the five have an ERA over 3.00 (Márquez again with 6.07, and Antonio Senzatela with 4.46). In a cruel twist of fate, the Rockies’ starting rotation is pitching leagues better in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field, and are struggling in even the pitcher-friendliest of parks away from home.

2021 Rockies Rotation Home vs Road ERA

Pitcher Home ERA Road ERA
Pitcher Home ERA Road ERA
Germán Márquez 6.07 4.6
Antonio Senzatela 4.46 8.59
Jon Gray 2 6.89
Austin Gomber 1.88 6.39
Chi Chi González 2.12 6.2
Stats as of May 19, 2021

The offense completely disappears on the road as well. The team slashes a combined .216/.281/.310 and they strike out more frequently: 192 Ks in 636 team at bats compared to 200 Ks in 823 at bats at home. They have also ground into double plays more frequently. Josh Fuentes’ heroic bat dies quietly, slashing .196/.196/.250 with no home runs, no walks, and one lonesome RBI compared to his home line of .300/.324/.529 with four home runs, three walks, and a whopping 23 RBIs. Coors Field is a hitter friendly park, but a drop-off this severe is very concerning. The usually affable Bud Black has become more curt with the media, even cutting off The Denver Post’s Patrick Saunders when questioned on the Coors Hangover. The fun is gone and the games are tough to watch. The Rockies get crushed under the boots of their California-based division rivals: swept by the Giants, the Dodgers, and now the Padres. In their most recent series in San Diego, the Rockies scored just one run in three games while striking out 44 times. It’s ugly baseball being played during a lost season, and dashes your hopes for something greater.

The final results of the 2021 Rockies season are unknown, save for the sinking suspicion that it will end where it begins: stuck in the basement. They’re on pace for a franchise worst 107 losses. The bullpen is unreliable at best and a downright liability at worst regardless of venue. None of the Rockies’ true prospects are MLB ready, save for the now-suspended Colton Welker. One of the architects of the Rockies’ despair in Jeff Bridich is gone, but questions loom surrounding who will take his place and if that will mend those wounds. Meanwhile, the Rockies have two faces, and it’s unclear which of the two is the “real” Colorado Rockies. All fans can do is hope that it isn’t the road face.