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Bullpen, outfield, and spoiler: Three goals for the rest of the season

Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, August 20, 2021

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The Colorado Rockies have 41 games remaining to play in 2021, starting with Friday night’s opening game in a three-game homestand against Arizona. Since the playoff hopes have been pretty much out of the picture since April, the Rockies have to find other areas of focus during this final stretch.

This season has been a success of sorts in just being able to play a season, and a full one at that with already more than double the amount of games than 2020 saw already in the books. Fans were also able to sit in the seats. Equally important for a non-contender, the minor leagues have played their seasons, which allows for the continued development of everyone in the farm system.

However, the Rockies need to answer some questions and start to build the blueprint for a path back to winning now in order not to waste the rest of the season. Winning won’t be easy as 22 of the games will be on the road. Perhaps winning shouldn’t be the only, or even main, goal. While there will be lots of contract negotiations and hopefully new faces joining the organization in the offseason, in terms of the product on the field, I would like to see the Rockies focus on these three things for the rest of 2021:

1. Find some answers in the bullpen

The Rockies bullpen is awful. There is no way around it. The joke in my house is that the Rockies need to have an eight-run lead when the starter leaves in order to most likely get a win. That’s ridiculous, even if it’s slightly hyperbolic. The Rockies relievers’ combined ERA of 5.23 ranks No. 28th in all of baseball behind only Arizona and Baltimore. They tied for 26th in WAR (0.5) and BB/9 (4.44), 26th in HR/9 at 1.36, and tied for 24th in saves (23). Daniel Bard has 20 saves, but he’s had 27 save opportunities. The lowest two ERAs of relievers this year for the Rockies are Mychal Givens (2.73) and Joshua Fuentes (0.00 in one inning). Givens was traded away and infielder Fuentes is in Triple-A Albuquerque. Zac Rosscup and Jordan Sheffield are the only other players with an ERA under 4.00 and Rosscup is also currently an Isotope and Sheffield is on the 60-day IL. We all know how it feels when there is a call to the bullpen: dread and anxiety consume us. I don’t really want to watch from the sixth inning on, except for the fact that there could be a chance for a walk-off win. Imagine how bad the bullpen’s numbers would be without those 11 walk-offs.

The answer lies in trying new guys and in different innings. Bard, Tyler Kinley, Carlos Estévez, and Jhoulys Chacín have pitched 44 percent of the Rockies relief innings. More young guys need to get in there and start seeing what could work for the future. It’s been rough with Yency Almonte, who’s doing better lately, and the Triple-A-MLB yo-yo of Ben Bowden, Lucas Gilbreath, and Justin Lawrence, has been less than great. These guys need to be in tryout mode. Are they part of the path back to winning or not? A great place to start the bullpen reconstruction, as Purple Row’s Justin Wick wrote earlier this week, is to bring up fire-throwing righty Julian Fernández.

2. Figure out the outfield

What outfield gives the Rockies the best chance to win? Look at fielding, speed, power, average, and on-base percentage. Right now, four of the top five batting averages on the team belong to the outfield with Raimel Tapia first at .288, Connor Joe tied for second at .286, Yonathan Daza third at .283, and Charlie Blackmon fifth at .272. While that’s good for the outfield representation, it also reveals the lackluster hitting of the entire team when no one is close to .300.

The Rockies have a lot of guys in the outfield, but how many roster spots should they get and what’s the best starting combo? Blackmon has two player-option years remaining in his contract. If he is staying in right, who should be in center and left? Sam Hilliard has shown vast improvement and fewer strikeouts with serious power and speed. He needs more games to prove if this is sustainable. Tapia has shown potential, but needs more consistency. Daza was great earlier in the year, but has missed a bunch of time and cooled off of late. Garrett Hampson can provide great plays, but isn’t getting on base enough. Then there’s Joe, who is one of the most fun Rockies to watch right now. Since Joe and Hampson can also play infield, their versatility could help. These younger players we’ve been watching and hoping for aren’t so young anymore. Hilliard, Tapia, and Daza are all 27 and Hampson is 26. It’s time to see who’s part of the future back to contention and who isn’t. I don’t know what the answers are, but I am leaning toward Tapia, Hilliard, and Blackmon with Joe as a backup/infielder. For this season, we need more Joe and more Hilliard to get bigger sample sizes to assess.

3. Take pride in being the spoiler

Twenty-three of the Rockies remaining games will be against teams who currently have winning records, including playoff-bound teams like the Braves (7), Dodgers (6), and Giants (6). The NL division races in the East and West could be tight, but the Wild Card will likely go down to the line with the Reds and Padres. While many individual Rockies are playing for their futures, the team needs to play to ruin everyone else’s dreams. Be the pest and love it. Knocking out an NL West from the playoff picture could help give us all something to cheer for.

What else do you want to see to answer questions or show direction for the future in the final stretch of 2021? Please share in the comments.

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McMahon + Fuentes > Arenado on D — by a lot | Sports Info Solutions

This article is fantastic. Taking the sting a bit out of losing Nolan (I only said a bit), Mark Simon points out that the Rockies third basemen this season of Ryan McMahon and Joshua Fuentes has combined to save 22 defensive runs. Arenado is currently at 1. That’s right. One.

Not only does this have a breakdown of the fielding stats by Fielding Bible, but also interesting analysis on elements like Arenado’s struggles to sometimes make plays to his left this year.

In a shifting free-agent market, can the Rockies convince Trevor Story to stay? | The Athletic ($)

I am not sure I am any closer to an answer to this question after reading the article. I guess I feel maybe five percent more optimistic that the Rockies could resign Trevor Story, but that’s only moving it from one to six percent. Basically, if Trevor keeps hitting homers and doubles like he has been, on top of making his usual fantastic plays, the chances of the Rockies keeping him get worse and worse. If the market is too saturated with high-quality shortstops and Story doesn’t finish with great numbers, then fewer and fewer teams might be willing to offer him a long-term, big-bucks deal. Then the Rockies might have a chance — if they haven’t already ruined the relationship.

Rockies’ home-road splits define their very weird season | Denver Post ($)

This is a good look at the Rockies Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde season in comparison with franchise history, MLB history, and lots of statistics. As Patrick Saunders points out, the Rockies current home winning percentage would be second best in team history (behind only 1996), while the road losing percentage will be the worst. This also highlights the mysteries of the lack of power and of contact on the road, juxtaposed by Germán Márquez and Jon Gray’s better marks at home than the road.

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On the farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 10, Las Vegas Aviators 6

Greg Bird hit his 18th homer of the year and Ryan Vilade hit his sixth of the year to help lift the Isotopes to victory. Vilade had a two-hit night and scored three runs, while Joshua Fuentes and Taylor Snyder each added two hits. Colton Welker added an RBI triple in a five-run fourth inning that put the Isotopes up 7-2. The Aviators rallied back with four runs of their own in the fifth to cut Albuequerque’s lead to 7-6. Welker struck again in the seventh with a two-run double for some insurance. In the ninth, Wynton Bernard walked, stole second, and came around to score on a ground out for even more padding. The ninth inning also featured ejections of the Aviators manager Fran Ríordan and catcher Austin Allen.

Albuquerque’s bullpen was pretty solid as Julian Fernández threw a scoreless 1 23 innings with three strikeouts, while Zac Rosscup and Justin Lawrence each added another scoreless frame in relief, but Chris Rusin did give up one run in 23 of an inning.

Double-A: New Hampshire Fisher Cats 3, Hartford Yard Goats 2

In a game that ended with the same score as the day before, the Fisher Cats jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third inning before Sean Bouchard made it 3-2 with a two-run single. Unfortunately for the Yard Goats, that was it for the scoring on Friday in Hartford. Coco Montes got two of Hartford’s five hits, including a double. Ian Clarkin took the loss on the mound, giving up three runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk with five strikeouts in six innings. Yoan Aybar, Nate Griep, and Will Gaddis all pitched one scoreless inning apiece in relief.

High-A: Spokane Indians 4, Hillsboro Hops 3

Javier Guevara hit a line drive single to center field to score Kyle Datres in the bottom of the eighth inning in what turned out to be the winning run for the Indians on Thursday night in Spokane. The game had been tied at 3-3 since the fifth inning. In a slightly more unusual way to score runs, Isaac Collins and Hunter Stovall scored on the same throwing error by Hillsboro catcher Axel Andueza. Stovall also added an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. Mitchell Kilkenny had a quality start for Spokane, giving up three earned runs on four hits with one walk and eight strikeouts in seven innings. Two of the four hits were homers and made up for all the scoring. Stephen Jones threw one scoreless inning to get the win and Dugan Darnell threw a scoreless ninth with two strikeouts for his ninth save of the season.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 10, Visalia Rawhide 7

A day after committing a season-high four errors, the Grizzlies made three more on Friday. Luckily, the offense made up for it. Mateo Gill had two hits, including a solo homer, and Julio Carreras went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and one driven in. Zac Veen drove in two runs to improve his season total to 64 RBI. Drew Romo and Eddy Diaz both hit RBI doubles. Anderson Amarista (5-3) got the win for Fresno after giving up two runs (none earned) on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts in five innings. The bullpen gave up five runs, including two in the bottom of the ninth to bring Visalia within three runs, but Tanner Propst entered the ninth with one on and no outs and got two strikeouts and a ground out for the win.

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