Preseason projections were not kind to the Colorado Rockies, and while you may disagree with the severity of the doom that was predicted, it’s hard to say they had no ammo to make those projections. Whatever the case, let’s check in on some of those projections, shall we? There’s only a month left, and the story of most teams and players’ seasons has likely already been written, at least all but the final chapter or so. Let’s kick things off with the standings.
The big scary mark out of the way first: the Rockies won’t lose 100 games this season unless they go on an unprecendented run of ineptitude from here on out. PECOTA projected them to go 60-102, which was obviously an exaggeration, and Fangraphs was somewhere around the 100-loss mark as well. Now, anyone who knew what they were talking about could’ve told you that the Rockies’ rotation was far too solid to allow this to happen barring tons of injuries, but the offense did look pretty grim, so I’ll give those a pass. Still, this barrier was cleared: no 100-loss season on the horizon, which I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the franchise.
The Big Misses: Hitters
(Keep in mind, I’m using Fangraphs’ projections here) For convenience, I’d classify something as a “miss” when the original projection was at least 1.5 WAR off the final result, and to that end, Ryan McMahon qualifies here: he was projected for just 0.8 WAR and is currently on pace for 2.3 WAR, carried mainly by phenomenal defensive value the projections just didn’t see coming. Elías Díaz has been a surprise as well, projecting to end the season at 1.3 WAR after being seen as barely replacement level entering the year, and Connor Joe is also worth a mention, being projected for -0.4 WAR before we got off the ground while currently on pace for 1.0 WAR, as is Rio Ruiz in the opposite direction, being projected for 1.2 WAR and currently standing at replacement level.
The rest of the “misses” have been mostly small deviations. CJ Cron, Charlie Blackmon, Brendan Rodgers, and Raimel Tapia have performed better than expected, but the the other guys are mostly around their numbers.
The Big Misses: Pitchers
This is where there’s a pretty bad one. It’s not Germán Márquez, who was projected for a 4.29 ERA and 3.8 WAR and is projected to finish with... a 4.15 ERA and 3.8 WAR, even though I’d call that a slight letdown considering his talent level. No, the biggest miss by far was Antonio Senzatela, who was projected for a lowly 5.51 ERA and just 1.1 WAR across 150+ IP. The projections clearly didn’t buy into the improved control he showcased in 2020, nor did they think anything of his ability to keep the ball in the yard, but Senza has confirmed that his breakthrough was for real, putting up a very good 4.18 ERA and 2.8 WAR across 125.0 IP. He’s projected now to end at 3.2 WAR, a full 2.1 wins above his original number. The projections mostly nailed Jon Gray, Kyle Freeland, and even Austin Gomber, although they did underrate the two lefties ever so slightly.
Still, there about 3-4 extra wins here in total compared to the projections, and while Austin Gomber had to go and mess it up with his stinker at Texas on Tuesday afternoon, the entire Rockies rotation had ERAs below 4.50. I’m a relatively young and new fan, as some of you will know, but I’ll be willing to bet money that that’s never happened for the Rox before.
Can We Learn Something From This?
Don’t trust the projections for Rockies starters, I guess? The thing is, because the Colorado Rockies are such a baseball outlier in terms of environment, I think that kind of breaks projection systems in a way. How do you account for the very real and very obvious Hangover Effect? How do you account for the Rockies’ emphasis on low-spin fastballs apparently working better at home than on the road? Again, I have no clue how projection systems work, and I won’t pretend. It’s just fascinating to see how they often get it right... but also miss badly sometimes, too.
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There’s some interesting things here! The Rox have hired an outsider (former Nationals senior analyst Scott Van Lenten) as director of research and development, and this is apparently the beginning of a phase of expansion in that area. However, there’s also a “you’ve gotta believe in your people” quote from Bill Schmidt, so who knows.
That changeup Carlos Estévez has thrown more of in recent games looks like a weapon, doesn’t it? Also, how in the world does CJ Cron keep getting nothing but one-year and Minor League deals? He’s too good a hitter for that.
They’re not kidding. Rockies starters have a 4.36 ERA in Coors Field, which is very good, but a 5.08 ERA on the road, which is awful. Baseball gonna baseball, although I do think there’s something the Rockies have done in order to get to this result.
On The Farm
Sometimes your starter gets blitzed hard and no comeback effort can be enough. That’s what happened to the Isotopes yesterday against the Express, as José Mujica got demolished (4.0 IP, 11 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HR) and the bullpen and the bats’ good day at the office was all for nothing. Things could’ve been different, however, as despite scoring seven runs, Albuquerque went 4-for-15 with RISP. The ‘Topes now stand at 44-57 after the loss, dropping the series against Round Rock. They’ll get a day off before heading to Oklahoma City to take on the Dodgers.
I gotta say, this is the first 1-0 Hartford win I’ve covered since I started writing Rockpiles. Nº 46 PuRP Matt Dennis put together a dominant outing on the mound (6.1 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 HR), and the bullpen was outstanding, making the solo home run by Casey Golden in the bottom of the 8th inning stand as the lone run in this terrific pitcher’s duel. Hartford is now 35-66 after taking the series opener against Reading.
It’s not every day you see a consensus top 10 prospect in a system act as a piggyback guy, but Nº 8 PuRP Chris McMahon did just that, going six innings and only allowing one run (6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 0 HR) in relief of Peter Lambert, who tossed three innings of one-run ball in a rehab outing. Nº 40 PuRP Daniel Montano led the offense with three hits, and the Indians scratched out just enough runs to get McMahon a W for his excellent outing. Spokane is now a very good 57-46, and they’ve won 15 of their last 17 games.
Paced by Nº 7 PuRP Drew Romo, who went 2-for-2 with a double, a sacrifice fly, and a walk (and is now hitting .321/.352/.461 on the season), the balanced Fresno attack piled up five runs at Stockton, more than enough to make the good efforts of starter Noah Gotsis (5.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 HR) and the rest of the bullpen stand for a win in the series opener. Fresno is now 67-36, and will look to continue the momentum and take the rest of this series from the Ports after “only” managing to split their last two.
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