Rockies fans were shocked by their team’s miserable start during the opening weeks of the 2019 season. But their hopes for a winning season were renewed when the Rockies took two of three games from the Western Division-leading San Diego Padres at Petco Park then returned home to take three of four games from the Eastern Division-leading Philadelphia Phillies. With a 4-1 win Sunday, the Rockies have raised their win/loss record from unmentionable to an encouraging nine wins and 13 losses. Remember also that this record is being carved out of an April schedule that many consider the toughest in the major leagues.
It’s still early going and tough to get a read on just how competitive the Rockies will be this season. Will they be good enough to make the playoffs for a record third season in a row? Do they have a chance to win the Western Division? Admittedly, it’s difficult to go beyond wishful thinking as April draws to a close, but there are some performance indicators that will be important to watch.
Fear not. I don’t intend to overburden you with an endless collection of Statcast numbers. There are however some old-fashioned numbers that are crucial measures of individual and team performance. To begin, let’s look at the Rockies starting rotation. As the season progresses, I urge you to concentrate on one statistic which is WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). Obviously, the lower the number the better the performance with anything below 1.10 considered excellent. Currently, after 32 innings of work, German Marquez has a WHIP of 0.97. Jon Gray’s is 1.08 in 32.1 innings and Kyle Freeland’s is 1.19 in 27.2 innings. Antonio Senzatela, the newcomer to the rotation, has a WHIP of 1.18 after pitching 12.2 innings. For the time being to track developing trends forget about wins and losses – follow the WHIP.
However, for the starters’ WHIP to be a meaningful contributor to wins and losses depends on run support which is where the offensive numbers come into play. Home runs like Charlie Blackmon’s walk-off blast in the 12th inning of Friday night’s 4-3 win over the Phillies are among the big thrills of the game. But to assess how well individual hitters are performing and how that contributes to team performance requires us to look at more than just the exciting long ball. For individual hitters, I recommend that you track OBP (on-base percentage).
Consider this: getting on base either moves or scores another runner and represents the potential for additional offense. Then there are RBIs (runs batted in). This number is a direct indicator of how well the hitter is able to drive in runs by effective situational at-bats whose outcome could be anything from a sacrifice fly to a grand slam. As of April 21, here are the current OBP leaders: David Dahl (.404); Tony Wolters (.354); Ryan McMahon, Charlie Blackmon and Mark Reynolds (.340). In the RBI department, the leaders are Trevor Story (14), Nolan Arenado (12) and Blackmon and Ian Desmond with (10).
When it comes to team performance the crucial number will always remain wins and losses. But as the season progresses here are a few areas to track: RISP (runners left in scoring position). The Rockies have not done well in this category. It is directly related to effective situational hitting. Lower RISP tends to drive the win total higher. Also, watch run differential – a measure of by how many the runs the Rockies outscore or are outscored by their opponents. Currently, the Western Division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers have a run differential of +29. The Rockies lag significantly at -18.
Finally, watch the home/road splits. The Rockies need to win half of their road games (40) and at least 50 home games in order to win 90 games – the estimated threshold for playoff contention.
This week the Rockies play a three-game series with the Washington Nationals at Coors Field then head east to meet the Atlanta Braves on the weekend.
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