N.L. West Prediction: Colorado Rockies

Could Colorado actually be better without its all-everything third baseman? Hmmmmm

My man crush on Nolan Arenado is long documented and I had hoped -along with several million Colorado Rockies fans- that he would be part of the team that got back to the World Series. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. So the Rockies management traded Arenado for a bus driver, two mules and a sack of whiffle balls. Sure that’s an exaggeration. But not really. Let’s just say the trade has been widely thrashed by anyone with a pulpit from which to thrash. Three of the prospects are top-30 and one is just outside it. Could’ve been better? Sure. Let’s see how the sack o’ players turn out, or if the Rockies are able to turn around and ship off some of them for higher-level prospects.

What Colorado does have is the possibility of being able to play small ball with a three-run homer every so often. I hate it when pundits say “it will be interesting to see…“ but, it will be interesting to see how much Major League Baseball’s freezing of the baseballs in certain locales affects the Rockies. Will it help their pitchers? It seems to reason it will hurt their offense. Will they be able to adjust and go for more doubles instead of home runs?

They have a replacement MVP candidate with Trevor Story at shortstop. All he’s done in his career is hit around .290 with 35 homers while playing a sparkling shortstop. I love watching this guy field his position. Not only is the anticipation there, but there is effort as well. It’s like he’s afraid a family pet might die if he allows a ball to get by him. And nobody’s bat on that team -even Arenado- makes a sound like Story’s when he connects. It’s like the crack of the bat in the movie The Natural.

There is talent on the squad besides Story. Raimel Tapia hit .285 last year and has the speed needed for the Rockies to play small ball. The question is can he cut down on the strikeouts and take more walks? A guy with 12-home-run power should not have 150 strikeouts. Sorry. Second baseman Garrett Hampson could certainly help the Rockies go station to station. He can steal 30 bases a year. His batting average isn’t the greatest at .243. He’s probably a perfect number-nine hitter at this stage of his career. Fellow infielder baseman Ryan McMahon has just as many at bats as Tapia and has twice as many home runs. He’s also on pace to average 225 strikeouts per year if his career averages hold. Last year he was able to whittle the number down to about a strikeout per game. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

He also gives them depth at every infield position which is nice. The Rockies are going to hope that third baseman Josh Fuentes is the guy who hit better than .300 a couple of seasons in the minors and not the kid who hit .250 in some of his other seasons in the minors. He does not strike out an in ordinate amount which is good for a guy who can hit 25 home runs. Once he realizes that being more selective at the plate will give him better pitches to hit I think he could be pretty good. Arenado good? Probably not, but that’s an unfair comparing a five-time All-Star with a kid just called up from the minors. Hopefully Rockies fans remember that before they start booing once he goes into a slump.

Colorado also has an MVP-caliber right fielder in Charlie Blackmon. He’s a perfect example of why little league coaches are highly overrated. It’s not a swing you’d ever teach anybody but his bat stays through the hitting zone probably longer than anybody else in the league and he generates so much bat speed with it that he can literally whip balls out of the ballpark. He’s another guy that you want to stop doing whatever it is you’re doing when he comes to the plate.

Major League Baseball‘s effort to humidify the ball by keeping it in the refrigerator is a Major League Baseball way to deal with the problem caused by a manufacturing change. The change was so dramatic, baseballs were leaving the yard at a rate faster than conspiracy theorists could share flat Earth theories through Q anon.

So the big question is will the Rockies benefit from having colder balls? Go ahead. Say it. I can’t hear you.

German Marquez has been able to do what many other Rockies starters have not and that’s win. He certainly should benefit from the reduced number of whiplash incidents he will be suffering as a result of the ball not leaving the yard at such a high rate. He was 4-6 with a 3.75 ERA last year. He gives up about a hit per inning but he also strikes out 4 to 5 times as many batters as he walks. I’m really curious to see how Austin Gomber progresses. Pronounced GOHM buhr, as in “Hey don’t be a Gomber.” He has the stuff to strike guys out but he’s also had difficulty harnessing it as evidenced by a career 1.46 WHIP. Even with that, his career ERA is well under 4.00. If any of you have the time please feel free to research what the highest WHIP is compared to the lowest ERA. He hast to be in line for some sort of award. Usually hitters get tagged with the “streaky” label. Pitchers can fall into that category too. Jon Gray has not been able to post two decent seasons back to back. Good news for Rockies fans because last year was terrible (6.69 ERA). Bad news: he gives up a hit each inning. It’s too much with a walk every three innings on top of it. Antonio Senzatela has a career ERA over 5.00 but last year he knocked a run and a half off of that. How? To put it pretty simply, he missed bats. His ERA was 3.44 and his WHIP was a respectable 1.21. His walks were down to from a hideous 57BB/76K ratio in 2019 to an 18BB/41K ratio in 2020. Let’s be real here, though. 2020 was weird.

The glaring weak spot for this team is in the bullpen. If the starters can’t go six or seven you have the possibility of Robert Stephenson or Carlos Estevez coming in in relief. Both have ERA‘s over five. Estevez was particularly bad last year with an ERA of 7.50. Mychal Givens was right in between the two at 6.75.

Daniel Bard made like Shakespeare on the mound with a 3.65 ERA last year. That’s it. One guy coming out of the bullpen of whom you have reasonable confidence can get two or three outs. You also have Yancy Almonte (4.09 ERA) who could be your set up guy in long relief. Jhoulys Chacin he’s been a decent starter during his career but Colorado is going to put him in the bullpen. Also, let’s not forget this is Colorado and all these numbers are ridiculous. And if the Rockies have been assuming that they’ll get better with a different ball or lower altitude then I guess they’re going to find out with the season of the Frigidaire.

What does it all mean? The offense is fine and should be able to score six runs a game. The starting pitching is suspect but has shown it’s possible they could be good all at the same time. The bullpen is a flaming dumpster of dog doo. With the starting pitching, defense and offense this should be an 85 win team. But this bullpen could easily blow 15 games if not more. Did St. Louis really not have any middle relievers Colorado could’ve demanded in trade?

Guess not. 70 WINS.

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