The Rockies pitching staff is still young and just scratching the surface of what they can accomplish, so it will be exciting to see what Black can do when he gets to work with guys like Jon Gray, Tyler Anderson, Jeff Hoffman and the rest of Colorado’s promising stable of pitchers. On paper at least, this looks like the most talented staff Black has ever had, either in San Diego or Los Angeles.
Perhaps more importantly for a Rockies team with a bullpen that hemorrhaged runs in 2016, Black’s Padres teams routinely had excellent bullpens. San Diego’s bullpen ERA ranked in MLB’s top 10 in seven of Black’s eight full seasons as manager, including four finishes in the top three. If Black can work his magic and make Colorado’s bullpen even just average, it will go a long way in improving the team’s record.
Of course, if everything had gone perfectly for Black in San Diego, he never would have been fired. The Padres had a difficult time putting runs on the board during Black’s tenure with the team, sometimes historically so. That 2014 team that set a record for fewest runs allowed still finished below .500 because they, amazingly, scored even fewer runs than they allowed.
Again though, it’s helpful to look at the roster for context on those numbers. In San Diego, Black was constantly forced to fill the top and middle of his batting order with names like Will Venable, Yonder Alonso and Chris Denorfia. The fact that Black nearly won the 2010 NL West title with an offense that was essentially Adrian Gonzalez and the Seven Dwarves is amazing, and it’s the reason he has NL Manager of the Year award under his belt.
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I speculated earlier that Colorado might be the most talented rotation Black has ever worked with, but there’s no doubt about it with the lineup. There’s going be a big smile on his face the first time he watches Colorado’s bats feast on a pitcher.
But the most important thing about hiring Black may not even be the impact he makes on the field. Fair or not, Colorado (more specifically, Colorado’s front office) has a reputation for dysfunction.
For better or worse, Black has lived with that before, dealing with front office regimes in San Diego that, much like Colorado, were at times unrealistic in their goals and expectations.
When the Rockies hit a rough patch in 2017 (and it will happen, no matter how good they are), Black has the experience to remind the players, the owners, the GM and the fans that dropping a series or two is not the end of the world.
Obviously, no one can promise that Black is the right hire for the Rockies; only time will tell that. It’s an encouraging sign though, that the team would select a guy like Black. Many of Walt Weiss‘ harshest critics thought he was just an inexperienced puppet for the front office, and there was some concern the next manager would be more of the same.
Bud Black is not coming to Colorado to be a puppet or a placeholder. This is a guy who turned down a managing gig with a contender (the Washington Nationals) because he felt they were low-balling him. If he’s agreed to terms with the Rockies, that means that:
1) Colorado’s front office made him a respectable, fair offer AND
2) He believes that he can win with the structure currently in place.
The Rockies front office has taken a lot of heat over the years, much of it deserved, but it’s time to give credit where it’s due: Bud Black wasn’t the cheapest option, or the most “controllable” option, but he may end up being the best option.