Finally, we’ve reached the pitching staff. German Márquez and Kyle Freeland broke out as a dominant 1-2 punch in the rotation last year, and each had their milestones to prove it. Márquez broke the Rockies’ single-season strikeout record of 214, previously held by Ubaldo Jiménez. Márquez finished with 230 total strikeouts. Freeland threw 6.2 shutout innings on the road as he led the team he grew up rooting for past the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild Card Game. He also finished with the lowest qualified single-season ERA in Rockies history, with a mark of 2.85 over 202.1 innings.
Jon Gray took a big step back from his impressive 2017 season. He finished with a 5.12 ERA, and he gave up 98 earned runs, which led the National League, on 180 hits, and was even demoted to Triple-A for two starts. He gave up 27 home runs as well, which blew his previous career high of 18 out of the water. Whether it was because of mechanical issues or if there was something wrong between his ears was hotly debated all season long. Results are results, though, and numbers don’t lie. Gray didn’t live up to expectations last year when it was all said and done.
Antonio Senzatela and Tyler Anderson had rollercoaster 2018 campaigns. Anderson had a phenomenal April and July. He had a 1.88 ERA with 25 strikeouts in five April starts and a 2.16 ERA with 32 strikeouts in five July starts. May and August were his undoing. His May ERA was 5.28, and in August it was a horrific 11.39. He gave up a total of 45 runs in those two months alone.
Senzatela finished the year with a 4.38 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 69 strikouts, and turned in some pretty good outings. September was his best month, when he posted a 3.25 ERA in five starts. Most of his struggles came in the earlier months. His pre-All Star Break ERA was 5.34, versus his post-All-Star Break ERA of 3.90.
Chad Bettis struggled in his first full year removed from beating testicular cancer. He appeared in 27 games, and started 20. He posted a 5.01 ERA in 120.1 innings with 80 strikeouts. The interesting thing about Bettis’ season is he started out as the Rockies most reliable starter. He threw 37.0 innings in April, and gave up just 10 runs, good for a 2.43 ERA. It was downhill from there.
The bullpen had some very good pieces, and some very bad ones. Adam Ottavino bounced back from his abysmal 2017 and transformed himself into one of the most lethal relievers in baseball. He was rewarded for it by way of a $27 million contract from the New York Yankees. Scott Oberg was a pleasant surprise, keeping pace with Ottavino throughout the season and coming in to close out the NL Wild Card game. He struck out all four hitters he faced. Wade Davis had an up and down year, but was mostly solid in his first season in Colorado. He also broke Greg Holland‘s franchise single-season saves record of 41 from 2017 with 43 last year. Seunghwan Oh arrived at the trade deadline in a deal with the Blue Jays, and also pitched very well.
DJ Johnson was also a surprisingly solid arm after making his Major League Debut. He appeared in seven games and actually made the Rockies NLDS roster. Yency Almonte was another young reliever who made his big league debut and fared well, having posted a 1.84 ERA in 14 games. Jeff Hoffman has yet to really find his footing in the major leagues, as he appeared in just six games, five of them as a reliever. Harrison Musgrave, Chris Rusin, Bryan Shaw, Jake McGee and Mike Dunn all had varying degrees of disappointing seasons.
The good news for the Rockies is it would be pretty hard for these guys to have a worse year than they did 2018. Last year overall was not a good one for the bullpen. Colorado relievers posted the fifth-worst ERA in baseball (4.62) and had the tenth-most walks per nine innings (3.75). Rebound years from guys like Shaw, Rusin, Dunn and McGee would go a long way in helping the Rockies make it back to the playoffs.
Overall, assuming that the bullpen doesn’t completely implode following the loss of Ottavino (like it did in 2018 when he hit the IL), the club should be alright. It’s not a fantastic bullpen by any means, but the guys they have should be able to do their jobs when it matters most.
Starting Pitchers: Freeland, Márquez, Anderson, Gray, Senzatela
Relievers (ranked based on past statistics, overall talent and confidence): Oberg, Oh, Davis, Johnson, Rusin, McGee, Hoffman, Shaw, Musgrave, Dunn, Bettis
Overall Pitching Staff Depth Grade: B-
To wrap this whole thing up, I don’t believe the Rockies have a phenomenal team by any stretch of the imagination. They will be good enough to stay in the hunt for the playoffs for most of the year, but many of the teams they competed with for the Wild Card last year have gotten considerably better. The Cardinals, Phillies and even the Mets could all be in the race and give Colorado a hard time. The Rockies have a dogfight ahead of them, and if they make it back to October baseball, they’ll have earned it.