Outside of standings, there’s one tell tale sign of a successful Colorado Rockies season. It’s a factor that’s been a part of the Rockies for over a decade and it starts with roster building and resource allocation and it plays out deep on the bench.
It started with the Tulo-CarGo era when the Colorado Rockies‘ two stars would accumulate nearly all of the Rockies offense. It carried over from Troy Tulowitzki to Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado and then Arenado and Charlie Blackmon and then Arenado and Trevor Story. Colorado has been and offense carried by two men — of many different names and pairings — for years.
This season, the club’s offense has been worth -3.2 bWAR outside of Arenado and Story. Similar statements are true about the last two years where the Rockies went to the playoffs. In 2018, outside of Arenado and Story, the Rockies offense was worth 0.8 WAR. In 2017, besides Arenado and Blackmon, it was 1.9.
What really separates the numbers year over year the past three seasons is DJ LeMahieu. In 2018 and 2017, he was the third-best player accruing 2.8 and 3.0 WARs, respectively. This year, it’s Charlie Blackmon’s 1.4 that places third.
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Obviously there is a difference in these numbers and it might as well be LeMahieu. Still, the numbers aren’t good over any of the last three years.
Colorado’s depth issue hasn’t been limited to this year. It’s just been highlighted by LeMahieu’s leaving. The Rockies hoped the depth they already had would step up to replace LeMahieu but hope and action are different things.
The lack of acquisitions to obtain depth is what is costing the Rockies.
Good depth is anyone who can come in and be serviceable, replacement level or below average but not cost their team too much. Basically they’re there, but their contributions are not a net negative.
Coming into Monday, the Rockies this year have had 952 plate appearances taken by players with an OPS+ under 80. Basically nearly 1,000 plate appearances of the 4,000 this season (25 percent) have been taken by a batter more than 20 percent worse than league average. For comparison, the Dodgers, who have been lauded for their depth, have 424 plate appearances by players under 80 OPS+.
"“They’ve done a nice job of having a balanced bench,” Bud Black told the media Monday. “When I think of them the last few years with (Chris) Taylor, (Kiké) Hernández and (David) Freese, guys who have been around who are experienced. They’ve provided great depth and when those guys start games their initial group is on the bench making it even better. But being able to retain Taylor and Hernández while signing a guy like Freese, it really fortifies a 25-man roster. Then a young fella comes up and contributes. They’ve done a nice job there.”"
The Colorado Rockies have had a depth/length — whatever you want to call it — problem for years. It’s just become heightened this year given it’s their rivals biggest advantage, the Rockies most glaring hole and the raised expectations of 2019.