Colorado Rockies: Finding hope in a lost 2019 season
By Colin Gaiser
The Colorado Rockies are slipping further and further from playoff contention, leading to the emergence of that dreadful phrase, “lost season.”
But it doesn’t have to be like this, even if 2019 becomes a glorified,162-game Spring Training for 2020. The Colorado Rockies may have crumbled in July, yet there are signs of life on this resilient team, and some performances that could excite the fanbase going into the next decade.
The starting rotation’s 2019 problems were (mostly) unexpected, though on Saturday Rox Pile’s Jake Shapiro pointed out that pitching so many innings at altitude could be partially responsible for the poor seasons of Kyle Freeland, Chad Bettis and Jeff Hoffman. (and the full-body cramping that knocked out German Marquez on July 31).
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That is where Jon Gray’s comeback has been absolutely massive for this rotation. Gray is second on the Rockies – not just the pitching staff – in bWAR (4.1). In nine starts since June 19, he’s allowed three runs or less in every start except two home outings against San Francisco. His ERA sits at 4.03 with a FIP at 4.15.
He’s not showing the most elite command right now, yet he’s avoiding the disastrous innings that plagued him last season. He’s kept 77.5 percent of baserunners from scoring, nearly a 10 percent increase from 2018.
Meanwhile, Peter Lambert is earning his spot on the big stage. After his first two stellar starts against the Chicago Cubs, the book was out on Lambert and he was roughed up in his next four starts (giving up 20 runs and eight home runs in 17.2 innings).
But Lambert’s four starts since then have shown his resilience and a willingness to adapt. He made the slider his primary secondary pitch (rather than the curveball) and improved his fastball location. The rookie mistakes are still there – like on August 2, when he threw an 0-2 fastball middle-middle to Mike Yastrzemski that Yaz blasted for a 471-foot home run – but Lambert could be a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy in 2020.
Obviously, Scott Oberg‘s All-Star-worthy season has been magnificent. His peripherals show regression is imminent, but he is improving from season to season. Let us hope he remains a Rockie for a while.
Then there’s Jairo Díaz, this season’s inspiring comeback story. Improbably, Díaz is the second-best bullpen arm behind Oberg. Since July 15, he’s made ten appearances – eight scoreless with one disastrous five-run meltdown at Washington on July 23. As long as his location is there, the high-velocity sliders and fastballs could play well at Coors Field for years to come.