The only thing more surprising than the Colorado Rockies’ strong 4-1 start to the season is the way they’ve been winning those games–with statistically the best pitching in the game.
Through the first five games of the season, the Colorado Rockies pitching staff have surrendered only 9 total runs–the lowest total in Major League Baseball.
In fact, it’s the first time that an MLB team has allowed less than 10 runs through the first five games of a season since the 2015 Braves also allowed 9 runs in their first five games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It is also, far and away, the Colorado Rockies team record for fewest runs allowed in the first five games of a season as the previous record was 14 in 2011, per Elias.
While the starting rotation certainly deserves praise for their strong work out of the gate, a lot of the credit for the Rockies’ early-season success has to go to the team’s reinvigorated, new-look bullpen. After all, for as well as the rotation has pitched, they’ve only gone a full 6 innings twice and have yet to venture into the 7th.
Typically, giving the bullpen that much control over a game would spell disaster. But so far in 2020, the Rockies’ bullpen has been lights out. Their 2 runs allowed are tied with the Cleveland Indian’s ‘pen for the fewest in the game–and that’s with nearly 5 more innings pitched than Cleveland’s squad.
While it’s too early to say that the Rockies’ bullpen is going to be a strength all season long, an improvement in the ‘pen was not hard to forecast before the season even began. The departures of Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw and the increased reliance on young arms like Carlos Estevez, Jairo Diaz, and Yency Almonte were good indicators that Colorado’s bullpen would be better in 2020.
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Let’s not forget Estevez was quietly one of the National League’s best relievers in 2019, posting an ERA+ that ranked among the best out of NL relievers with over 70 innings pitched.
Additionally, Daniel Bard’s incredible comeback story and the mostly-unheralded but potentially very shrewd acquisition of Tyler Kinley add two more dependable arms in Bud Black’s arsenal. Not to mention, Colorado’s best reliever, Scott Oberg, hasn’t even seen action yet as he began the season on the IL.
The bullpen hasn’t been perfect, and there have certainly been a few nail-biting moments that could translate to trouble down the road–especially at Coors Field–but even in those high-pressure situations, Colorado’s mix of resurgent veterans and up-and-coming flame-throwers haven’t blinked.
In a full season, the uneven workload carried by the bullpen would come back to bite Colorado in the late months. But it’s 2020 and there are no late months. This means even when the expanded playoffs begin, the bullpen should still be fresh.
And if they can pitch anywhere near this good in October, hitters across MLB better pay attention or else before they know it they’ll be dragging their bats back to their dugout wondering what just happened.