While eight teams from the National League are competing this week in the Wild Card series round of the MLB playoffs, the Colorado Rockies are not a part of the post-season field.
For the Colorado Rockies, the abbreviated 60-game regular season came to an abrupt halt on Sunday following the Rockies’ 11-3 setback to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
Of course, the Rox knew that Sunday’s contest would mark the end of the campaign after having been eliminated from wild-card consideration following a loss in the opening game of a doubleheader to the D-backs on Friday.
As it ended up, the Rockies were fifth among the teams battling for one of the two wild-card berths awarded in this year’s NL playoffs. Colorado finished three wins shy of fourth place (Philadelphia) and would have needed four more victories to have been in the hunt for the second wild-card berth (St. Louis and Milwaukee earned the NL’s two wild cards).
The loss in the season finale capped a 26-34 season (.433 winning percentage) for Colorado with the Rockies finishing fourth among the five teams in the NL West.—one game ahead of cellar-dweller Arizona.
The 2020 season marked the second straight year that the Rox failed to qualify for post-season play.
The failure to earn a playoff berth was only magnified when one considers the tremendous start Colorado had to the season (11-3 record to begin the shortened season).
So, what happened to Colorado that resulted in the club missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year and, perhaps more importantly, what’s next for the franchise looking ahead to 2021?
Following Sunday’s season-ending game in Phoenix, Manager Bud Black addressed some of the issues for this year’s disappointing finish—the Rox went 15-31 (.326 winning percentage) after their stellar 11-3 start to hold the dubious distinction of having the worst winning percentage in the Majors over that 46-game span.
“This year…some of our younger players didn’t progress like we had hoped, we had some guys (who) had down years and we didn’t really hit in the clutch,” Black told media, including Rox Pile.
The Colorado manager did not mention specific players in each of the areas he pinpointed as contributing to the team’s losing mark.
Several younger players struggled at the plate this year, including David Dahl (.183 while battling injury issues), Garrett Hampson (.234), Sam Hilliard (.210), and Ryan McMahon (.215). McMahon also had a team-high 66 strikeouts and committed 10 errors in the field (shared team-high in fielding miscues with Trevor Story).
Among the players who could qualify for “down” years were standout Nolan Arenado who batted just .253 before his season was shelved in the final week of action due to an ailing left shoulder.
Other possible underperformers were Matt Kemp, a late addition to the 2020 roster, who batted .239 and, Daniel Murphy, who started the year as the team’s regular first baseman, who hit just .236.
The Rockies also had several young pitchers who spent time shuffling between the active roster and the alternate training site during the season getting limited opportunities to perform at the big-league level.
The Rox actually ranked in a tie for fifth overall in the NL in hitting in 2020 with a .257 mark (New York Mets topped the league at .272).
But a closer look at two parts of Colorado’s offense this season—hitting with runners in scoring position and hitting with two outs and runners in scoring position—support Black’s comments.
The Rox batted just .248 with runners in scoring position (opponents hit at a .285 clip). Several of the team’s top bats struggled here.
Arenado registered a .175 average, Trevor Story was at .207, Kevin Pillar—after his arrival in a trade deadline deal with Boston in August—had a .245 mark. Even Charlie Blackmon, a .303 hitter on the season, was only .258 in this category. Much the same was true for Arenado and Story in terms of hitting with two outs and RISP.
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The final numbers: Arenado (.080) and Story (.154). As a team, Colorado batted .242 (opponents .277) in the category.
Black also emphasized the need for the club to shore up its bullpen for 2021.
“We got to really solidify our bullpen,” he said on Sunday. “We really do. To be consistent over 162 games, that shows up as a weakness.”
As a team, Colorado finished dead last among the 15 NL teams in team ERA at 5.59 (the Dodgers had the top NL ERA at 3.02). In addition, the Rockies ranked at the bottom of the league in hits allowed (579), runs (353), earned runs (327), strikeouts (393), hit batsmen (40), and opponents’ batting average (.280).
The club had two starting pitchers with ERA’s of less than 4.00— Antonio Senzatela (3.44) ERA and German Marquez (3.75)—while another starter, Kyle Freeland, just missed the sub-4.00 mark (4.33).
But the bullpen ballooned the team’s ERA. A few key final numbers—based on a minimum of 10 appearances—included Jairo Diaz (7.65), Carlos Estevez (7.50), Mychal Givens (6.75 in 10 outings with the Rox after being obtained from Baltimore in August), Jeff Hoffman (9.28) and Tyler Kinley (5.32).
It should be a most interesting off-season for the Rockies as the franchise maneuvers to break out of its two-year slump of missing post-season play.