Colorado Rockies: The 2021 ZiPS projections are out and it’s not good for the Rockies

FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski recently released his 2021 projections for the Colorado Rockies and as you may expect, they paint a picture of a team that is mediocre, at best.

The Colorado Rockies have never been a team that a computer crunching numbers has liked, even when the Rockies were in the playoffs in 2017 and 2018. Whether that’s because there are flaws in the calculations for whatever reason (playing at elevation, the difference between home and road games, etc.) or not, there is no denying that the Rockies are a mediocre team. The stats say it and most importantly, the standings have shown it. In the last two seasons, the Rockies are 97-125, which is equivalent to a 71-91 team for a 162-game schedule.

Dan Szymborksi of FanGraphs is known to make fun of the Rockies on Twitter and oftentimes, deservedly so, since the ownership and front office often seem to be unaware that they have played so poorly in recent years.

He even makes fun of the Rockies with this obviously sarcastic paragraph in his article about the Rockies ZiPS projections:

“On the plus side, the Rockies got a good long look at promising youngster Matt Kemp, and Ian Desmond is coming off the best season of his Colorado career with an 86 wRC+ and -0.3 WAR.”

While you may not agree with the way the stats he projects (and often, as with any projection, they don’t become true for outside factors, like trades or injuries), he was spot on with his standings projections for the Rockies for the 2020 season: a 26-34 record.

Szymborski has not yet released the projected standing for the teams (and who knows if the length of the season will change as it did in 2020), but overall, the picture painted is not a good one for the Rockies.

If you have watched or listened to the Rockies in the past few seasons, even when they made the playoffs, you know that their offense is not good. With playing at elevation, if the Rockies (roughly) aren’t 20 percent ahead of everyone else in the NL, they are below league average. By wRC+ and OPS+ (which are similar to each other), the Rockies have one of the worst offenses in baseball, and in the last three-quarters of the 2020 season, they were the second-worst only to the Texas Rangers.

This is reflected in ZiPS as the Rockies’ third-best offensive player, by the 2021 projections, is not even an MLB player. In fact, it’s not even a Triple-A guy.

It’s Colton Welker, who didn’t play in 2020 since the minor league season was canceled. CThe only offensive guys that project to be better than Welker in WAR (this is zWAR, or Szymborski’s own WAR calculations) are Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story. Fourth is Kevin Pillar, who may or may not even be returning to the Rockies in 2021 since he is a free agent.

There are a few reasons why the other Rockies are so low.

  1. Their defense is factored into it. Players like Charlie Blackmon are hurt by this.
  2. They have simply put, struggled at the plate (e.g. Ryan McMahon).
  3. As Szymborski puts it, players that suffer from the Rockies being “casually disinterested in distributing the necessary playing time.” This is mentioned for McMahon and Brendan Rodgers.

As Szymborski puts it, the Rockies pitching staff is “less bleak.” Their main weakness, as you already know, is that their bullpen needs a massive overhaul.

In other words, the Rockies are projected to be the team that they have played like in the last two seasons: a below average team that will likely be in either fourth or fifth place. They have shown it in the past two seasons and it’s why there have been a lot of trade rumors surrounding Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story this offseason and last.