This is the first of a series of columns that will explore Colorado Rockies' statistics and analytics. We'll look at current and past players, teams, opponents, splits, and more. Good, bad, ugly, or just odd, we'll look at basic and more advanced analytics on your Colorado Rockies.
This week we're looking at the 2023 Rockies' pitching statistics and how they rank, unfortunately, as one of the worst in decades.
Another Disappointing Season
It's no secret that the 2023 Rockies have not been very good. There have been some positive notes, however, notably wonderful rookie seasons from Ezequial Tovar and Nolan Jones, the call up of prospect Hunter Goodman, the guaranteed Gold Glove for Brenton Doyle, and the late season surge from Elehuris Montero spring to mind.
However, as they continue to hurtle toward their first 100 loss season, we can start to examine where things went wrong. One thing that stands out, as it often does for the Rockies, is pitching. In 2023, it was evident even more often than usual as the Rockies are closing in on posting one of the highest team ERA in the expansion era - not just for the club, but for the entire league.
Why is Rockies Team ERA Always So High?
Even the most casual fans likely know that Coors Field is a hitter's ballpark. The huge outfield and rarefied air make for a lot of runs scored in Colorado and consequently Rockies hitters tend to have better splits at home than on the road. Wonder why Todd Helton isn't in the Hall of Fame yet? You probably don't need to look further than the "Coors Field Effect", which has him slashing .345/.441/.607 at home versus a significantly less glamorous .287/.386/.469 on the road. (Don't worry, he'll get in there next year).
The point with all this is that Coors Field is a difficult place to pitch and this understandably tends to lead to a higher team ERA for Rockies pitchers versus the rest of the league. This is why you'll find that 6 of the top 20 worst team ERA in the expansion era (since 1961) are from Colorado.
However, all those qualifiers don't excuse the fact that in 2023 so far, the Rockies have their 2nd highest ERA in team history and 8th highest in MLB in the expansion era.
Where Does 2023 Rank?
Since 1961, there are only 9 teams that have had a higher team ERA than the 2023 Rockies. Yes, as this is only through September 22nd, there are still a few weeks to go in the season, and while this number could change, they're not magically getting significantly better over the last three series. There's not really a way to paint a pretty picture here. Every starting pitcher has an ERA and FIP over 5.00. No starting pitcher has an ERA+ over 100. In terms of relievers, we can consider Justin Lawrence and Brent Suter as the bright spots with an ERA and FIP under 4.00 but there's not really much else worth mentioning.
This year, they've given up the most runs, have the worst WHIP, allowed the 2nd most home runs, and the list goes on and on.
"Wait, but ERA is not truly a measure of only the pitcher!", you might be saying. "There are other factors involved!" Yes, that's true, and if we use Field Independent Pitching (FIP) to evaluate the 2023 staff, we see that they do, in fact, improve and move to 15th worst all time in the last 60+ years. So, it's better, but it's not really something worth celebrating.
What Can the Rockies Do About It?
If this were an easy question to answer, the Rockies wouldn't consistently have such a difficult time pitching, and winning, at Coors Field.
According to The Denver Post, Blake Street Bomber and Rockies legend, Dante Bichette, says to forget that and just score more runs.
"Offensively, you’ve got to bully teams at home."- Dante Bichette
Fellow Bomber and current special assistant to the general manager, Vinny Castilla, echos his sentiment.
"This is a ballpark where you can score runs, so it would be good to have a lineup that can scare people."- Vinny Castilla
Perhaps that's the answer to solve Colorado's losing ways, but even if it is, having one of the worst ERAs in MLB history certainly doesn't do the team any favors.