Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, April 9, 2021
Through seven games, the Rockies are off to a 3-4 start. That seems pretty predictable, especially considering they opened the season with a four-game series against the World Series Champions. It could even be an improvement to many projections for the Rockies.
However, if you dive into the offensive numbers, there are some exciting findings about this 2021 team. In several categories, including homers, RBI, triples, doubles, and stolen bases, this year’s Rockies have better numbers than any other squad from 2017-2020. Sure, it’s only seven games, which is a very small sample size. Things could change. But the fact that this start is better than the playoff teams of 2017 and 2018, and without Nolan Arenado, is impressive.
Of course, we can’t overlook a very important factor in the 2021 start versus the last four years (even all the way back to 2012): Coors Field. The Rockies opened the season at home this year and had the advantages of altitude and not yet having to adjust to elevation changes in travel. In fact, this year is the only time in Rockies history that they have opened the season at Coors Field with a seven-game homestand. The longest homestand to start a season in Denver prior to this season was 2001 when the Rockies opened with a six games before traveling.
So when compared to the 2011 squad, who only had three of its first seven games at Coors, the 2021 team has stronger numbers. When compared to the 2001 team, the last Rockies unit to play without the humidor, the 2021 team trails 2001 in homers and RBIs.
Outside of different rosters, the baseball has also changed a lot over the years, from the humidor pre2002 to the smashable balls in 2017 and 2019 when records were broken with homers per team per game at 1.26 and 1.39, respectively. Complicating matters even further is the deadened ball of 2021, which is supposed to be less bouncy. In other words, there are lots of factors that impact these numbers.
One of the biggest tests for this 2021 team will be the first road trip, which begins today with three games in San Francisco and then three more games at Dodger Stadium. Even more, will be how the Rockies adjust back to altitude for the following eight-game homestand against the Mets, Astros, and Phillies.
For now though, it’s just worth appreciating some of the offensive fireworks the Rockies have displayed over the last week. The biggest numbers that jump out so far are the homers. Ryan McMahon is tied for the MLB lead with four. Dom Nuñez, in only 14 at-bats, has three homers. In 60 games in 2020, the Rockies catchers combined for two home runs, both from Elias Díaz. Sam Hilliard, in 15 at-bats, has two homers. Charlie Blackmon, Josh Fuentes, and Raimel Tapia each have one. The total of 12 homers is third best in the MLB through Thursday. Trevor Story has yet to hit his first homer of the season, which only bodes well for the offense.
The Rockies 40 RBI is sixth best in baseball, the 14 doubles are tied for fifth best, and the four triples is tied for best in the MLB with Dodgers. McMahon leads the team with seven RBI (just imagine if those three homers on Tuesday weren’t all solo), while Fuentes, Hampson, and Nuñez have five apiece, and Blackmon and Hilliard have four each. Chris Owings leads the team with three doubles, while Blackmon, Story, Garrett Hampson, C.J. Cron, and Ryan McMahon all have two. Owings also has two triples, while Hilliard and Story each have one.
With the Rockies players planning to use their speed and setting big goals for stolen bases this season, it’s already showing up on the bases. Mostly, this is due to Hampson, who is leading the MLB with four. Owings has the other two.
Another area of positive improvement is strikeouts. Last year, the Rockies ranked 20th in most strikeouts as a team with an average of 9.05 per game. In this year’s small sample, the Rockies are at their lowest point in the last five years with an average of 8 strikeouts per game.
The walks are the only category in which the 2021 Rockies aren’t the best since 2017. If the strikeouts are down, then this seems doable. However, one just needs to look at the Rockies on-base percentage to see that the Rockies need more base runners – by walk or by hit. The team currently has a .289 on-base percentage, which ranks No. 21 in the MLB. Even if the Rockies can keep up the extra-base hits, they simply need more runners. They will especially need them on the road.
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After complimenting Jon Gray on an outstanding performance in Thursday’s win when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Mark Kiszla also notes that play like that is likely to get Gray on the trading block with Story if the Rockies aren’t in contention by the trade deadline. Kiszla also spends a decent amount of the column focused on the 10,836 people who were in attendance at Thursday’s game, which is just over half of what the venue is allowed to have under current COVID restrictions. Whether people really are boycotting, it was just what happens in a weekday game, or as an indicator that it will be Dodgers, Cubs, and Cardinals fans that will fill the seats this season at Coors, only time will tell.
After going with a four-man rotation for the first cycle, the Rockies will now add Chi Chi González to the fifth spot in the rotation. He will get his first start of the season on Saturday against the Giants.
González (1-0) has made two appearances this year. Despite struggling in his first when he gave up three runs on five hits and one walk with two strikeouts in two innings on Opening Day vs. the Dodgers, he still was the winning pitcher in the game. In his second appearance, also against the Dodgers, but on Sunday, González threw three scoreless innings with two walks and two strikeouts.
The Rockies are hoping that Chris Owing’s tight right hamstring, which led to him exiting Wednesday’s game, is nothing serious and he won’t miss significant time. That’s good news for the Rockies as Owings is hitting .500/.563/1.000 with two triples, two stolen bases, and three RBI.
In other notes, Thomas Harding includes good news that Bud Black says the Rockies are “well-above” the 85 percent mark in terms of vaccinations for the organization’s Tier 1 individuals, which means all individuals who travel with the team. That means, according to MLB rules, they can relax certain COVID health and safety protocols. Additionally, the Rockies have decided to move their alternate site from Parker, Colo. to Salt River Fields in Arizona. This will allow the players to access the organization’s facilities and play games against other teams. Minor league spring training is also currently taking place in Scottsdale.
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