As April spent its last days dropping a little snowstorm on Denver, the Colorado Rockies were finishing up the first month of the 2017 season. After a 16-10 month, the club sits atop the NL West standings with a strong start to the season that they will look to build off for the month of May. Let’s take a look back on what worked and a look forward to see what will sustain.
3 Reasons April was successful
This is the worst kept secret to success for this ballclub. We’ve written at length about the success of the team being tied to the bullpen throughout April. The big three of Mike Dunn, Adam Ottavino, and Greg Holland have been nearly perfect, resulting in the back end being the biggest strength so far. Aside from a few bad innings the rest of the pen has also been stronger than 2016. Carlos Estevez, Scott Oberg, Jake McGee, and Jordan Lyles have all had quality innings to help this unit become a dominate force to be reckoned with.
By now, if you haven’t learned, Nolan is going to be Nolan, no matter who else rounds out the infield. Nolan is the best defensive player in baseball, without hesitation. Now, the team has a roster full of players who are taking pride in their defense like Nolan does. Last year the Rockies finished 28th in the majors with a .982 fielding percentage, compared to this season which is .987 good for 11th in baseball. One of the differences between this season and last is “splash” plays. Arenado is always good for one a series, but it’s the rest of the defense that needed to show that aggressive style, and they have. Parra and CarGo have flashed leather and arm strength while Mark Reynolds has scooped up everything thrown his way.
3. Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela
This two young starting pitchers have been far and beyond the biggest surprises for Colorado. Both have sub 3.00 ERA’s, both have pitched deep into games, and both have made a huge impact in their starts. Though it wasn’t their formula for success leading up to their big league starts, both have been exceptional at forcing ground ball outs. History has proven groundball pitchers have a higher rate of success at Coors Field, a la Aaron Cook, these two have taken heed.
3 Reasons May will continue success
Colorado’s offense has yet to show up for 2017, yet the club still sits fifth in the NL for runs scored. Even with a history of starting slow, CarGo is off to an even slower start than usual hitting just .216. Couple that with LeMahieu, Story, and Desmond barely contributing and all of sudden about half the lineup is due to break out. Heading into May and beyond, the offense will pickup. It’s way too early to panic over the teams biggest strength just yet.
The clubs health will improve throughout the month of May, with most returning by months end. David Dahl is still on the mend, but projecting before the end of the month; Catcher Tom Murphy’s is also improving, wrist now out of a cast and rehabbing; Jon Gray is in week three of a four – six week recovery from a toe injury, putting back in the lineup around May 21st. The one player we have no timetable on is Chad Bettis, who continues his battle with cancer.
3. Pitching Changes
The young arms for the Rockies have been a surprising gift for the club, with the older “vets” being letdowns. The season is young, but the team needs to take advantage of the strong start and not let the lead slip away. Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson have been shaky all season. Chatwood has a track record with the Rockies that earns him a longer leash. Outside of a complete game shutout in San Francisco though, he had been mediocre at best. Anderson has been bad, but usually not further then the second or third time through lineup. In order for Anderson to stay in the league, he will need to pitch passed the fifth inning. Bud Black knows his window for success is small, he will make a necessary change if needed.
One Big Worry
The bullpen was used at an alarming rate, with 90.1 innings of work for the month of April. This ties right in to the starters not getting deep enough into games. The bullpen cannot sustain if they continue to enter games in the fifth and sixth innings. For this club to win, the starters need to work through jams and tough innings to save the bullpen. Bud Black has been mastering the use of the pen so far, just need to see less out of them.
As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers”, let’s hope that quote is metaphor for the Rockies. The month of April is represented by injuries and offensive woes. Whereas health and better offense couple with better starting pitching to represent the flowers of May.