Are the Colorado Rockies Off Their Rocky Mountain High?
Video game numbers. That was the best way to describe the Colorado Rockies offense to start the season. By the time April ended, the Rockies only trailed the Anaheim Angels in wins above replacement (WAR), and led the league with 157 runs scored.
As of May 7th, they were tied with the San Francisco Giants in the NL West with a 22-14 record. Only the Milwaukee Brewers had a better record in the National League, and only by half a game. Oh, and they had the best run-differential at +55, with the Oakland Athletics’ +44 the only team close.
Offense had a lot to do with that. In the month of April, six players with at least 50 plate appearances had an average over .300, five had isolated power (ISO) numbers over .200, six had weighted runs created (wRC+) over 100, and three had weighted on base averages (wOBA) over .400. For reference, the average wOBA is .320, wRC+ is 100 and ISO is .146.
Troy Tulowitzki was (and still is) the best hitter in baseball with a slash line of .364/.477/.727 in April, including seven home runs and a wRC+ of 211. He was the only player with a wRC+ over 200, a slugging percentage over .700 and a wOBA over .500.
Below is a list of the top five batters in terms of wRC+ in April. None of them come close to matching Tulowitzki's numbers.
His numbers have dropped off in May, but he's still one of the best hitters in the league. It's just those original numbers were always unsustainable. He already has compiled a WAR of 4.4, while the best number he’s ever put up was a 5.9 in 2010. That was also the season he put up his best career nERD number at 2.84, or less than half the figure he’s put up to start this season.
While the offense was never going to keep that pace, the Rockies have come crashing back to earth faster than anyone could’ve expected. In their last 23 games, they're 6-17 and have a run differential of -42 in that span. They’ve fallen below .500 for the first time this season at 28-31. They’re third in the NL West, 10.5 games behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants.
So has awful pitching led to this drop? At first glance, it certainly helps explain things. Here are their monthly splits with the league rank in parenthesis:
|April||2.1 (18)||4.19 (19)||4.27 (28)||7.01 (27)|
|May||0.7 (27)||4.29 (28)||4.76 (last)||6.09 (last)|
But if you look at just the last 23 games when they’ve posted the 6-17 record, they gave up 4.43 runs per game before giving up 28 runs in their last two games, compared to 4.44 when they compiled the 22-14 record. If anything, they've been consistent, but they've just consistently bad. Outside of a complete turnaround or a shakeup of the staff, it's unlikely the numbers are going to get much better.
The bigger difference? They’ve scored just 3.60 runs a game, compared to the crazy high 5.97 in the first part of the season. The 3.60 runs per game would rank them 27th in the league, while the 5.97 runs per game would be the top number by over half a run.
6-17 is a cold streak and probably unsustainable in its own right. But our numberFire projections currently have the Rockies finishing the season at 80-82. No one would argue with that number before the season started, and it fits now. Those numberFire projections also say the Rockies have a 25.7 percent chance of making the playoffs. That number ranks 14th in the league – only 10 teams make the postseason – and sandwiches them right between the Miami Marlins and Chicago White Sox.
There is a saving grace though, Rockies fans. Only 5 of their 17 losses have come at home. Why is that important? They are 16-10 at home, and 12-21 on the road, mainly because they score an obscene 6.88 runs at home, and just 3.60 runs on the road.
Eight games is certainly a small sample size, but it’s also unrealistic to imagine this offense keeping the same pace it had to start the season. Especially since this major drop has occurred with Tulowitzki still on fire.