Rocktober is making a comeback. After stumbling out of the blocks, the team fired Clint Hurdle and installed Jim Tracy as their manager, who has since guided the team to a 41-20 record. They now are on pace to win 90 games and PECOTA gives them better than 55% odds to make the playoffs. Before the season, their CHONE projection pegged them for just 78 wins. Managerial regime changes aside, what’s the story behind the Purple Revival?
For starters, it’s been the starters. Starting pitching, that is. The Rockies’ starting five has been the best in the National League by a good margin – their 125.6 runs above replacement is 11.6 runs better than San Francisco’s. The Rockies seem to have torn a page or three out of Cardinal pitching coach Dave Duncan’s book “Keys to Winning with an Iffy Staff”. We know Ubaldo Jimenez is great and Aaron Cook is usually solid, but the Rockies are getting good production out of three retreads – Jason Marquis, Jason Hammel and Jorge de la Rosa. What pitching coach Bob Apodaca (fun name to say) has been able to do is coax his pitchers to throw strikes and induce ground-balls.
Colorado pitchers throw more fastballs than any team – 67.6% .The starting five also induces more ground-balls than any team – at a 51.9% clip. More burned worms has led to fewer homers, as the Rockies have been surprisingly good at keeping balls in the yard – 0.83 HR/9. As I said, they’re also throwing strikes, ranking third in the National League in walks per nine innings at 2.9. So it turns out that you can pitch at high altitude, you just have to go about it the right way.
Couple the strong pitching with a resurgent Troy Tulowitzki, who his hitting .302/.392/.619 since June 1st, and more of Seth Smith in the lineup (.385 wOBA, 7.4 UZR), and it’s easy to see why the Rockies are the back in biz.
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