Resurgent Rox

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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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

13 Responses to “Resurgent Rox”

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  1. Chris says:

    Anyone else read “the Rockies are getting good production out of three retreads” as “the Rockies are getting good production out of three retards”?

    I’m a bad person.

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  2. Drew says:

    Seth Smith still doesn’t start against lefties. Nor does Ian Stewart (much).

    Is that using baseball smarts, or over-managing?

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  3. xeifrank says:

    Maybe will realize that the West is the best division top to bottom in the NL.
    vr, Xei

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  4. Steve C says:

    I am not terribly familiar with the Rockies outfield situation, but does this resurgence make the trade of Holliday seem like a wrong decision.

    Hindsight being 20/20 really sucks.

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    • Matt says:

      Absolutely not. The Rockies return for him: Smith (Has done nothing, but still could be a good starter), Gonzalez (finally figuring it out in the MLB while providing awesome defense) and Street (the best closer in the NL) has been a great return for the Rockies. The salary relief in trading him also allowed the Rockies to trade for Marquis and take on his salary. It’s great value for a guy who was going to leave after the year, (albeit being a superstar) and the Rockies would probably be a worse team if they didn’t trade him.

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      • Drew says:

        Seth Smith and Matt Holliday have the same numbers.

        I know it’s crazy to compare the two since Holliday was facing tougher A.L. teams for most of the season, and Smith has less than 500 major league at-bats, but it’s not like Seth Smith is trash.

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      • Chris says:

        He’s talking about starting pitcher Greg Smith, not Seth Smith.

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  5. Rob McMillin says:

    @Steve C — I don’t think so. Holliday was going to want an A-grade contract, and given his historic road/home splits, I think it made a lot of sense for an organization that doesn’t have a lot of resources to deal him for something of value. Huston Street has found a resurgence in Colorado (amazing!), and they needed a closer after letting Brian Fuentes walk.

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  6. biondino says:

    Steve C, I don’t think you’re familiar with their pitching staff either, since Huston Street (1/3 of the package received for Holliday) has 28 (of 29) saves this season and is as reliable in the 9th as they come.

    Furthermore, the lack of Holliday in the outfield has given gametime to the massively promising Dexter Fowler, the hopefully-future-all-star Carlos Gonzalez and the fan favourite (that’s fans with calculators, the type who read this site, obviously) Seth Smith. Even if CarGo doesn’t ultimately live up to his potential, this is a real positive for the Rox and while Holliday might have been more productive, it goes a long way to making up for his loss.

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  7. JZ says:

    Long live the Hammer. And De La Rosa and his always high ERA – FIP differential.

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  8. don says:

    Maybe this is the wrong place to ask, but how do those PECOTA playoff odds work? And what is Pct3 which has decided that the Braves are the second best team in baseball?

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    • DC says:

      They run computer simulations using PECOTA and Pct3 I believe, or something like that.

      Pct3 is simply 3rd order wins. If you read around on there, it’ll explain the process in more detail.

      Another thing to note, is that the Rockies have a very favorable schedule in September. They also have 10 games with the Giants left, so that should be fun.

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  9. Mike says:

    I read it as 3 retards as well.

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