Given that Troy Tulowitzki missed about a full month worth of playing time due to injury this season, the fact that he’s played himself into MVP consideration is quite remarkable. His teammate, Carlos Gonzalez, has consistently put up huge numbers all season long, and as a result he has also been part of the MVP discussion for much of the season and, for a time, he even staked a claim at a triple crown. These two form the base of the Colorado Rockies lineup, and both have been playing above and beyond expectations this September. Tulowitzki has a tremendous .324/.380/.820 line in September so far, good for a .501 wOBA, and Gonzalez barely trails him, hitting .393/.454/.626 this month. Despite this ridiculous performance from the leaders of the team, the Rockies have only gone 14-13 this month, failing to capitalize on struggles from the Padres (12-15) and Braves (13-14) while allowing the Giants (17-8) to completely take charge of the NL West.
Part of the failing here is the pitching. Rockies relievers have a 5.08 ERA this month, and although a 4.35 FIP suggests some poor luck, that’s still well below the NL reliever average (they do have a 3.35 xFIP, but keeping the ball in the yard is such a massive part of relieving that I’m loath to credit the unit for this). Huston Street has been solid (+1.1 WPA, 1.93 ERA, 1.87 FIP), and Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle have performed well too. However, the back end of the bullpen has been miserable. The primary offender is recently acquired Manny Delcarmen, whose -0.6 WPA in September is the worst out of the Rockies pen, and neither his 7.36 ERA nor his 5.13 FIP look any better. Overall, the Rockies bullpen has a +0.40 WPA – a number that looks good, but since the average reliever is better than the average pitcher, that number actually comes out to about .3 wins worse than the average bullpen. The rotation hasn’t been great either, as all the good from Jhoulys Chacin (1.78 ERA, 3.63 FIP) has been more than undone by terrible performances from Jeff Francis (8.38 ERA, 7.95 FIP) and Jason Hammel (6.41 ERA, 4.93 FIP). Those two combine for a -1.04 WPA on the month, and the unit as a whole checks it at a meager -0.41 WPA.
The pitching wasn’t good, but one might expect that a Rockies offense powered by the September explosions from Gonzalez and Tulowitzki would be able to overcome those efforts. Indeed, the offense as a unit has a .351 wOBA and was 20 runs above average – a good mark, but when we look deeper, many Rockies players missed opportunities to turn a good month into a special one. Without Tulowitzki and Gonzalez, the rest of the Rockies only posted a .312 wOBA and, with park adjustments, that comes out to a full 12 runs below average (roughly 2 runs below average without pitchers hitting). The primary offenders here are Eric Young Jr. (74 PA, .259 wOBA, -4 wRAA) and Miguel Olivo (72 PA, .273 wOBA, -3 wRAA). Melvin Mora and Ryan Spilborghs did put together solid months, but all together, the team simply couldn’t support the red-hot stars of the team.
Between the two of them, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez were nearly 32 runs above average in the course of only a full month. It’s impossible to ask a pair of players to contribute more to a team. However, the failings all around – from the starting rotation, the bullpen, and the rest of the lineup – were just too much for the Rockies to make another historic run. Now, instead of playing meaningful baseball and competing for a playoff spot this weekend, they will toil for nothing while the Padres, Giants, and Braves race for the final two playoff spots.