Rocktober is dead. Long live Rocktober.
No one is surprised that the Rockies were bounced from the postseason after three games. The bigger surprise is that they were there at all. They had an extremely tough final stretch of the season in which they played in four different cities in five days. One of those was the 12-inning Wild Card game. They didn’t just look overmatched against Milwaukee, they looked exhausted.
Even considering their marathon week, they were the weakest playoff team on paper. By their Base Runs record, they should have only won 85 games which is fewer than the Cardinals, Nationals, and Rays.
They were the true underdog in October. On September 1, FanGraphs gave them just a 26.7 percent chance of making the playoffs. On September 23, they had a 27.4 percent chance. Even with their early exit, this season should be viewed as an unmitigated success.
For the first time in their history, the Rockies made consecutive playoff appearances. For the first time in their history, the Rockies look like they have a pitching staff that has solved Coors Field. Kyle Freeland and German Marquez made major steps forward while Tyler Anderson and Jon Gray hung with them. Rockies starters were tenth in xFIP at 3.92 and eleventh in SIERA at 4.07. Considering their rotation, the Rockies are in an enviable position of having several talented pitchers under team control.
The Rockies don’t need to worry about their rotation aside from depth. Where they’ll need to improve is their offense. This was evident all year but especially over the last week. Including Game 163, the Rockies scored just six runs in five games including back-to-back shutouts in the final two games. The offense, which had been carried by Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story all year went 4-for-23 against Milwaukee. If they weren’t producing, the Rockies had no hope of keeping up with Milwaukee.
Fortunately, Story, Blackmon, and Arenado will be around in 2019 and those three are a fine start to any offensive core. The only other Rockies hitters with a wRC+ above 100 were David Dahl (271 PA), Matt Holliday (65 PA), Garrett Hampson (48 PA), and… Chris Rusin (5 PA). DJ LeMahieu will be a free agent, and LeMahieu’s defense will be missed.
The Rockies could stand to make upgrades at first base, second base, catcher, and right field while strengthening the bench. That’s a lot to do to stay in contention, and that doesn’t factor in the bullpen which was also a weakness beyond Adam Ottavino, Seung-hwan Oh, and Wade Davis. Considering the Rockies insistence on starting Ian Desmond all year, one must wonder if the team will have the presence of mind to fill those roles with competent players.
With how much work the Rockies will have to do to get their offense in order for 2019, a third consecutive playoff appearance isn’t a sure thing, but their window isn’t shut yet.
Correction Note: A previous version of that article stated that Charlie Blackmon will be a free agent in 2019, but Blackmon is signed through 2021 with player options for 2022 and 2023.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score, McCovey Chronicles, and BP Wrigleyville.