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Morning Mound Visit: Rockies are pitching their way to success

Add “The Rockies are in first place on August 7.” to the list of sentences that would have been bizarre to hear in February.

San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

One does not simply solve Coors Field. Its park effects are inflated by more than just high elevation. There is evil there that does not sleep, and the Great Eye of Dinger is ever watchful. It’s outfield is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and BABIP-related nonsense, the very air you breathe is a breaking ball-killing fume.

And yet, two weeks into the season, the Rockies’ pitching staff is among the best in the majors. Collectively, they rank sixth in FIP, fifth in fWAR, and fifth in RA9-WAR. They also rank fifteenth in xFIP and 22nd in DRA, so let’s not go crazy here. Regardless, the Rockies are 9-3 to begin the season and they mostly have their pitching to thank.

Specifically, the stars of Germán Márquez, Jon Gray, and Kyle Freeland have all aligned. All three have been brilliant and battered in their careers, but the last time they all got going at once was in 2017. In 2018, Freeland and Márquez shone while Gray struggled, and in 2019, Gray and Márquez were great while Freeland went into free-fall.

Of the three, Márquez’s start has been the most convincing. In 19 innings, he has struck out 23 while walking 5 and giving up 4 runs. His 29 percent whiff rate would be the highest of his career. That bump is mostly driven by his slider thus far.

Also of note is that he has thrown more pitches at the edge of strike zone. A 48.3 percent edge rate would be his best mark by 7 percentage points and 5.7 points higher than major league average.

Of course, this is a small sample, and Coors looms in the distance. One shellacking and the Rockies’ sterling ERA will be forever tarnished. They don’t have to give any of those nine wins back, though. With expanded playoffs, all the Rockies have to do to coast into the playoffs is not screw up. When was the last time the Rockies screwed something up?

Alex Fast | Pitcher List: Dylan Bundy threw a complete game yesterday, so now’s a great time to look into what’s gotten into Dylan Bundy.

Tony Wolfe | FanGraphs: Even better than the Rockies’ pitching staff is the Athletics’. From rookie phenom Jesús Luzardo to southern-themed family restaurant T.J. McFarland’s, the A’s staff has been lights out.

Dayn Perry | CBS Sports: I almost made it through a post without mentioning COVID-19. After the outbreaks within the Cardinals and Marlins, MLB and MLBPA have agreed to amendments of the safety protocols. The most notable change is that players and staff who break protocol can be banned for the remainder of the season.