In a 60 game season, a hot start can go a long way. Compared to a full season of normal length, the first 15 games of this year is basically the equivalent of 40 games in a 162 game season.
The Colorado Rockies are benefiting from a strong beginning to their shortened season, having already notched nine wins in their first 12 games. That .750 winning percentage is the best start to any Rockies team, and has positioned them well in a competitive National League West.
Last season Colorado hovered around .500 the first half of the year, going into the All Star break with a 44-45 record. The second half was another story however, and a dismal 27-46 (.345) left them 35 games behind the Dodgers and completely irrelevant in the National League.
So far this season Rockies’ starters have the second-best ERA and fifth-best FIP in the NL. Germán Márquez is leading the charge, having started three games, totaling 19 innings and allowing only four total runs. His 30.7 K-rate is the best of his relatively short career, and he’s allowed only one home run in those 19 innings.
The numbers are great for Márquez a quarter through his total starts, but how sustainable is it? There is a pretty high chance for regression, as Márquez’ strand-rate (which for his career has generally hovered around the 70 percent mark) is 83.3 percent on the year. Additionally. Despite a near-30 percent flyball rate, only one ball has left the yard, an excellent, yet likely unsustainable 7.1 percent HR/FB rate.
Rounded out by Antonio Sensatela, Jon Gray, and Kyle Freeland, Colorado pitching looks as solid as ever. While there’s some downside to the numbers Márquez is posting, Jon Gray is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Gray’s strikeout rate is half what his career average is, and he’s allowed a number of runners to score just based on poor luck sequencing. He’s only allowed one home run in 16 ⅓ innings.
Gray’s whiffs per swing are down on nearly all his pitches, which is something on his fourseamer are way down on the year compared to his usual average. He’s only generating swings-and-misses on five percent of his fastballs, as opposed to upwards of 17 percent in previous years. Gray’s next start is Sunday against the Reds.
The Rockies are racking up extra base hits, and are second in the NL in slugging only behind the Dodgers. Trevor Story continues to emerge as the star offensive plater for Colorado, and so far this year, he’s slashed his strikeout rate by more than half. He’s posting a .295 average, and has an OBP above .400. In just 52 plate appearances, he has walked eight times, and blasted five home runs. While a 1.040 slugging percentage is not likely to be sustained for 45 more games, even some modest regression will leave him with eye-popping numbers.
Charlie Blackmon has been the Rockies second-best everyday player, though that has been sustained in for the last two weeks by a .436 batting average on balls in play. Blackmon has walked only 2 times in 51 plate appearances, but it seems whenever he puts the bat on the ball, he ends up on base. This is likely to change, but so far so good in this shortened season. It would surprise absolutely no one if certain category leaders at the end of the season looked quite atypical from what they likely would be in a 162-game grind.
There is plenty of upside for the as well, as David Dahl is still waiting for his first home run. Last season in 100 games he hit 15 homers, this year, in 12 games, the longball has proved elusive.
The Rockies have some upside and some probable regression coming, but the reality is that in a shortened season, a fast start can propel a team to an expanded playoffs. They missed the postseason in 2019 by a wide margin, but are opening for some of the 2017 / 2018 magic to help make them regain relevance in the National League.