Examining the Rockies’ problems and fixing flaws, before it’s too late

Jun 8, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black (10) looks on in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies are stuck in the ruts, currently a mediocre baseball team, let’s call it like it is.

They’re a .500 team trying to challenge the expectations of back-to-back playoff appearances — and at least a deep(er) playoff run than a wild card loss — set for them in 2018. After 66 games, the year hasn’t started as smoothly as Colorado would have hoped for, no doubt.

30 games into the season, Colorado sat directly on the .500 line. Now, the Rockies remain a team floating at that same .500 mark — currently two games under — and a disturbing trend turned normality has a lot of fans wondering.

What’s wrong?

The lineup as a whole is simply poor at the plate. Colorado is at, or below, the MLB league average in batting average, OBP, doubles, BB, and OPS+ as a team. And what about stats for the average fan, who doesn’t want to be bored by deep analytics? Colorado has scored 42 runs less than they’ve allowed in 2018. A run differential that ranks eighth-worst in the MLB.

There’s a lot wrong with Colorado, but what may be the most disturbing problem is the lack of runs at Coors Field. The usual, comfy confines of Coors has brought anything but success to the Rockies.

If Colorado continues on the pace they’ve set for the first 30 home games in the regular season when it comes to scoring runs, the team will finish with 405 runs scored at home in 2018. That would be the lowest output of runs scored at Coors Field in a full, 81-game schedule (not including the strike-shortened 1994 season) in franchise history.

Colorado must dominate at home if they even want to consider meeting any expectation that ends in the playoffs. If Colorado is to dig themselves out of this hole, it’s going to start with the bats. And, if the Rockies front office is smart, it’s going to be via a trade to jump-start an anemic offense that simply can’t stop striking out (5th worst in the NL.)

The Rockies must be buyers before the trade deadline for many reasons, if what’s listed above wasn’t enough for you.

The situation:

The baseball trade deadline is July 31, and while many major deals are not made until closer to that time, Colorado should absolutely be working toward trades sooner rather then later. The Rockies missed a golden opportunity to pad a potential division lead early in the season as Los Angeles, Arizona and San Francisco all battled injuries and inconsistency to find their grooves.

Now, the big bad wolf is back in town and pulling away. The Diamondbacks and particularly the Dodgers –winners of the N.L. West the last three years — are both beginning to return to form and are starting to pull away from Colorado, who now sit closer to last in the division, than first.

This is why Colorado needs to move swiftly as buyers. They’re a boat taking on water, and fast.

Colorado did not dip $100+ million into their bullpen to simply stand pat as losses continue to pile up. An adopted aggressiveness started in the off season and it must continue now if the Rockies are serious about the postseason. This team isn’t one foot in, they’ve fully jumped into the lake looking to swim towards success they’ve never seen before as a professional franchise. That’s the challenge they took on, now it’s time to swim with the big boys and do what big boys do this time of year. Buy and shoot for the moon.

The potential solution:

Jose Abreu. The badly-needed right-handed bat from the sellers in Chicago needs to be priority No. 1 for Colorado. Abreu’s numbers individually on the Rockies roster would make him the team hit leader, doubles leader and second on the team in RBI. Abreu’s batting average would rank second on the team and his right-handed presence protecting Arenado would be a major bonus. The MLB has figured it out. Don’t let Arenado beat you. Abreu changes this dynamic completely. Colorado will give up prospects for Abreu, a small price to pay if they want to be serious about winning when you consider the amount of return Abreu brings.

Acquiring Abreu allows Colorado to move Ian Desmond out of the role he never should’ve been signed for in the first place, first base. It brings offensive relief at first base — typically a position in need of power production — that has Desmond batting below .200 with a WAR of -1.0.

It’s not a move that immediately fixes everything, as noted, but it’s widespread value in many departments, with a single throw of a stone and it cements the mind set laid down after the final pitch was thrown in last year’s N.L. Wild Card game. The Rockies are serious about success; acquiring Abreu would be a massive boost to the offense.

The Arenado dynamic:

The elephant in the room is pleasing Nolan Arenado. Doing everything necessary to show Arenado the Rockies are serious about a championship is an added dynamic for 2018 that must be considered.

Anything other than buying this time of year for the Rockies, after an already frustrating season, could be catastrophic in keeping Arenado long term.

Sell and Arenado walks. That, itself, should be enough motivation to get Colorado on the phones.

But what about the arms?

As boldly as it could be put, the arms simply need to pitch better. Colorado is getting shelled in the bullpen. As a team, Colorado is tied for the league lead in blown saves, and their 4.86 ERA as a team is fifth-worst in the league.

Colorado dipped $100+ million into their bullpen last offseason. It’s painful to think they need more bullpen help, in what feels like a waving the white flag from a department where the Rockies spent more money than anyone else, only to get worse.

Their pitchers simply need to pitch better, and manager Buddy Black will heavily lean on those pitchers, as will pitching coach Steve Foster and Darren Holmes to figure out this problem. It’s unlikely more help is on the way in the form of another pitcher, but conversations about catching have to also be considered.

If the Rockies want to make the playoffs for two straight seasons, the must be buyers. And not at the deadline, but now.

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