The Colorado Rockies on paper are stacked.
They boast four recent all-stars in David Dahl, Charlie Blackmon, Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado. All three of German Marquez, Jon Gray and Kyle Freeland have seen long sustainable periods of success. Even this season, the Rockies have seen relief pitching help come from seemingly nowhere.
Despite this, the Rockies finished with a 71-91 record in the 2019 season, and currently sit three games below .500. They sport a team wRC+ of 81. The reason for this is simple, but a difficult one to overcome. The path to maintained success for the Rockies may not be via trading Arenado or blowing up the team.
Every core needs a supporting cast. Rockies fans know this. They’ve been clamoring to get help for Nolan Arenado for years. To put this into an image/tweet:
all-in-one chart, for easy "reference" pic.twitter.com/0BmkEAqa05
— Hayden Ringer (@hjrrockies) September 10, 2020
Since the chart illustrates the average production from Rockies, it’s obvious that the top of the Rockies roster is incredibly talented. It’s equally as apparent that the back end of the roster is depleted and has been that way for half of a decade. In fact, the Rockies get far less out of their supporting cast in terms of WAR than any other team in the league. This season is only slightly improved. Past the top 4, the rest of the Rockies’ roster has produced 0.6 WAR.
The roster of the Colorado Rockies is too top-heavy.
This season, the two primary catchers for the Rockies have combined for -1.0 WAR. A replacement-level catcher would be an improvement!
This season has been an anomaly with the plate struggles for Nolan Arenado. As a vital on-field leader, his lack of offensive performance almost becomes infectious. Considering how important the top 4 are for the Rockies, the bats behind them must be solidified and strengthened. Raw depth is a strength for a team like the Dodgers, but the Rockies have been unable to find solid players who even play at league average.
This depth exists on the mound as well. With only three top-end starters, there’s a significant dropoff between the best three pitchers here and the back-end of the rotation. The bullpen isn’t to be excluded from this. The unexpected candidates of Daniel Bard and Yency Almonte have made this bullpen somewhat serviceable. However, the flip side is that candidates expected to be good, (Estevez, Diaz & Davis), have been disappointing.
With an identifiable problem, the Rockies and the front office also should see an identifiable solution. To say strengthen the supporting cast is correct, but weak. To say add depth is on the right track, but vague.
Noting back to the teams who maximize their depth, the top teams in this area stand out: The Astros, Yankees, Rays, Cubs, Twins, and Cardinals. It’s also worth noting that these teams are known for valuing analytics. This is (partially) reflected in the amount of analytics staff each team has invested in (as of 2018), of which the Rockies have the 4th least amount.
A revamp on the analytics side would help the front office make data-based decisions, which would prevent events such as spending $106 Million on an inadequate bullpen. Not only that, but the teams known for their fluency in technologically based development techniques typically witness more success in the farm system.
In addition to this, for this season, as the Rockies sit below .500, it may be time for the Rockies to experiment with their younger players. Josh Fuentes may be the everyday answer at first base as he’s been able to be a positive contributor both offensively and defensively, as opposed to Daniel Murphy who has been a net negative in all aspects, with a WAR of -0.6.
The fielding data suggests it would be wise to move Blackmon into a full-time DH role. Sam Hillard has already posted 3 Defensive Runs saved in his 42 innings in right field. Moving him there would be an excellent example of maximizing players using data.
This is a tangible solution for the current challenges faced by the Rockies. As soon as this season, making lineup decisions based on the data would help push Colorado towards the playoffs and eventually becoming a perenially competitive ballclub.