The 2018 Rockies did something they had never done before. They had great results on the road. For the first time in franchise history, the Rockies won more than 41 games away from Coors Field. During the regular season, they won 44. They also won a very important one at Wrigley Field in the Wild Card Game to advance to the NLDS.
It is crazy to think that 44 road wins for a team would be an all-time franchise record, but the Coors Field Effect is very real on the MLB highway. Of course, this isn’t all a heartwarming tale, because the Rockies were actually -6 in run differential in those road games, so they played more like a 40-41 team.
Of course the Colorado offense was a lot better at home with 445 runs scored, compared to 335 on the road. They also allowed 404 runs at home compared to 341 on the road. The Rockies actually scored 488 runs at home in 2017 and 508 in 2016. They only scored 449 at home in 2015 and went 68-94.
That’s one of many reasons why I have concerns about this team. Winning with pitching is not easy at Coors Field, but that’s what the Rockies did and they even carried it over to the road, where their offensive numbers were on par with the last two seasons.
The Rockies were 26-15 in one-run games, so you’ll want to watch for some regression with that. Colorado also bludgeoned teams late in the year. In going 9-2 to end the year, the Rockies won by four twice, two twice, nine, seven, 14, three, and 12 runs. That’ll add a little flavor to the Pythagorean Win-Loss at the end of the season.
Money Line Spots
The market will be lined up to fade Kyle Freeland. Right or wrong, it will happen. Freeland posted a 2.85 ERA with a 3.67 FIP and a 4.22 xFIP. He had an 82.8 percent LOB%. Of the 27 individual qualified pitching seasons since 2015 with at least an 80 percent LOB%, Freeland’s was only the fifth with a K/9 under 8.00. Only nine pitchers had a BB/9 of 3.00 or higher in that span as well.
In other words, we typically talk about elite pitchers able to post high LOB% marks and they typically have high K rates and low walk rates. Freeland doesn’t really fit that mold. That being said, he is a contact management guy, as he ranked 19th in average exit velocity and 11th in average fly ball/line drive exit velo. I’ve talked about that a lot, but those types of marks provide sustainability because hitters simply aren’t making hurtful levels of contact often enough.
Truthfully, I’m not sure we’ll see a lot of value to fade the Rockies. I think a lot of people will be doing that. German Marquez finished the year with a 3.77 ERA, a 3.40 FIP, and a 3.10 xFIP. A .67 run difference between ERA and xFIP would usually excite people, but Marquez had a 4.81 ERA over his first 103 innings and a 2.61 over his last 93 innings. I think people will be skeptical.
I will take a wait-and-see approach to the Rockies. I think Bud Black and the front office have figured some things out about Coors Field. I also think that the Rockies offense, outside of Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story, is very pedestrian and there could be value going against them at home. Again, the Rockies had much lower offensive numbers at home than the previous two seasons and both Arenado and Story stayed healthy.
The idea of the Rockies being 86-68-9 to the under is quite amazing. I wonder if and how much the oddsmakers can actually adjust. You still have to respect Coors Field and what it does. Rockies totals at home averaged 10.8 runs and were 48-32-2 to the under per the KillerSports database. Totals averaged 11.4 runs in 2017 and were 47-32-2 to the under. They adjusted down quite a bit last season and the under was still extremely profitable.
I just can’t see myself investing in a lot of overs with this team. The lineup is very top-heavy and the rotation has some red flags. Also, the bullpen is not particularly good.
Individual Players to Watch
Tyler Anderson – Freeland and Marquez will grab all of the headlines. Jon Gray will take money in the markets as a guy with a 5.12 ERA and a 3.47 xFIP. Tyler Anderson types are who I want to evaluate. Anderson had a 4.55 ERA with a 4.57 FIP and a 4.21 xFIP in 176 innings. For whatever reason, Anderson went from a 50.9 percent GB% in 2016 to a 43.7 percent in 2017 and a 36.7 percent in 2018. This is trending in the wrong direction for this park factor and this defense. The Rockies are great on the infield and bad in the outfield.
Anderson actually held opposing batters to a .305 wOBA in the first half, but then got lit up in August to the tune of a .476 wOBA. He had three good months, one okay month, and two bad months. His cutter is a decent pitch and he handles righties better than lefties, which is rare, especially given the pitching environment. His GB% fell from 38.2 percent to 34.2 percent in the second half. With Freeland and Marquez on the right track, I can’t help but wonder if Anderson was Bud Black’s next pet project. I’m going to watch the batted ball data closely here.