Inactivity at trade deadline cost the Rockies a playoff run

Carlos Gonzalez
"Colorado Rockies" by jenniferlinneaphotography https://flickr.com/photos/jenzbie/45038025382 is licensed under CC BY

The Colorado Rockies crashed out of the Division Series on Monday night having been swept by the Milwaukee Brewers. It doesn’t get much more disappointing than that after a great regular season. Colorado scrapped through an epic wildcard game to make it into the Division Series but were let down by their offence.

In 28 innings of baseball against the Brewers, the Rockies managed just two runs. They were both scored in the ninth inning of Game One. Milwaukee’s pitching, and particularly their bullpen, was good, but it wasn’t that good.

It’s easy to turn to Coors Field when the Rockies offence slumps on the road. This is fair enough for the most part. Every hitter will have better numbers in Denver, and the home-road splits are very significant for some players. Their road record was superb (best in franchise history) this year, though.

Shut out at Coors

The other issue with that explanation for this failing is that Colorado were shut out at Coors on Monday. It wasn’t a Clayton Kershaw masterpiece either. Wade Miley threw 4.2 innings, Corbin Burnes got six outs and Joakim Soria pitched an inning. Milwaukee’s ‘big three’ in the bullpen combined for four outs.

It might just be that their hitters aren’t as good as their inflated numbers suggest. That’s the case for some players, sure, but we know that Nolan Arenado is an offensive monster and Trevor Story was effective on the road. A lack of depth is what really cost Colorado.

Of Colorado’s everyday players, only Arenado, Story and Charlie Blackmon were above league average in wRC+. David Dahl ranked at 109 (100 is league average) too, but he had less than 300 plate appearances and was left out of the Game Two line-up.

Weak supporting cast

Carlos Gonzalez (96), Ian Desmond (81) and DJ LeMahieu (86) started all three Division Series games. LeMahieu’s numbers were down this year, with a batting average nearly 40 points lower than in 2017. Desmond was worth -0.6 bWAR and is owed $38 million over the next three seasons. Gonzalez is still a force at Coors (.941 OPS), but a liability elsewhere (.663 OPS).

Colorado’s line-up was carried by Arenado, Story and, to a lesser extent, Blackmon. Dahl gave a handy boost as they chased down the Dodgers in the closing weeks, but, other than those three, the offence was lacking. Gerardo Parra, for instance, had over 400 plate appearances with a wRC+ of 80.

Other playoff teams – in both leagues – were bringing offensive threats off the bench. Colorado were having to carry bats in their line-up. Milwaukee had Domingo Santana and Curtis Granderson pinch-hitting while the Dodgers have used Max Muncy, Yasiel Puig, David Freese, Joc Pederson and Brian Dozier off the bench.

Front office failures

Colorado shrewdly picked up Matt Holliday, but ultimately their front office cost them. Desmond’s contract is one of the worst around, Ryan McMahon’s development has been messy, and they failed to add any of the available bats at the trade deadline.

Letting Danny Murphy join the Cubs remains puzzling, but he was not the only option. Andrew McCutchen, Josh Donaldson, Lucas Duda and Eduardo Escobar all moved midseason, as did plenty of others who would have improved the Colorado roster.

There’s plenty to be optimistic about at Coors Field. They got historically good pitching from a young rotation, Story broke out and Dahl showed signs of reaching his potential, but every postseason elimination feels like a chance missed. With some inventive trades, the Rockies could have been a force in the National League in October. Instead, they went out with a whimper.

About Sam Cox 88 Articles
Sam is a widely published freelance writer, covering basketball, baseball and a range of other sports. He's still trying to decide if he prefers a rundown shot block or a smooth double play. Twitter: @SamRCox_