The Rockies began July at 44-40 and a 25% chance of making the playoffs. They begin August at 50-59 and a 0.9% chance of making the playoffs. How did a decent team manage to collapse to a 6-19 run? Bad hitting. Worse pitching.
If you just want to go off of good ol’ wins above replacement, FanGraphs saw the Rockies lineup as having 0.0 fWAR. That’s right. For 25 games and 940 plate appearances, Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and et cetera combined to be just a little bit worse than Brandon Crawford. Or Kevin Pillar. But not the two combined, because they actually combined for 0.3 wins above replacement in July. Jurickson Profar and Albert Pujols were two starters to have a 0.0, but for example purposes, it’s trickier to use players we don’t see every day.
But in either case, the Rockies’ collective lineup featured a bunch of Juricksons Profar and Alberts Pujols. Their starting pitching wasn’t a total disaster — their bullpen, which had a 6.88 for the month, threw the 11th-fewest innings in baseball — but it wasn’t good, either. In 129.2 starting pitcher innings, they posted the worst ERA in the National League for the month (6.46) and the third-worst in baseball.
The Giants ripped ace German Marquez for 11 runs in the first game of a doubleheader, but in three starts after that blowout, he’s allowed just four runs in 20 innings (1.80 ERA) with 22 strikeouts against just two walks. That’s been the greatest turnaround of the month.
Everything else has been somewhere in the range of the Rockies we suspect and the Rockies we expect. The Rockies we suspect are the team that has talent but can’t quite put it together for long stretches. The Rockies we expect are a team that looks fully competent when the Giants roll into town. Nothing comes easy against them, no matter the record.
There’s another hash mark on that range of Rockiesness, though, and that’s the Rockies we know. That exists way, way, way to the right side of the scale, beyond reality and into our nightmares. The Rockies we know are the Rockies who mount 6-run rallies in the 8th and make one wonder why they ever had a dream or even a faint hope of optimism about anything in the world.
This will be the Giants’ last trip to Colorado this season, and this series itself comes a few weeks shy of the 10-year anniversary of Ryan Spilgborghs’ walk-off grand slam.
Ah, the moment my brain fritzed. It was also the moment that bonded me to this website. That was a weird year in that despite the walk-off grand slam, the Giants still had a chance at the postseason. This crushing August loss didn’t kill them for the final five weeks. No, it was the Rockies’ 18-9 September that really did it.
Still, as far as turning points go, this felt the most like Something That Matters. Instead, it was nearly the Eric Hinske home run of home runs, and that’s why baseball really is a flirt. It’s tough to know where you stand until the final game has been played.
The Rockies’ 6-19 July of this year wasn’t just the result of poor play, though, but poor play against stiff competition. They opened the month with two against the Astros, followed by three in Arizona, then a seven-game home stand with three against the Reds and four against the Giants.
Houston, Arizona, and the mighty July Giants all swept them. Then they traveled to New York to face the Yankees (lost two of three) and Washington for four against the Nationals (they lost three of four), before meeting the Reds again, but this time in Cincinnati. They lost that series, then returned home and lost two of three against the Dodgers.
I’m going through that schedule just to show that it really was a tough one, and whatever easy bits there were in between — Arizona and Cincinnati — still weren’t that easy. It lined up terribly for them: the Giants were white hot, Cincinnati looks to be their equal to some degree, and Arizona threw their top three starters at them. The Nationals had figured things out by the time they got to Washington and the Yankees and Dodgers stayed the Yankees and Dodgers.
As a measure of ability, they probably learned that they don’t quite match up against better teams, but they’re also not woefully incompetent, either. At least, they won’t be against the Giants this weekend.
Hitter to watch
Nolan Arenado’s July: .247/.306/.348 (.654 OPS) with just two home runs.
Nolan Arenado’s career numbers in August: .305/.367/.524 (.891 OPS)
Nolan Arenado’s career numbers against the Giants: .295/.356/.554 (.909 OPS)
Pitcher to watch
Wade Davis’ career as the Royals’ setup man was unbelievably dominant: 1.18 ERA in 182.2 IP, with a 1.86 FIP and 11.5 K/9. He allowed just three home runs from 2014-2016, all of them coming in 2017. He was actually made the Royals’ closer in that final season, and that’s when his performance started to dip. In the years since going into the closer’s role, both with the Cubs and Rockies, he’s recorded 90 saves (that’s good!) but his ERA and FIP have shot up to 3.99 and 3.86, respectively (that’s bad) in 155.2 IP. He’s also given up 19 home runs, which is probably more then result of Coors Field than anything else.
This year, that ERA is up to 6.82 (5.18 FIP) and his strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 1.65 (33:20) is the lowest it’s ever been. Since June 22nd, he’s pitched in 13 games (11.2 IP) but against just seven teams — Dodgers, Giants, Astros, Reds, Yankees, Nationals — and yet he has a 9.26 ERA over that span. It’s because the Dodgers and Giants have been huge jerks to him.
The only teams to score on him over his last 13 appearances have been the Dodgers (twice) and the Giants (once), and each time, they hung big numbers on him. He’s allowed nine earned runs (three home runs) in 3.1 combined innings against the Dodgers (four appearances) and in 1.1 combined innings (two appearances) against the Giants, he’s allowed four runs (three earned). Watch to see if this trend continues.
The Giants have just a 5% greater chance of reaching the postseason, at least according to FanGraphs’ unimpeachable odds calculations. The Rockies probably aren’t as laser-focused on their 0.9% odds as the Giants are on their own, but Colorado will almost certainly want to commemorate that walk-off grand slam, if for no other reason than to drag the Giants down, down, down below with them.