The Colorado Rockies starting rotation is better than many seem to realize. As many know, Coors field does not attract high-caliber free agents. The last big free agent to land in Colorado was Mike Hampton in 2000. Hampton signed an 8 year, $121 million dollar with the Colorado Rockies which at the time was the largest contract given to a pitcher. Hampton only lasted two years in Coors, he accumulated only 2.2 fWAR and failed to post an ERA, FIP, and xFIP under 5.23. The fact that Colorado struggles attracting top-tier pitchers to them means it is on the club to draft and develop quality pitching. But, in 2016 the Rockies actually produced 4 pitchers, Jon Gray (3.7) Chad Bettis (2.6), Tyler Anderson (2.5) and Tyler Chatwood (2.1) with over 2 fWAR. This is the first time since 2009 that the Rockies accomplished this and only the third time since 2000.
Among the bunch, Jon Gray offers the most upside. The former third overall pick in 2013 showed great progression in 2016. He posted a 4.61 ERA but his FIP and xFIP are both lower at 3.6 and 3.61 respectively. Gray offers incredible stuff and put up a K/9 of 9.91, striking out 185 batters in 168 innings. One of the best ways to pitch in Coors is to not let opposing batters put the ball in play, which is something that Gray does extraordinarily well. Gray’s K/9 was 9th best in the majors for pitchers with at least 150 innings. Another thing that jumps out with Gray, and with a few of his fellow starters is that Gray actually had a better ERA at Coors (4.3) than on the road (4.91). At home he held batters to a slash line of .235/.291/.383 compared to .242/.343/.389 on the road. He was a much better pitcher at home overall, with a WHIP of 1.12 compared to 1.4 on the road. Steamer and Depth Charts both like Gray to continue to develop further. They project him to post a 4 ERA and be worth 3.5 WAR. The 25-year-old is incredibly promising and will be looking to continue to progress heading into 2017.
Bettis has been with the big league club now for four years, so he has grown accustomed to pitching in Colorado. In his first full season as a starter in 2015, Bettis managed to post an ERA of 4.23 with a FIP of 3.85 and xFIP of 3.89. In 2016, Bettis regressed a bit in 2016 posting a 4.79 ERA with a 4.26 FIP and 4.14 xFIP. Bettis offers a very high ground ball percentage of 51.2% which is the 12th highest in the MLB. Keeping the ball on the ground limits the altitude affects that Coors Field has. Similar to Gray, in 2016 Bettis actually posted a better ERA at home (4.44) than on the road (5.06). Another thing that jumps out was on the road is Bettis had his walk rate jump up from 5.1% at home to 8.8% on the road. Steamer and Depth Charts both project Bettis to be worth 2.3 fWAR with a mid 4 ERA, which would always be solid for a pitcher in Colorado.
The 26-year-old first round pick in 2011 made his big league debut in 2016 and performed very well. Anderson posted an ERA of 3.54, with a FIP of 3.59 and xFIP of 3.64. For a rookie in Coors this is a fantastic year, considering Jon Gray’s rookie year he had an ERA of 5.5. Anderson, continues the trend of his fellow starters by being better at home than on the road. He had an ERA of 3.00 at Coors, but an ERA of 4.71 on the road. One of the main thing that jumps out from Anderson when I look at his road/home splits is at home he held opposing batters to a slugging percentage and wOBA that was lower than his road starts. At home he held opposing hitters to a wOBA of .312 and a slugging percentage of .414. Depth Charts and Steamers both favor a slight regression for Anderson heading into his Sophomore season, the project him to post an ERA of 4.06 with a FIP of 4.02 and xFIP of 3.97 (Steamer)
In a 158 innings in 2016, Chatwood posted a 3.87 ERA to go along with a 4.32 FIP and 4.37 xFIP. Of starters with at least 150 innings in 2016, Chatwood was second in GB% at 57.2, only trailing Marcus Stroman. Bettis and Chatwood both ranked in the top 15 of ground out percentage, showing the organization clearly leans toward ground ball pitchers to minimize the Coors affect. Unlike his fellow starters, Chatwood had a terrible record in Colorado. He sported a 6.12 ERA in 78 innings and allowed a slashline of .300/.375/.497 and allowed a .374 wOBA. While on the road Chatwood was unbelievable, allowing just 15 ER in 80 innings. He had an era of 1.69 and allowed a slash line against of .189/.286/.272. What jumps out between his road and home split is the change in slugging percentage, jumping up by .225 at home. This can be traced to the change in his batted ball profile in Colorado. Chatwood allowed a Hard hit percentage of 33.5% while at home, up 8.7% from on the road. Along with his increase in hard hit percentage, Chatwood saw a decline in Soft% from 23.9 on the road to 14.8% at home. Chatwood heading into 2017 is projected to be worth 2.3 fWAR while maintaining a mid 4 ERA.
The Rockies have shown interest in trading for a young starting pitcher, especially with the addition of Ian Desmond to the club on Wednesday. They now have a very crowded outfield with David Dahl, Ian Desmond, Charlie Blackmon, and Carlos Gonzalez all getting regular reps in the outfield in 2016. Charlie Blackmon looks to be the one on the move if the Rockies make a trade and they appear to have interest in Marcus Stroman according to Jon Morosi of MLBNetwork. Stroman would fit in with Bettis and Anderson as a top ground ball pitcher, Stroman led the league in GB% at 60.1% in 2016.
Overall the Rockies pitching may be the best that they have assembled in years. They have the difficulty of regularly pitching in Coors but they have to only be adequate due to their potent hitters. The Rockies finished 2nd in runs scored with 845, 2nd in average, 2nd in OPS, 2nd in wOBA, and 2nd in wRC. They have a top-tier offense, and they have added more power in 2017 with the Ian Desmond signing and David Dahl replacing Gerardo Parra and his 56 wRC.
*Photo courtesy of Elise Amendola of the Associated Press.