2022 Season Review: Colorado Rockies

Check out Andrew Beaudoin’s 2022 Season Preview Article for the San Francisco Giants here.

Image: Sports Illustrated

2022 Record: 68-94 (.420 win% (nice), 5th in NL West)

2022 Payroll: $158,887,118 (17th)

2022 Lineup:

1. CF Yonathan Daza (R), .301 AVG/.349 OBP/.384 SLG, 0.7 fWAR

2. 3B Ryan McMahon (L), .246 AVG/.327 OBP/.414 SLG, 3.1 fWAR

3. 1B CJ Cron (R), .257 AVG/.315 OBP/.468 SLG, 1.3 fWAR

4. DH Charlie Blackmon (L), .264 AVG/.314 OBP/.419 SLG, 0.1 fWAR 

5. 2B Brendan Rodgers (R), .266 AVG/.325 OBP/.408 SLG, 1.7 fWAR

6. LF Connor Joe (R), .238 AVG/.338 OBP/.359 SLG, 0.0 fWAR

7. RF Randal Grichuk (R), .259 AVG/.299 OBP/.425 SLG, -0.2 fWAR  

8. C Elias Diaz (R), .228 AVG/.281 OBP/.368 SLG, -1.4 fWAR

9. SS Jose Iglesias (R), .292 AVG/.328 OBP/.380 SLG, 1.0 fWAR

10. UTL Kris Bryant (R), .306 AVG/.376 OBP/.475 SLG, 0.6 fWAR

2022 Rotation:

1. German Marquez (R), 181.2 IP/5.00 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR

2. Kyle Freeland (L), 174.2 IP/4.53 ERA/1.41 WHIP, 2.6 fWAR

3. Chad Kuhl (R), 137.0 IP/5.72 ERA/1.56 WHIP, 0.5 fWAR

4. Austin Gomber (L), 124.2 IP/5.10 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 0.9 fWAR

5. Ryan Feltner (R), 97.1 IP/5.83 ERA/1.41 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR

6. Antonio Senzatela (R), 92.1 IP/5.07 ERA/1.69 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR

2022 Top 3 Relievers:

1. CL Daniel Bard (R), 60.1 IP/1.79 ERA/0.99 WHIP, 1.8 fWAR

2. Carlos Estevez (R), 57.0 IP/3.47 ERA/1.18 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

3. Alex Colome (R), 47.0 IP/5.74 ERA/1.68 WHIP, -0.1 fWAR

4. Robert Stephenson (R), 44.2 IP/6.04 ERA/1.48 WHIP, 0.0 fWAR

5. Lucas Gilbreath (L), 43.0 IP/4.19 ERA/1.47 WHIP, 0.6 fWAR

Regular Season Recap

Season Story

The Rockies failed to make the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. Not only that, but they continue to tread water at the bottom of the NL West, having no solid direction. They continue to bungle trade opportunities to commit to a rebuild, and they sign star players despite being far away from contention.

After another lost season, their tenth under .500 in twelve seasons, I think one can make assumptions about the near future of this team. This is life under Monfort rule. The metropolitan area of Denver, one of the most populous in America, is going to have to deal with this joke of a baseball team for as long as the current owners are around.

The team stinks, the farm stinks, the tone and tenor surrounding the front office stinks. It’s a complete shame. This is coming from a Detroit Lions fan! You guys might stink more than we do. I hope the Rockies can turn it around, but I’m about to describe Colorado players’ production in 2022, and it will become fairly obvious why they were so bad.

The Lineup

Ryan McMahon is still a great defender, but is a below average offensive player. Those traits, though, will lead to a guy accruing a good amount of WAR, which is exactly what happened this season. He was the most valuable Rockie in 2022. If he takes a step forward by cutting his strikeouts down to take advantage of balls in play at Coors, he should become a household name.

While it wasn’t what he hit for last season, CJ Cron still put up another CJ Cron season, with an OPS hovering around .800. He’s a solid player at first base, which is a good thing to have if you look at teams like the Tigers and Guardians, but he won’t be a ceiling-raiser.

Similarly to McMahon, Brendan Rodgers took a slight step back from last years’ offensive production, but he managed to corral a Gold Glove at second base. If there’s one thing these Rockies have going for them, it’s middle infield defense. It’s a good idea to keep ground balls from reaching the outfield and putting runners on.

In what will probably be his penultimate season as a Rockie, elder statesman Charlie Blackmon has unfortunately continued his decline from his peak in the late 2010s. He can no longer defend, so he has to DH, and he is no longer an above average hitter, so he can’t provide value at that position. Colorado owes him upwards of $10 million in the final year of his deal, so he’ll spend 2023 being a net neutral at best.

Jose Iglesias is still an okay player to have, but he will never be a plus bat, and for the first time in five seasons, he was a below average fielder at shortstop, per Statcast Outs Above Average. His offensive profile works in Coors as a guy who makes contact in almost every at-bat, but if his defense is declining now, it may not make sense to re-sign him.

Yonathan Daza, Randal Grichuk, and Sam Hilliard all saw the majority of playing time in center, right, and left field, respectively. Hilliard was recently traded to the Braves, so his 70 OPS+ won’t be missed too much. Grichuk still mashed lefty pitchers to the tune of a .926 OPS in 2022, but was worth negative fWAR due to poor defense and an inability to hit righties. Daza got on base at a good clip, but his center field defense was also poor. He’s basically the reincarnation of Raimel Tapia. Without Kris Bryant playing, this outfield situation is dire.

Elias Diaz and Brian Serven were the worst catching duo in MLB in 2022. This team was bad, but this is the only time I’m going to be mean about it. Not only was Brian Serven’s .593 OPS staggeringly awful, his platoon mate Diaz was quite possibly the worst player in all of baseball. At least Serven can play defense, with his Framing being in MLB’s 91st percentile.

Diaz ranked dead last in dWAR and oWAR for catchers, per Fangraphs. He had one of the worst overall WAR totals in the league. I don’t know what happened. He was a good hitter last season. He can’t frame, he can’t hit, he can’t run. The only above average thing he can do is throw out runners at second base, which I think might be the least valuable attribute one can possess. 

I think he was a primary culprit for many of Colorado’s pitchers vastly underperforming their FIPs, outside of Coors Field being a problem. Diaz did all this in only 381 plate appearances. Oh yeah, Colorado has to pay him around $12 million the next two seasons. Pathetic.

Some of the younger guys that saw at-bats in 2022, like Elehuris Montero, Alan Trejo, Michael Toglia, Sean Bouchard, and Wynton Bernard (I know he’s 30, but he’s a rookie) played well enough to warrant chances in 2023. I think that the Rockies would be smart to avoid wasting playing time by giving a lot of it away to older players, and this was a surprisingly old team given how bad they played.

The Pitching Staff

The starting rotation was filled with guys who got eaten up by Coors. Par for the course for the last few years, German Marquez, Kyle Freeland, and Antonio Senzatela were the most reliable, but each pitched to an ERA above 4.50. All are under team control for the next few years, so Rockies fans need to hope this is not the end of their peaks.

Austin Gomber, Ryan Feltner, and Chad Kuhl all pitched around 100 innings, and they didn’t do it well. Gomber, the lefty acquired in the Arenado trade, was the best of the bunch with his 5.10 ERA. Man this is depressing. Kuhl and Feltner cannot start in another MLB rotation again.

Daniel Bard authored the best season of his career, and he might have been the only Rockie to do it while having a previous pretty good season already under his belt. The aging flamethrower has red all over his Savant page. He’s one of Colorado’s only players to be worthwhile to a playoff team.

Carlos Estevez was another rare Colorado pitcher to have an ERA below four, but he did it by outperforming his xERA by more than half of a run. He gets hit hard, he’s only an average strikeout-getter, and he walks too many batters. Nothing about his game stands out other than his 98th percentile fastball velocity, and his inability to make batters chase.

Alex Colome, Robert Stephenson, and Lucas Gilbreath were other heavy contributors out of the pen. Colome and Stephenson are who they are, and it doesn’t look like they’ll get much better. Lucas Gilbreath is a nice young lefty on a team that doesn’t have many of them. He should see an elevated role next season.

Jose Urena and Jake Bird were both okay by Rockies standards, but again, nothing to write home about. Jake Bird is another one of these Colorado pitchers that I have never, ever heard of, and I consider myself pretty tuned-in to the edges of MLB. They both pitched to an ERA around five. Whoopee.

Everybody beyond these guys were bad, besides Tyler Kinley with a pretty good 0.75 ERA in 24.0 innings. Watch out for Dinelson Lamet next year, too, I guess. He was fine.

M-SABR Predicted Record (78-84) vs. Actual (68-94)

Season Preview author Andrew Beaudoin thought that the Rockies would improve on their 74-87 record from 2021, and that seemed plausible if some young players stepped up, and the addition of Kris Bryant added juice to the lineup. However, instead of finishing fourth in the NL West for the fourth consecutive season, the Rockies finished fifth.

Colorado actually fared okay in the division, outside of struggling against the Giants. The team was above .500 against Arizona and San Diego, and close enough to it against the Dodgers to be considered a success given the juggernaut LA proved to be.

The problem was that they very rarely played well against the teams outside of the division. At the end of the day, though, they lost these games because of their talent disparity with the rest of MLB. Only one of their starting pitchers finished with an ERA over five, and they had several of the least productive hitters in baseball.

This isn’t the story of the Chicago White Sox or the Milwaukee Brewers that underperformed relative to their talent. This team just doesn’t have enough talent. 78 games was an optimistic win total prediction for a Rockies fan, but the team proved where they really are as an organization this season.

Players We Watched

Season Preview author Andrew Beaudoin gave us three names on the Rockies to look out for in 2022. Kris Bryant’s and Ryan Rolison’s seasons were too incomplete to give a grade, even though Bryant probably played well enough to warrant some kind of half-credit. I’d call predicting Connor Joe’s 2022 a year with legitimate breakout potential a miss, though.

#1 OF Kris Bryant

Kris Bryant earned more than half a million dollars for each of the 42 games he played this season. He was good in that quarter season, hitting for a 127 OPS+, but for someone who has been deemed the new face of the franchise for the foreseeable future, you need him to stay on the field.

Bryant has had his fair share of injuries throughout his career, and given that this season was filled with a series of nagging ones, rather than one big injury, it’s worrisome that he is now entering his thirties with the contract he has been tendered. He’ll need to prove he can stay on the field in 2023.

#2 LHP Ryan Rolison

Andrew Beaudoin predicted Ryan Rolison to be able to step into a struggling rotation around midseason. He would have done so easily if it weren’t for the fact he was sidelined with a shoulder injury in Spring Training, undergoing season-ending surgery in June. The young left-hander will be ready for 2023.

#3 OF/1B Connor Joe

Joe played a fair bit given the injuries to Bryant, appearing in 111 games. Andrew Beaudoin was correct in his assessment of Joe’s shortcomings after his strikeout rate rose, walk rate fell, and his home run rate fell. While registering a 116 OPS+ in 2021, he hit for a 88 OPS+ in 2022, showing that his breakout season last year was probably a flash in the pan.

Offseason Outlook

Housekeeping

For a team in the throes of being less than mediocre, it would be wise to attempt to extract value from veterans that aren’t going to stick around for the next time Colorado is a good team. Daniel Bard, Randal Grichuk, and CJ Cron fit this description. Bard’s comeback has been a wonderful story, but he’s a 38 year old pitcher with two years left on his contract after a career season. He needs to be traded.

It’ll be harder to find suitors for Grichuk and Cron, given that you can find players like them for much cheaper. I don’t think they’ll get traded for that reason, but Colorado needs to look into it because they will only block younger players and take up payroll space.

Like I said, Elias Diaz was probably the worst player in baseball this season. He has two years of getting paid upwards of $5 million on his contract. I don’t if it’s possible, but the Rockies need to do everything in their power to get him out of Denver.

Dinelson Lamet, Garrett Hampson, and Tyler Kinley are all in arbitration, and it’s kind of whatever. I think Lamet and Kinley should be back given the Rockies lack of pitching depth. Hampson can walk, but for some reason I have a feeling that he’ll stay around, like he’s seemingly been able to do, playing sub-70 OPS+ ball the past four years.

Potential Losses

Scott Oberg had his club option declined. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy the past few seasons, and didn’t play in 2022, so it looks like he may be hanging it up. It’s been rumored that he may be joining the Rockies’ front office.

Free agent Jose Iglesias was a good one year deal made by the Rockies last season. Colorado could do worse than re-signing him, but he isn’t a needle mover. They may be forced to bring Iglesias back given the lack of organizational shortstop depth. Carlos Estevez is the best free agent that the Rockies have, and he’ll probably be gone to a contender for that reason.

There are some other free agents that could walk, namely Chad Kuhl and Alex Colome, but looking at their collective stats, it’s not worth it to keep any of them around.

Potential Additions

I don’t know, man. At least they spend money. The problem is they always sign guys who are only “pretty good” or “not good” for the same amount of money they could’ve used to keep a guy around who’s “really good”. I’m sure you know the current MVP candidate I’m thinking of. 

Is giving someone like Brandon Nimmo a big deal really going to be the solution? Maybe it is to keep butts in seats, but I feel like this charade that ownership has played with fans has gone on too long. You’re already paying Kris Bryant long-term, a deal that I think will age like milk. You don’t want to add in another Ian Desmond contract. 

Colorado needs to add on the fringes. For the last decade, the Rox have been a team of superstars tanked by a lack of depth. I know that it seems to be the Monforts prerogative to stay topheavy, but the lack of depth is a problem, and this team needs it everywhere, ESPECIALLY CATCHER.

Something to Watch

When I interviewed Wynton Bernard, he told me that he only receives his launch angle and exit velocity data at AAA Albuquerque (this was before he was called up). When is this organization going to step up to the level of every other organization in professional baseball?

In May, the Rockies’ head of the analytics department Scott Van Lenten was fired after only six months on the job. What the Hell, guys? Did it go the opposite way of Moneyball when Grady confronts Billy? Did the crotchety old men win out? It seems like it, and it seems that the Rockies didn’t like the new direction he was trying to provide.

So long as Colorado does not invest in analytics, they will not succeed. The team is far too reliant on their search for outside help because they can’t seem to find their own good players outside of the first round of the MLB Draft.



Categories: 2022 Season Review, Articles, Previews - Season

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