The Rockies’ Blockbuster Night by Paul Swydan May 6, 2016 In last night’s fifth inning, the Rockies threw punches and punches until the Giants were frontless. They scored 13 runs, which, as was noted at Purple Row, was a team record for runs scored in an inning. Oh, did I mention that this game was in San Francisco, and not in Denver? Because it was, which makes it all the more surprising. Let’s walk back through their blockbuster night, and use it to show what the Rockies are doing right this season. First, let’s put this game into some context. Here are all the teams who have scored 15 or more runs in a game at AT&T Park, which as you probably know has been open since 2000. 15+ Runs Scored by Single Team, AT&T Park History Date Tm Runs Opp Runs Barry Bonds? 5/6/2016 COL 17 SFG 7 No 7/10/2015 SF 15 PHI 2 No 9/13/2014 LAD 17 SF 0 No 8/31/2014 SF 15 MIL 5 No 8/24/2010 SF 16 CIN 5 No 9/24/2008 COL 15 SF 6 No 7/23/2005 FLO 16 SF 4 No 9/3/2004 SF 18 ARI 7 Yes 4/9/2003 SF 15 SD 11 Yes 5/24/2000 SF 18 MON 0 Yes SOURCE: Baseball-Reference Play Index As you can see, this doesn’t happen very often — happens even less when Barry Bonds hasn’t been involved. For reference, over the same time span, a team has scored 15-plus runs at Fenway Park 37 times. Across the bay at whatever Oakland’s ballpark is called now, it’s happened 16 times. At Camden Yards, it’s happened 27 times. Runs are simply harder to come by in games affected by the marine layer. It wasn’t just the game that was special, though. The inning itself was pretty special, too, as Rockies PR noted: It's also the most runs scored in one inning by ANY team since Arizona scored 13 runs in the 4th inning vs. Pittsburgh in April 11,2010. — Rockies PR (@RockiesPR) May 6, 2016 Let’s take a look at the game graph, too, while we’re at it: Source: FanGraphs When the inning started, the Giants had a win expectancy of 33.6%. By the end, that number had declined to just 0.2%. Trevor Story’s homer to lead off the inning was the biggest WE blow of the inning, dropping the Giants’ chances by 12.2 points. Five batters later, the Giants’ WE was down to 2.2%. To me, though, the most interesting WE tidbit came in the bottom half of the inning. Chris Rusin walked Kelby Tomlinson to load the bases with one out, and Gregor Blanco promptly hit a two-run single. Two-run singles are good, right? Well, usually. Here, the single lowered the Giants’ WE from 0.6% to 0.4%. The Giants were behind by so much that they needed more in that situation, which is a little bit nutty. Going back to the Rockies, something one notices from the past week is that the Rockies have finally started putting DJ LeMahieu where he belongs in the batting order — at the bottom. With that tweak, the Rockies are officially stacking their lineup in the most optimal way. Here is the projected wRC+ of each batter in their batting order (via the Depth Charts ROS), as it has been the past week: Charlie Blackmon: 93 Trevor Story: 91 Carlos Gonzalez: 116 Nolan Arenado: 118 Gerardo Parra: 92 Mark Reynolds/Ryan Raburn: 105/109 Nick Hundley/Ben Paulsen: 92/85 DJ LeMahieu: 82 Starting Pitcher As you can see, the Rockies are avoiding getting cute with the lineup. This, to me, is important. I know that over the course of the season, a lineup simulator will only show a difference of 5-10 runs no matter how you run the scenarios, but the pattern here shows a willingness to operate sabermetrically. The five constant starters who can hit are at the top of the lineup, complemented by a strong platoon in the six-hole. Then comes the lesser hitters (despite Hundley’s hot start, I’ll take the under on that 92 wRC+). Blackmon hasn’t come around yet, and if he doesn’t, we might see changes, but that’s a problem for later. The point is that the Rockies are doing this right. Another thing that the Rockies did last night — and of which they’ve made a habit lately — is that they let their relievers work for more than one inning. Now, last night the decision was a little easier, given the cushion, but even a 10-run lead wouldn’t stop some managers from mixing and matching. Furthermore, for the season, the Rockies have allowed their relievers to get four or more outs more frequently than they have two or fewer. Rockies Relief-Pitcher Breakdown, 2016 Filter # RP # 4+ outs # 2 or less outs Total 88 26 24 In Losses 45 19 11 In Wins 43 7 13 1-3 RP/G 36 12 6 4-6 RP/G 52 14 18 The Rockies are still carrying 13 pitchers, which I don’t care for, but they are at least trying to get the most out of their relievers. While they have been more specialized in wins than losses, the overall trend is clear: the Rockies are giving their relievers the opportunity to put away more hitters. Part of this is by necessity, as they’ve had some starters unable to make it out of the third, but even in games when they haven’t needed a lot of relievers, they’re still giving their relievers some leeway. Again, this might not be a huge deal, but it does show that they aren’t being a slave to a one-inning reliever/specialist pattern. It’s possible that, given some success with longer relief appearances, the coaching staff could be convinced to carry just 12 pitchers, thus opening up roster flexibility on the offensive side. Overall, the Rockies ‘pitching is doing enough to keep them in games. Their starting pitchers have the 14th-best FIP- in baseball right now, as well as the 19th-best ERA- and ninth-best xFIP-. That’s not only pretty good, but their best in awhile: Rockies Starting Pitcher Minus Stats/Ranks, 2010-2016 Year ERA- Rank FIP- Rank xFIP- Rank 2016 112 19 100 14 94 9 2015 115 27 116 29 113 28 2014 114 27 114 29 112 29 2013 104 17 101 14 111 28 2012 126 28 122 29 117 30 2011 108 19 109 23 108 28 2010 92 4 90 2 96 6 If you don’t remember, 2010 was the best season of Ubaldo Jimenez’s career — he started the All-Star Game that season — and the team also got solid contributions from Jason Hammel, Jhoulys Chacin and Jeff Francis. This season isn’t shaping up quite as nicely, but in Jonathan Gray, Tyler Chatwood and Chad Bettis, the Rockies have three starting pitchers who are performing well (well, Gray sort of is, he’s been unlucky on the surface) and can be expected to remain good all season. The last two spots are still a bit of a quagmire, but the team has plenty of options to cycle through. This is what the Rockies need. They need their pitching to keep them in the game (the bullpen is also in the middle of the pack in the three minus stats) and for their offense to do the heavy lifting. Last night was an extreme example of that. And while the offense may not be up to that challenge night in and night out, they’ve been better than expected. We’re now at the point where we’re seeing articles about whether Nolan Arenado is the best player in the National League. While we don’t need to debate that here, what we can say is that he’s on the short list. Entering the season, it was clear that the Rockies would need to see some players really step forward in order to be even a decent team this season. So far, they’re getting those performances, and Jeff Hoffman and David Dahl — who are both off to hot starts — are looming in the farm system. The Rockies may not quite be ready for another Rocktober — not without importing some more pitching at the trade deadline, anyway. But they may finally be ready to shed their doormat status, as they emphatically showed last night when they ran San Francisco’s jewels.