The Colorado Rockies had an interesting season. There were fun moments, but fans and players alike also endured plenty of heartbreak. From blown saves to a shocking lack of moves at the trade deadline, 2021 offers a lot for the Rockies to learn from.
Interestingly, Colorado’s 48-33 record at Coors Field was the best home record out of every non-playoff team in MLB. While that is good, it also exposes how much they struggled on the road (26-54).
Let’s explore what 2021 looked like for Colorado.
Manager: Bud Black
Position: Fourth in NL West
Postseason: Missed playoffs
The Rockies finished with a slightly higher winning percentage in 2021 than 2020 despite losing Nolan Arenado last offseason.
Pitching was a glaring weak spot for this Rockies team, which surrendered a 4.82 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, and .260 OBA, all of which ranked inside the bottom-fifth of baseball. They also tallied a 8.18 K/9 rate, which was the sixth-worst in MLB. However, perhaps most concerning is that Colorado blew 30 saves on just 63 opportunities. Yes, when presented with a chance to end the game, Rockies closers only had a 47.62 success rate.
The offense, however, fell much more into the mediocre range. The Colorado bats finished seventh in batting average (.249), 15th in on-base percentage (.317), 13th in slugging percentage (.412), sixth in BABIP (.299), 10th in RBI (709), 21st in home runs (182), 22nd in walks (491), ninth in strikeouts (1,356), sixth in double players grounded into (98), and 15th in stolen bases (76). Now, that’s a lot of data to process, but the bottom line is that this offense was, at the very least, average.
Most Valuable Player: C.J. Cron
As much as Trevor Story is a threat in all facets of the game, Cron simply had a greater impact in 2021. The veteran first baseman found his groove in Coors Field, slashing .281/.375/.530 with 28 HRs, 92 RBIs, 60 walks, and 117 strikeouts. He also led the team with 15.6 fWAR on offense, which was more than nine wins higher than the next-best player (Story, 6.1 wins). The 31-year-old was rewarded with a two-year, $14.5 million extension that keeps him locked up through 2023.
Starting Pitcher of the Year: German Marquez
Marquez had a very strong season, making 32 starts while going 11-10 with a 4.40 ERA and team-best 3.64 xFIP. His 3.4 fWAR also ranked second among Rockies pitchers with at least 40 innings. He was reliable, finishing the season as the only qualified hurler on the team, and also avoided fly balls by inducing ground balls at a team-high 51.6 percent clip. The right-hander, who signed a five-year extension back in 2019, has certainly been this rotation’s most evident bright spot over the last couple of seasons.
Relief Pitcher of the Year: Tyler Kinley
There were a couple of pitchers in consideration here, but Kinley ultimately gets the selection. The southpaw led all Rockies pitchers with 70 innings on the mound, a number that represented the 10th-most in the National League. At the same time, he was fairly effective, posting a 1.21 WHIP and .223 OBA. While his 1.54 HR/9 rate was concerning, he helped to make up for it by posting the second-lowest opponent BABIP (.250) among Rockies pitchers who threw at least 45 innings. He also closed out the year on a high note, allowing just three runs over 13.1 innings in September. This was easily a career year for Kinley, who now has four years of MLB action under his belt. The 30-year-old will reel in roughly $1 million next year and is arbitration-eligible through 2024.
Best Hitter of the Year: C.J. Cron
Cron was already mentioned above as the team’s MVP, so it’s no surprise that he was their best hitter, too. Specifically, he led the team in home runs while also delivering clutch hits. Among qualified National League first basemen, he ranked sixth in offensive fWAR (15.6), fourth in BABIP (.316), second in slugging percentage (.530), second in on-base percentage (.375), and second in wOBA (.383).
Best Fielder of the Year: Ryan McMahon
To put it simply, McMahon has been absolutely phenomenal from a defensive perspective. In fact, his 11.0 defensive fWAR rank third in the National League and fifth in all of Major League Baseball. Not only was he clutch in the field, but he also offered versatility in the infield for Colorado. The 26-year-old played in 151 games this season, spending time at third base on 113 occasions while appearing at second base in 52 games. (Evidently, there were some games in which he played both positions). While McMahon’s lack of one true position could hurt him in the Gold Glove race, it is evident that he was one of the league’s best defenders in 2021.
Comeback Player of the Year: Brendan Rodgers
Injuries plagued the young career of Brendan Rodgers, who appeared in just 32 games between 2019 and 2020. However, he bounced back this season, slashing .284/.328/.470 with 15 homers and 51 RBI. He specifically finished the year on a tear, hitting .296 with 10 home runs after the All-Star Break. His emergence was extremely important considering he could be tasked with serving as Colorado’s everyday shortstop in the post-Trevor Story era.
It is a foregone conclusion that Trevor Story is going to sign elsewhere in free agency, which represents a huge loss for the Rockies both on and off the field. It will be hard for Colorado to replace the true leader and All-Star, though they could begin to do so by shifting Rodgers to shortstop. This would likely force Ryan McMahon into a full-time role at either second or third base, with the remaining infield position to be filled in free agency.
The only other position players to watch are Charlie Blackmon, who will likely exercise his $21.3 million player option, and Ian Desmond, whose $15 million club option will almost assuredly be declined.
The Rockies are also set to endure a pair of potential losses in their rotation with Jon Gray and Chi Chi Gonzalez set to hit free agency. The former is the better player, though his turbulent showing during the second half of the season adds some cloudiness to his status. (Back in July, the Rockies intended to issue a qualifying offer to Gray, but that might not be the case anymore.) Meanwhile, Gonzalez, who has now posted ERAs above 6.40 in each of his last two seasons, will be cheap but might not represent a perfect fit for the rebuilding and youth-oriented Rockies.
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