Not everything went right, but center fielder Charlie Blackmon and third baseman Nolan Arenado were around to make sure 2017 turned out right for the Rockies in manager Bud Black's first season.Blackmon and Arenado hit 37 home runs apiece and combined for 234 RBIs to serve as offensive leaders, but
Not everything went right, but center fielder Charlie Blackmon and third baseman Nolan Arenado were around to make sure 2017 turned out right for the Rockies in manager Bud Black's first season.
Blackmon and Arenado hit 37 home runs apiece and combined for 234 RBIs to serve as offensive leaders, but there were plenty of other contributors as the Rockies went 87-75 to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Rockies hope their 11-8 National League Wild Card Game loss to the D-backs was not an ending, but merely an event in a winning window that lasts a few years.
Before the season and during the first two months, the Rockies lost the services of three of their top starters, and several key offensive performers had difficult seasons. But solid work from rookie starters -- plus a solid bullpen effort and good offense -- helped the team to a strong start, and they were able to hang on when the team turned healthy toward the end of the season.
Here are five things to remember from 2017:
1. About the road
The road has always been trouble for the Rockies, so Black (like many managers before him) demystified it by emphasizing playing good baseball no matter the venue. The Rockies established themselves as contenders with a 24-10 start away from home before things got tough. After that start, they won three of the next 16 and seven of the next 26. However, the Rockies helped save their season with a four-game sweep of the eventual NL West champion Dodgers and by winning the first two of a four-game set at Arizona. The Rockies would end the season 41-40 on the road, tied with the 2009 team for best in club history.
2. They don't take IDs
Chad Bettis, expected to lead the starting rotation, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in November 2016 and eventually would need chemotherapy. No. 1 starter Jon Gray suffered a navicular stress fracture of the right foot in April. Lefty Tyler Anderson struggled through a left knee injury before undergoing surgery in early July. Righty Tyler Chatwood, battling control issues, would suffer a right calf injury just after the All-Star break. But none of that stopped the Rockies because of an uncommon performance from a quartet of rookies. Righties Antonio Senzatela, German Marquez and Jeff Hoffman, and lefty Kyle Freeland helped keep the Rockies afloat. Those four and Gray, all 25 and under, combined for 113 starts. The previous club record was 97 in 2012. The 25-and-unders went 53-32.
3. It isn't about the personal numbers
Three-time All-Star right fielder Carlos Gonzalez struggled for much of the year, to the point Black had to drop him to the unfamiliar No. 6 spot. Shortstop Trevor Story, who hit 27 home runs as a rookie last year even though he missed the final two months with a left thumb ligament injury, led the NL by striking out 191 times. Ian Desmond, in the first year of a five-year, $70 million contract, went to the disabled list three times -- once with a broken left hand, twice with right calf strains. But from July 8 to season's end, Gonzalez hit .327 (and slugged .766 in September), Story hit six September homers, and Desmond was a key during an important September stretch that pushed the Rockies into the playoffs.
4. The stats cut many ways
All that matters in the end is scoring more runs than the other team. But it's interesting to see how the Rockies stack up statistically. They led the NL and finished second in the Majors in batting average (.273), led the NL in runs and were third in the Majors at 824, plus finished second in the NL in OPS at .781. But in the FanGraphs category of weighted runs created plus (wRC+), which attempts to rate offensive efficiency while accounting for park effects, the Rockies finished at 87 -- 27th in the Majors. For perspective, 100 is considered average. Removing pitchers, the Rockies finished at 99 -- tied for 15th overall. While there is argument in these parts that the stat is overly harsh because of Coors (which would conversely mean fielding-independent pitching, or FIP, is overly kind), there were clearly periods where the team's offense lacked and overall performance suffered.
5. Who's your MVP?
Blackmon led the NL in batting average at .331, triples with 14 and hits with 214, plus set a Major League record for RBIs from the leadoff spot with 103 (of his 104 total). Arenado's 130 RBIs made him the first third baseman in Major League history to reach that figure in three straight years. He led the league with 43 doubles, made himself a favorite for his fifth straight Rawlings Gold Glove Award and had one of the season's iconic moments -- a home run to complete a cycle against the Giants on June 18. Blackmon represents the Rockies as nominee for the NL Hank Aaron Award, while Arenado is up for Player of the Year in the MLB Players Association Players Choice Awards.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.