In 2015, Colorado Rockies fans had roughly the same chance of seeing one of the team’s starting pitchers submit a quality start as they did of predicting the winner of the Tooth Trot, the three-dental product race between Toothy the Tooth, Bristles the Toothbrush and Fresh the Toothpaste that takes place between innings at Coors Field.
That is to say: 33.3 percent.
Rockies pitchers last year combined to throw 54 quality starts — defined as any outing in which a starter lasts at least 6 innings and allows three earned runs or fewer — in 162 games. So essentially a quality start every third game. That…that was not good. Colorado ranked dead-last in the MLB by a comfortable margin in the category; for a little context, the St. Louis Cardinals hurled 106 quality starts to lead the league.
2016 is a different story. As of Friday morning, Colorado starting pitchers had thrown 57 quality starts. Thanks to four more quality starts this week by Tyler Chatwood, Jorge De La Rosa, Chad Bettis and Tyler Anderson, they’ve already surpassed last year’s total. Colorado is tied for the ninth-most in the MLB in the metric.
There are many ways to slice Colorado’s hot stretch of baseball since the All-Star break. (They’ve gone 14-6 and are three games out in the National League Wild Card race.) Right fielder Carlos Gonzalez has caught fire at the plate; David Dahl’s mashed since getting called up 10 games ago; the bullpen has finally gotten healthy. But the biggest reason why is simple: The Rockies starting staff is pitching the best it has all season and going deeper into games.
“Well to go deep into games, you have to pitch well,” said Rockies manager Walt Weiss of his starters, who are tied for fourth in innings pitched (179) and are sixth in ERA (3.18) since the time off. “We’ve been able to do that because the guys are still performing at the sixth and sometimes seventh inning. Everything falls into place when you get that.”
Weiss points to June 12 as a sort of turning point for a rotation he’s called the best he’s had in four seasons as Colorado’s manager. That was the day Anderson made his first start of the season. He allowed one runs in 6 innings — coincidentally, a quality start. His presence solidified a Rockies rotation that seemed to be in a constant state of flux beforehand.
Since then, Anderson, Bettis, Chatwood, De La Rosa and Jon Gray have combined to start every game and have formed Voltron into something rarely seen around Coors Field: a solid starting rotation. This staff is dramatically improved from where it was last year. More than anything, they’re giving Colorado a consistent chance to win night in and night out. Which is about all you can ask from pitchers who start half of their games at Coors Field.
“Offensively, I feel like all we have to do is get the lead, and we’re in a good spot,” second baseman D.J. LeMahieu said. “They trust us, we trust them. Our starting rotation’s just been great. They compete, and they’re everything you’d want out of a starting staff.”