Colorado Rockies 2024 preview

To begin my look at the 2024 Colorado Rockies, I’d like to bring your attention to the 1996 Detroit Tigers. That Tigers team went 53-109 and gave up 1,103. It was the Steroid Era, so that certainly played a role and Detroit went 0-12 and gave up 79 runs to the Cleveland Indians. They were also 1-12 and gave up 108 runs to the Red Sox. 

The reason I bring them up is because they might have had the worst starting pitching staff ever assembled. Dating back to 1970, they had the highest ERA at 6.64 with a pathetic 12.1% K%. Their 6.03 FIP also still stands as the worst in 1,504 team starting pitching seasons since then.


The 2023 Rockies had the fourth-worst FIP in that sample at 5.70 with a 5.91 ERA that ranks as the 11th-worst. That isn’t even the worst Rockies starting staff in the bunch. That distinction belongs to the 1999 Rockies, who had a 6.19 ERA (fourth-highest) and a 5.61 FIP.

All of that to say that this year’s Rockies starting staff may top it in what is going to be a long, long, long year for Colorado fans.

2024 Colorado Rockies Odds

(odds from DraftKings as of Mar. 17)

World Series: +50000

NL Pennant: +25000

NL West: +20000

Win Total: 60.5 (+100/-120)

Make Playoffs: Yes +2500 / No -20000

Colorado Rockies Preview: Pitching

I’ve been starting with the offense in all of these team previews, but I’d like to continue the pitching discussion. Plus, I can at least finish with something of a high note for discouraged and despondent Rockies fans when I talk about the offense.

There are no bright spots or silver linings with this starting rotation. I guess there’s a chance that Kyle Freeland pitches better, but this is a disaster of a starting staff with nothing but pitch-to-contact arms at Coors Field. I guess German Marquez might make it back by August or so, but there won’t be any reason to push it with one season left on his two-year, $20 million extension.

Projection systems are not gospel. There are a lot of factors that they cannot account for, but the FanGraphs projections have the lowest ERA in this rotation of Freeland, Cal Quantrill, Austin Gomber, Ryan Feltner, and Dakota Hudson at 5.29. Among 117 pitchers with at least 100 innings as a starter last season, a 5.29 ERA would rank 105th. And the other guys project to be worse than that.

If we use ZiPS, the honor belongs to Quantrill at 4.93, but he had a 5.24 ERA last season in 99.2 innings with the Guardians and didn’t have to make any starts at Coors Field. As we know, Coors Field is a huge handicap in so many ways for the Rockies. It is hard to develop pitchers and it destroys a lot of confidence. It is impossible to really simulate in the minor leagues or Spring Training. The ball obviously carries well, but the outfield is also spacious and leaves a lot of ground to cover. And, between a cheap ownership group and what Coors does to pitchers, getting a free agent to come to town is virtually impossible.

The league average K% for starting pitchers last season was 22.1%. Freeland was at 13.9%. Quantrill was at 13.1%. Gomber was at 14.4%. Feltner, who had a 5.82 ERA over 10 starts covering 43.1 innings, was at 18.9%, but he also walked nearly 14% of batters. Hudson, who was with the Cardinals and had a 4.98 ERA over 81.1 innings, had a 12.7% K%.

Pitching to contact is rarely a good thing. Pitching to contact at Coors Field is never a good thing. The batting average at Coors Field last season was .286. The next highest came at Fenway Park at .272. Coors surrendered a .335 batting average on balls in play overall. There were 106 more hits at Coors than any other park and 151 more hits than any park other than Fenway.

So, all of that to say that this is probably going to be the worst starting rotation that we’ve seen in roughly the last 30 years.

Oh, yeah, and the Rockies had the highest bullpen ERA last season at 5.41. Jalen Beeks might be a nice add from the Rays, but any time they put a guy on waivers, I’m wondering why. Justin Lawrence was solid last season with a 3.72 ERA and a 3.76 FIP. Jake Bird was pretty good as well with a 3.56 FIP and a little bit of an unlucky 4.27 ERA. Beyond that, only Brent Suter put up really solid numbers, but he’s in Cincinnati now.

Colorado Rockies Preview: Offense

It will be a heavy lift for the Rockies offense to will this team to some wins. Even with all of the advantages that Coors Field brings, the Rockies were 17th in batting average at .249, 25th in on-base percentage at .310, and 20th in slugging percentage at .405. Using the park-adjusted wRC+ metric, this was the worst offense in baseball at 78, which means they were 22% below league average offensively. 

Coors is a huge weapon at home. The problem there is that it is for both teams. Pitches don’t break the same way that they do at sea level or other venues closer to that. They are harder to control and command because there is less air resistance on the baseball to make it move, so you often see pitchers struggling to throw strikes or throw quality strikes. As a result, hitting is a lot easier.

The Rockies were fifth in BA at home at .269. They were still 13th in OBP because they didn’t draw many walks. They were sixth in SLG at .449. However, put Colorado on the road and it was quite ugly. They batted .228/.290/.360 with a league-high 27.3% K%. You’ll see stark home/road splits just about every year from this team. Not surprisingly, the Rockies went 22-59 on the road.

So, I mentioned trying to say some positive things here about the offense. Truth be told, there aren’t many, but I will try. I really like Nolan Jones. He slashed .297/.389/.542 and hit 20 homers with 20 steals in 106 games after the Guardians gave up on him. He was actually worth 3.7 fWAR, which is a big number for a Rockies player. The most impressive thing about him is that he had a nearly identical number of plate appearances at home (211) and on the road (213) and hit 10 homers in each split with a .397 wOBA at home and a .393 wOBA on the road. He did strike out a hell of a lot more on the road (35.7%) than at home (23.7%), so I’d treat the .434 BABIP with a whole shaker of salt, but it was a promising first season.

Ezequiel Tovar made his MLB debut at 20 years old in 2022 and then played his first full season at 21. His offensive numbers were quite bad, but he did hit 15 homers and played some outstanding defense at SS. He was +13 Defensive Runs Saved and +16 Outs Above Average. Maybe the bat comes around as he ages and learns MLB pitching, but he’ll be a godsend for this pitch-to-contact, ground ball-oriented staff.

Brenton Doyle hit well in the minors. He did not in the Majors, but he swiped 22 bases and played elite outfield defense. He was +19 DRS in CF and also +16 OAA. He’s another guy where he’ll be extremely valuable if the bat comes around. I don’t know that it will, but he hit well in the majority of his minor league stops.

Ryan McMahon is really hurt by the Coors Field curve, but he’s another good defender who flashes some power. He hit 23 homers last season, even though he only had an 88 wRC+. Sean Bouchard has a .304/.429/.563 slash in 140 PA at the MLB level and had good minor league numbers basically everywhere. He just needs to stay healthy. Kris Bryant had a 125 wRC+ for the Rockies in 2022 over 181 PA, but he battled injuries again last season and only posted a 73 wRC+.

There are a few building blocks here and some top-notch defenders. This is easily the more exciting part of the ballclub.

Colorado Rockies Player to Watch

SP Cal Quantrill

I’ll be interested to see how things end up with Quantrill, who has spent most of his career inducing a ton of weak contact. He had a league average Hard Hit% last season at 39.2%, but his previous MLB seasons were 35.6%, 34.2%, 31.2%, and 32.5%. That’s how he was able to find success despite his really low strikeout rate.

Quantrill dealt with injuries last season and had the lowest K% of his career and that bump in HH%. Quantrill has also outperformed his xERA (expected ERA) in four of his five seasons. He’s outperformed other predictive metrics like SIERA (skill-interactive ERA) and xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching). If he can get back to all the weak contact, he could be an overperformer in this rotation, but the margin for error with the quality of his stuff is pretty low and I think the environmental conditions are going to be problematic for him.

Colorado Rockies Season Win Total Odds & Prediction

This looks like a really bad baseball team in so many ways. Defensively, I think they might actually be okay, but offensively, even some of last season’s surprises look like regression candidates and I’m not sure the veterans will do much of anything. Also, I’m not being the least bit hyperbolic when I say this could be the worst starting rotation in the last 30 years.

I’m not betting Under the season win total, though. I think they’ll lose 100 games and you could argue this year’s team is actually worse than last year’s that lost 103 games. But, that line is just so low. I think a better bet would be to find a “Most Losses” or “Fewest Wins” market and get them at a plus-money price there because I do think that the Rockies and White Sox will be in the running for that. I actually like the Athletics Over, as I wrote about in their preview.

It’s just too low of a number when last year’s team was awful and still only got to 103. Playing at Coors Field does help in the sense that they’re at least used to it and are unlikely to totally bottom out at home. Even last season they went 37-44 at home. They lost 94 games in 2022 and had a winning record at home. They’re going to be atrocious on the road, but competitive enough at home to scare me with this number, but “Fewest Wins” at +260 at DraftKings is more interesting to me than a win total.

Lean: Under 60.5; Fewest Wins +260 at DraftKings

Get all of our preseason coverage in the 2024 MLB Betting Guide