8. Colorado Rockies (13–6, plus-10, LT: 10)
You might have noticed the frequent use of park-adjusted stats in this column. It’s a way to level the playing field, so that a hitter or pitcher toiling in the most hitter-friendly ballparks can be evaluated on the same level as a hitter or pitcher who calls a pitcher-friendly stadium home. Now get this: The National League team with the lowest team bullpen ERA ... is the Colorado Rockies. And that’s without adjusting for Coors Field, which remains a terrifying and dangerous place to pitch.
Greg Holland is getting most of the ink, and rightfully so. A bargain at one-year, $7 million coming off Tommy John surgery, Holland has rediscovered the lights-out form he showed in Kansas City, leading the majors with nine lightning-quick saves, while striking out 11 batters and allowing no home runs in his first nine innings as a Rockie. But let’s tip our caps for some other key contributors too. Mike Dunn has thus far been a big upgrade over Boone Logan as the team’s token veteran lefty on a three-year contract, punching out 10 batters and allowing just seven baserunners in 7 2/3 innings. Chris Rusin, a 2014 waiver claim from the Cubs, has allowed just a single run in his first 7 2/3 innings of the season. Homegrown 15th-round Scott Oberg has punched out a batter an inning while ranking as one of four Rockies relievers with groundball rates above 55%—a welcome development at hitter-happy Coors Field. Even right-hander Adam Ottavino, the pitcher expected to close for the Rockies who instead got bumped to setup work by Holland, has been a plus: He leads the pen with a gaudy 12 strikeouts (in just 8 1/3 innings pitched).
By runs scored and runs allowed, the Rockies seem to have lucked out a bit in the early going, winning more games than you’d expect given their run differential. But good fortune aside, the best way to beat the system when it comes to outperforming your expected record is to shut your opponents down in the late innings, so your offense can scrape together the run or two needed to win some close games. For a Rockies team that’s rarely been known for fielding a strong bullpen or pulling out close games, 2017 has offered a welcome change of pace.