Saunders: Five takeaways from Colorado Rockies’ hot start

Five takes on the state of the Rockies after their excellent start. (But first, a disclaimer. I’m writing this before Friday night’s home opener.)

1. The rotation’s ERA through five games, all on the road, was 2.30. That’s unsustainable, of course, given the altitude factor and the fact that the Rockies aren’t the 1998 Atlanta Braves featuring Greg Maddux (18-9, 2.22), Tom Glavine (20-6, 2.47), Denny Neagle (16-11, 3.55), Kevin Millwood (17-8, 4.08) and John Smoltz (17-3, 2.90). But if lefty Kyle Freeland and right-hander Antonio Senzatela perform as well as they did in their initial starts, at least on a semi-regular basis, the 2020 rotation looks solid enough to get the Rockies to the 16-team postseason.

By the way, the lowest ERA for Colorado starters in a season is 4.10 in 2009. In this year’s 60-game season, this rotation can best that mark.

2. I’m not as bullish on the bullpen and its crazy-good start (two runs allowed over 16 2/3 innings for a 1.08 ERA). Obviously, getting rid of Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw was a necessary move, and although I like right-hander Jairo Diaz and Carlos Estevez toward the back of the ‘pen, their inconsistency is bound to get them in trouble, especially at Coors Field. And closer Wade Davis, despite his two saves in the early going, looks vulnerable. He doesn’t have the firepower he used to and I’m skeptical he can shut down games at Coors. That said, a healthy Scott Oberg’s return should be a big boost to the bullpen.

3. I’ve covered sports for a long time and Daniel Bard’s return to a major league mound after seven years away because of the yips is one of my favorite stories. As someone who’s suffered from anxiety for many years, I have an intense interest in the mental aspect of sports. I have the yips myself — I can’t make a 2-foot putt to save my life. But that’s an infinitesimal obstacle compared to Bard getting back on the mound, late in games, with fans watching his every pitch and his teammates counting on him.

One of my favorite quotes came from Bard’s wife, Adair, who marveled at Bard’s ability to carry on, even when he was sailing wild pitches to the backstop.

“I’ve always admired Daniel for not being afraid of what others thought,” she said. “Because what he went through would be extremely embarrassing for most people. And I know he had moments of embarrassment and frustration.

“But he kept trying. And finally, we decided, ‘If this is crazy, let’s be crazy in it together.’ ”

4. Most national baseball writers might not know it, but shortstop Trevor Story has emerged as one of the most talented, exciting and well-rounded players in the game. He hits for power, is on the verge of becoming a perennial .300 hitter, is Gold Glove-worthy and he’s fast. His instincts and aggressiveness on the bases are a huge plus.

“He’s just a smart, star baseball player,” third baseman Nolan Arenado told me. “That’s kind of what we expect from him. I know what he does is still kind of a shock to a lot of people, but we’re not surprised.”

5. More and more, the changeup is becoming the key pitch for Rockies starters. Freeland, Gray and Senzatela all worked overtime in the offseason in an attempt to perfect the pitch. A changeup is not easy to master, but it’s a pitch that can work both on the road and at Coors Field.

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