Swing and a miss! –or- Jip Jip Jorge!

Alas, poor Jorge: I knew him well...at least that's how we all felt when he left against the Dodgers with a left groin pull. Losing Jorge De La Rosa may have been a major part of the Rockies' 4-game loss in the NLDS against the 2009 NL Champion Phillies. However, at this point, what's done is done, and I feel we can look back on his season and be pleased for the most part.

Starting 2 weeks ago, Counting Rocks is looking at the Rockies' rotation and drooling over the good things they've done and finding ways to brush the bad things under the rug.

This was a promising season for De La Rosa. After bouncing through 2 professional leagues (MLB, Mexican League) and 5 MLB franchises (Arizona, Boston, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Colorado), it would seem that at least for the time being, Jorge has found somewhere to call home. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say how pleased I am that he's here.

DLR has brought electricity to the mound that we haven't really seen since Pedro Astacio and Bruce Ruffin. DLR came to the mound with a 4 pitch arsenal: a 92-95mph fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup. This season, his fastball was really nothing terribly special (according to Fangraphs, as will the rest be), his curveball was roughly an average pitch, but his slider and changeup were remarkably positive pitches, and while nowhere near the top of the leaderboards, you can find his pitch values somewhere around the middle of the first page, anyhow.

No, what stands out about Jorge's pitches isn't how they rank in terms of run values in the majors, but rather what other batters were able to do with the pitches.

Join us after the jump as we look at Jorge's skillsets and how he's used them in the 2009 season.

Firstly, he's a strikeout machine. Now, he doesn't have the sheer number of punchouts that Jimenez and Astacio have/had, but that's mostly because they are/were more durable pitchers, more innings, etc. That said, DLR's 2009 season in terms of sheer strikeout totals ranked 3rd in Rockies' history, tied with Pedro Astacio's 2000, at 193. Ranked ahead of him are: Ubaldo Jimenez' 2009, with 198, and Pedro Astacio's 1999, where he fanned 210 batters. Following is the Rockies' all-time leaderboard in terms of single-season strikeouts.

Rank

Player

SO

Year

1

Pedro Astacio

210

1999

2

Ubaldo Jimenez

198

2009

T3

Pedro Astacio

193

2000

T3

Jorge de la Rosa

193

2009

5

Ubaldo Jimenez

172

2008

6

Pedro Astacio

170

1998

7

Jeff Francis

165

2007

8

Darryl Kile

158

1998

9

Jason Jennings

142

2006

10

Denny Neagle

139

2001

 

Secondly, past the total strikeouts, De La Rosa was able to get more people to swing and miss at his pitches than anyone on the staff, making batters look silly with 10.6% of his pitches. He ranked 14th in the majors among eligible starters in this Swinging Strike% category. That's nasty right there. DLR also was 10th in the majors in terms of % of pitches that resulted in balls in play, at 16.9%. Now with a guy like DLR, you almost don't want him to put it in play. He's not TERRIBLY home run prone, but he did allow an OPS of .745 this season (which means batters batted just a shade below average against DLR as a collective). But remember that only 1 pitch per plate appearance can be put into play, and even then, sometimes one ISN'T put into play.

I'd be remiss if I just presented the number of batters who swung and missed without presenting any of the downside. While we can cheer about DLR making guys whiff and not putting a lot of balls into play, DLR also ranked 17th in the majors in Ball%, in the bad way. Yes, 38.9% of DLR's pitches landed outside of the zone, while 43.9% fell for strikes/balls. This is new, right, the revelation that he walks too many guys? Anyhow.

But all of these numbers are kind of meaningless without putting them into context. As you all know, I'm a big fan of component rate stats: K/9, K/BB, BB/9, and HR/9. DLR posted a 9.39 K/9 this season, which is a career best for him, beating last year's mark of 8.86. Check out DLR's components below:

Season

Team

K/9

BB/9

K/BB

HR/9

AVG

WHIP

FIP

2004

Brewers

1.99

5.56

0.36

0.4

0.312

1.9

5.17

2005

Brewers

8.93

8.08

1.11

0.21

0.287

2.03

4.04

2006

Brewers/Royals

7.63

6.15

1.24

1.59

0.267

1.71

5.88

2007

Royals

5.68

3.67

1.55

1.38

0.304

1.64

5.27

2008

Rockies

8.86

4.29

2.06

0.9

0.259

1.46

4.06

2009

Rockies

9.39

4.04

2.33

0.97

0.248

1.38

3.91

(Bolded numbers indicate career bests)

 

DLR took strides this season, and this really has been the best year of his career. He's 29 on opening day 2010, so while I don't anticipate him getting better, per se, I do see him being able to refine his BB9 while maintaining a high K/9. (It should be noted his 2009 numbers are very slightly skewed by his 1 relief appearance, his numbers as just a starter are slightly better overall, but not enough to post JUST his results as a starting pitcher.)

I'd also like to point out that that Jorge posted a 4.10 tRA* (the regressed and adjusted and lathered/rinsed/repeated version of tRA that takes everything into account) this season, good for 21st overall in the majors, and 2nd on the Rockies behind our boy Ubaldo.

So this is all nice and fun, but seeing how we're looking at DLR's numbers in terms of the Rockies' franchise, chew on this for a minute:

Jorge De La Rosa holds the top 2 marks in franchise history for strikeouts per 9. Yes, higher than Pedro Astacio. Higher than Bruce Ruffin. Higher than Darryl Kile. He tops them all.

Rank

Player

K/9

Year

1

Jorge de la Rosa

9.389

2009

2

Jorge de la Rosa

8.861

2008

3

Pedro Astacio

8.847

2000

4

Ubaldo Jimenez

8.174

2009

5

Pedro Astacio

8.147

1999

6

Bruce Ruffin

8.119

1993

7

Pedro Astacio

7.979

2001

8

Ubaldo Jimenez

7.792

2008

9

Shawn Chacon

7.537

2001

10

Byung-Hyun Kim

7.49

2006

 

Nothing's more fun for me than watching a pitcher amass strikeouts in a single game. This season, among his 32 starts (remember he missed that one at the ASB and pitched terribly in relief in one game just to give him a little work before a big layover), De La Rosa threw 3 games with 10 or more punchouts, 5 with 9 or more, 8 with 8 or more, and 11 with 7 or more strikeouts. It's hardly Lincecum-esque, but that's pretty awesome right there. Only Ubaldo really ranks about De La Rosa in this area of being a sheer lockdown pitcher, and that's simply because where Ubaldo lacks in the K9 department, he has a good 5-10% extra GB% as an insurance policy against the few scattered baserunners he allows.

So I've put my opinion on my sleeve pretty firmly here, I think DLR is a stud. His stuff is destructive. He's shown a lot of growth and maturity, especially in some games down the stretch where he allowed himself to be stretched an extra inning or two extra in some outings where they needed their starter to give some innings - specifically I'm thinking about his August 22 start against SF, where he got hit for 6 runs early, but still stretched out over 6 innings while the Rockies rallied and ultimately won the game 12-8.

Of DLR's 32 starts, he only had 7 starts where he allowed more than 4 runs (9 if you include the 4 run games), 2 games with 6 runs allowed, 4 with 7 runs allowed. Those 4 7-run starts have me disturbed, as well as the 2 6-run starts, because it's not as if we can just write them off to April shakiness or whatever - 2 came in May, 2 in August, 1 in June, 1 in September. The small "good" we can take out of those terrible 6 starts are 2 small-ish things: First, he was able to make it out of the 4th in 2 of the starts, pitching 5 and 6 innings in 2 of these stinkers, so at least he mopped up a bit of his own mess; second, his walk totals aren't obscene in them. Out of the 6 stinker starts, only 2 of them featured more walks than strikeouts, and only 1 of them featured more than 3 walks - well, 2 if you count HBP, but I'm looking that as kind of a different thing, esp in how it factors into pitch count. What I'm trying to point out here is that DLR's biggest weakness may seem to be wildness, but BBs weren't what killed him in his worst starts. In 3 of his 6 stinkers, however, he allowed 2 or more long balls.

It's pretty obvious we're putting lipstick on a pig in these cases, because it's not as if the "not as bad as it could've been" factor suddenly makes the runs not count or something, it's more that it simply looks like he just had "those days" rather than "man this guy just sucks", as the losses didn't really show his weaknesses - at least in the form of his recurring lack of control. If we wanna talk about emotional issues, whew, that's not really my field, but I'll be happy to discuss it. (My stance is the feared Jekyll and Hyde nature of DLR is starting to fade, almost like an evanescent mist, as he finds himself in a more stable role with the team, especially a team as good as the Rockies. I imagine knowing that even if he gives up 3-4 runs, the game isn't over, so he can pitch a bit looser and with a bit more confidence.)

So to conclude this praise of De La Rosa's 2009 season, I'll just leave you with with one line from DLR's split stats:

Opponent Name

G

W

L

PA

AB

SO/9

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

ERA

IP

WHIP

Arizona Diamondbacks

4

3

1

109

93

7.4

.172

.287

.258

.545

50

1.35

26.2

1.163

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