Exploring the seasons of the All-Time Rockies: Wins

Now THESE are some all-time Rockies! via imgs.sfgate.com

Pitching and batting, pitching and batting. So much of the Rockies' history is centered around the video game batting environment that Coors Field was known for, great batting performances are devalued and good pitching goes completely unnoticed.

Moving into 2010, so much of the greatest in Rockies' history is completely forgotten after a franchise-best season where the pitching rules the team.

As we began last week, Counting Rocks intends to rectify this situation by reminding us of the all time Rockies, the best to put on the Purple Pinstripes.

Join me as we explore the single-season leaders in Pitching Wins.

No pitcher has bested the 17 win mark in the 17 years of Rockies baseball. Fitting, no?

3 pitchers, however, have met that mark: Kevin Ritz in 1996, Pedro Astacio in 1999, and Jeff Francis in 2007.

In 1995, the Rockies took the NL Wild Card in the first year where the Wild Card was awarded a playoff berth. After a disappointing loss to the eventual World-Series champ Atlanta Braves, the Rockies looked forward to 1996 and staff Ace Kevin Ritz. Ritz was coming off of a career-best season where despite an 11-11 record, a 4.21 ERA. Excellent HR control, good work keeping the runners off of the basepaths. Altogether a very promising pitcher that the Rockies might be able to build on for success in 1996.

Pedro Astacio was acquired by Colorado in exchange for 2B Eric Young in 1997. After a pretty poor 1998 campaign, Astacio was slotted as the #2 behind Darryl Kile, hungry for a strong rebound.

2007 had Jeff Francis as the #2 as well, behind veteran leader Aaron Cook. A young arm, highly favored as a future Ace pitcher, "Franchise" was building off of a strong 2006 (13-11, 4.16 ERA, 4.38 FIP) and preparing to lead the staff down the stretch toward a hopeful playoff berth.

So how did our 3 studs perform? Well, frankly, outside of Francis, a bit pedestrian across the board (and even then, merely "good"). Well, I take that back. Ritz was pretty average. Francis was good. Astacio...well, there's a lot to say about Astacio. Look how they all held up:

W

L

WL%

ERA

IP

K9

BB9

K/BB

HR9

FIP

WAR

'96 Ritz

17

11

0.607

5.28

213

4.44

4.44

1.00

1.01

5.30

2.00

'99 Astacio

17

11

0.607

5.04

232

8.15

2.91

2.80

1.47

4.56

5.30

'07 Francis

17

9

0.654

4.22

215.1

6.90

2.63

2.62

1.04

4.19

2.20

Now, here are the things that pop out to me.

1.     Pedro Astacio was an absolute workhorse, and we'll see more on him next week as far as workhorse effects go.

2.     Jeff Francis showed some pretty impeccable control

3.     Ritz did not.

4.     Ritz also allowed an absurdly low number of dingers for 1996 Coors Field

So what do these numbers tell us? Well, firstly, if you just look at the ERA figures, it really speaks to how the offense drove the Rockies during their first decade. I know, DUH, but this just further drives the nail. Secondly, this illustrates to me a lot of how the long ball can make a break a pitcher's season, if Wins are any indication. If Ritz allows a standard 90s Coors fare of homers, ain't no WAY he's touching 17 wins.

Additionally, looking at Ritz' season, he won 10 in the first half, and yet pitched WORSE than his second half - sort of. His K/BB ratio was a pitiful 0.85 (yes, he walked MORE batters than he struck out), yet he only posted a 4.53 ERA - which, as we know, is downright amazing for 90s Coors, and he can thank a sub-1 HR/9 for that. His second half, though, showed a 6.21 ERA, more homers in fewer innings, still a poor K/BB, etc etc. Basically, Ritz pitched like he should, worse ERA at home, more homers, and fewer decisions (no lead was ever safe!). The saddest part of this is that Ritz also led the NL in Earned Runs Allowed.

I'm going to leave off Astacio from this article as far as in depth evaluation goes, as he's going to be a feature of one of the next articles, and all of the pitching side will be devoted to him alone.

Finally, we come to Francis. Being a pitcher of recent note, our 2007 stud, we know what he does. He typically doesn't walk too many batters, can strike out his fair share, and while he's not anywhere near elite when it comes to allowing homers, he does a good enough job of keeping the bases clear so they don't burn him too badly.

What strikes me about Jeff Francis' 2007 was that he became what one might call a big-game pitcher, or a "winner", or whatever we want to call it, but not just based on his 17 pitching wins. If you recall the metric we introduced last season, WPA, Francis rises above the rest of the crowd here. 2007, Francis posted a 2.48 WPA, meaning that he added 2.5 wins to the Rockies total (or in other words, 248% chance of winning added to his team accumulated). Stack that up next to Astacio (0.56) and Ritz (-0.73), and you can say somewhat definitively that Francis kept the Rockies in more tight games, that he came through in bigger situations, and he was more of a difference maker than his other 2 counterparts in the 17-Win club.

So if I were to summarize each of the above pitchers in a word, it'd look something like this: Francis = Effective, Astacio = Special, Ritz =Poor.

Once again, this is running long, and I'm hardly Joe Posnanski, so I'll go ahead and cut this short. Later this weekend (or early next week) we'll touch on the single-season Batting Average king, and then in the following week or so, the 2 sexiest stats!

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