Prove to me that this isn't Aaron Cook. I dare ya. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images for British Airways)
Right out of the gates, Aaron Cook's 2011 season was destined to be a disaster. In fact, from the very moment that Troy Tulowitzki told the press that Cook was one of the two keys to any success that the Rockies would have in 2011 (along with fellow bust Ian Stewart), it seemed as if the writing was on the wall. In just his second workout of the spring, Cook began experiencing some inflammation in his right shoulder. As he was recovering from that, he proceeded to break his right ring finger after getting it caught in a door. Due to the injuries, Cookie's season would not start until June 8th.
Although Aaron would pitch into the sixth inning in six of his first seven starts, he found himself saddled with five losses - partially due to the fact that the offense was fairly inept late in games, but also because Cook was pretty mediocre. In those seven winless starts, he posted a 5.82 ERA with more walks (17) than strikeouts (14). It wasn't until his eighth start of the season - on July 22nd in Arizona - that Cookie would pick up his first victory.
In terms of game score, his next start would be his best of 2011, as he held the Dodgers scoreless through seven innings while allowing just six hits and two walks. However, he followed that up with a stinker of an August in which his ERA was north of 7 and and had an OPS-against of .935.
After a couple more uninspiring starts, Aaron capped the season with an eight strikeout effort at home against the Padres, but fittingly he would be saddled with a loss in that one as well, having allowed four runs on six hits in five innings. At least it made his K/BB ratio a little easier to stomach; it was just 1.08 heading into that came, and jumped up to 1.30 following it.
Cook finished the season with career-worsts in winning percentage (.231 - on a 3-10 record), ERA (6.03), ERA+ (74), and H/9 (11.8). He did obviously suffer from some bad luck; his BABIP-against was an astonishing .345 (easily the highest in his career), and his xFIP settled in at 4.37 - almost two runs lower than his ERA. However, Cookie failed to do his job in 2011, and he'd probably be the first to admit it.
Final grade, as well as what to expect in 2012, after the jump.
F. Simply put, Aaron Cook did not regain his form following a lost 2010 season. While his groundball rate remained high and he obviously had some subpar batted-ball luck, Cookie was generally unable to consistently throw strikes for the second consecutive season, and as a result wasn't able to be the innings-eater that the club needed down the stretch - particularly in August, when they were still hanging on for dear life.
The Rockies declined Cook's $11 million option for next season, meaning the soon-to-be 33 year old sinkerballer is a free agent. Naturally, the Pittsburgh "All Your Garbage Are Belong To Us" Pirates have shown interest, but all has been quiet on the Cookie front for about a month now. I'm sure he'll latch on somewhere, perhaps on a minor league deal, but only time will tell.