The Rockies had a lot of disappointing players in 2011, which we fittingly reviewed in 2011. Now that it is 2012, we are on to players who actually provided some value.
For several years, the Rockies have employed your generic veteran lefty reliever. In past years, Alan Embree, Randy Flores, Glendon Rusch and Micah Bowie were given roster spots, mostly for no other reason than they wore their baseball glove on their right hand. That string was going to change in 2011, as Matt Reynolds coupled with Franklin Morales as the obvious opening day southpaw duo in the pen.
A strong minor league career and a 2.00 ERA in 18 innings in 2010 cemented a roster spot for the rookie Reynolds, but it wasn't a comfortable one Opening Day. The lefty was pummled in Spring Training - 14 hits, seven runs, three big flies and just three strikeouts in nine innings. Nevertheless, the Rockies' 2007 20th round pick was on the Opening Day roster, and he did not disappoint.
The big lefty carries a negative FIP for a bit of April before settling in with a 0.34 by May 1, good for 2nd in all of baseball. He was hit harder as the season went on, but the rookie finished with an acceptable 4.05 ERA. He struck out about a batter per inning, walked roughly a third of that rate, and checked in with a 0.7 rWAR and 0.44 WARP in 73 appearances.
If you are a fan of Fangraphs, however, you might have a different idea of Reynolds' season. According to their calculation, the Tennesseean was below replacement level. How is that possible with his fantastic strikeout and walk rates?
The answer is home runs. Whereas Huston Street was under the microscope all season for permitting the longball, Reynolds also allowed ten big flies, tied for 6th in MLB among relievers and just two off league-leader Chad Durbin.
Fangraphs' FIP formulation essentially faults the pitcher for every home run, but that isn't really fair in Reynolds' situatution. Relievers' statistics are often screwy due to small sample sizes, and this is a perfect example. Of the ten home runs off Reynolds in 2010, four were "just enough" and one was an inside-the-park home run. That's right. Fangraphs faults Reynolds for Dexter Fowler's misplay just as much as if he hung a curve ball that got hit 600 feet. We are talking about the differences here in the stadium breeze or batter's breakfasts.
Beyond that, 5 of the 18 walks Reynolds permitted were of the intentional variety. FIP, and hence fWAR, also does not pick up on this nuance, discrediting Reynolds' stated effectiveness on account of Jim Tracy ordered walks. Considering those home runs and walks, MattyR was actually quite good.
|2011 - Matt Reynolds||1-2||73||-0.1||0.7||8.88||3.20||1.78||50.2||48||24||23||10||18||50||4.09||1.30|
Matt Reynolds was certainly an asset in the Rockies' bullpen, fWAR aside. His home run issues don't appear to be entirely his fault, and his K and BB rates are more than acceptable for a rookie reliever. If you're a fan of standard statistics first and foremost, it is hard to be disappointed with an ERA around 4.00, especially after his shaky showing in Scottsdale in March. He was overall solid and acceptable.
Reynolds is guaranteed to be in the Rockies' bullpen next season. He has all three options remaining, but he isn't in danger of getting the boot. He will probably be used predominamtly against left-handed batters (51% of his career batter have been left-handed), but he really should be used as a full inning reliever. So far in his MLB career, Reynolds has held RHB to a .208 average compared to a .256 rate against lefty batters. Lefties have hit home runs at a slightly higher rate against him as well, even if Oeljten's inside the parker is eliminated.