Alright, it's a really slow period of the off season and before I get into a piece about how thoroughly amazing Carlos Gonzalez, Ian Stewart and Troy Tulowitzki are going to be for the Rockies in 2010, I thought I'd start by dipping my toes into a touchier subject: Juan Rincon.
Why Rincon? Well, you can see why by doing a search of the site here using the word "Rincon". The guy just doesn't get any affection at all from Rockies fans, and I think that is somewhat of an injustice. A minor one, sure, but still, the guy simply isn't as bad for the team as many of you are under the impression of and this post will hopefully help you figure that out. Now you might think I'm biting off more than I can chew by defending a pitcher with a 7.52 ERA for the Rockies, but hear me out.
Let me start with the main impetus of this post, well, besides the fact that you guys just don't seem to appreciate him, which would be this.
That's right, Rincon was the only significant Rockies reliever to not allow any of his inherited runners to score, and not only that, he led the National League by having the most inherited runners without allowing any to touch home plate (fair disclosure: as a Tiger early in the season, Rincon did allow his one inherited runner to score, but that doesn't count in the NL stats). Let me just reiterate, when it came to helping out his fellow Rockies pitchers not get their ERA inflated by having those 19 runners they were responsible for letting get on base score, Rincon was perfect.
The combined run expectancies for the situations Rincon came in for the Rockies with runners on base was about 7.3 runs. This is what they could expect had they gone to any Joe Average NL reliever instead of the guy that was money in the bank when it came to watching their backs. That's seven plus runs that could have gone on somebody's permanent record, but didn't and that's all thanks to Juan Rincon.
Now, as a low leverage reliever, Rincon was no saint, and he left his share of baserunners as well. In fact, he left messes adding up to 7.86 expected runs with just 14 baserunners. This is where I think a lot of the ire from Rockies fans comes in. Seeing him hand the ball over to Jim Tracy with the bases loaded and nobody out isn't the best way to make an impression on fans. Here's the thing though, while Rincon would come into messy situations and help his fellow pitchers out, other Rockies bullpen pitchers apparently didn't feel much inclined to assist Rincon. Opponents didn't just score the expected eight runs off the Rockies in those situations, instead 11 of the 14 baserunners that Rincon had left ended up crossing home plate. Countryman Franklin Morales was especially unkind, twice coming in after Rincon left the bases loaded and twice allowing all three runners to score (note to Tracy: Morales and bases loaded situations = very bad).
Compared to the average NL pitcher, Rincon saved other Rockies pitchers around seven runs. He got screwed over by them for just over three. If you were somehow able to take that combined 10 from his 22 total allowed, his ERA would be 4.10; not too shabby for a middle guy. But no, Rincon's the schmuck that takes the fall for everybody else while saving their tails at the same time.
Despite being signed to a minor league contract with a NRI, I think as long as he's healthy and as decent as he has been for most of his career, I believe it's somewhat inevitable that Juan Rincon sees time in a Rockies uniform in 2010. My hope is that we don't get quite so many groans and FanPosts lamenting the coming apocalypse, but instead can be a little more level-headed. One more Rincon fact to consider before I get off the high horse:
In 2009, the ERA's of 24 of the top 25 pitchers (20 IP or more) when it came to batting average against ranged from Mike Adams' 0.73 to Edinson Volquez's 4.35. In general, when pitchers don't allow a lot of hits, they don't allow a lot of runs. You probably already know who the exception was. The two ways to take that are 1) Rincon's ERA in 2009 probably should have been a lot lower, or 2) his BAA in 2010 will probably be a lot higher. One's very true, two's probably at least somewhat true also, though. I'm not going into 2010 with a lot of expectations for Rincon other than to say that he's a solid add to our bullpen depth, and not the pariah that many make him out to be.