In spite of being a relatively ho-hum rookie, there isn't a more interesting player statistically who played for the Rockies in 2010 than Esmil Rogers.
The 25-year-old Dominican started the season as Purple Row's #4 ranked prospect as a starter in AAA. Due to injuries in the rotation and bullpen, Rogers found himself ruthlessly shuttled between the big league rotation, big league bullpen and Colorado Springs rotation. Through 72 IP, there are as varied of opinions on Rogers as one could imagine. Not even sabermetrics agree on Rogers' campaign. Fangraphs WAR lists the former shortstop at POSITIVE 1.4WAR; Baseball Reference WAR calulates him as NEGATIVE 1.4 WAR. More on this later.
Myth: Esmil Rogers was better as a reliever than starter. False. While this game and this game help support the myth, those represent just two of his 28 appearances. By season's end, he had a better walk and home run rate as a starter, with a slight OPS-against advantage of .024 to batters facing him as a starter.
Myth: Esmil Rogers had a very poor season, as evidenced by his -1.4 rWAR, 2-3 record and 6.13 ERA.
False, with all due respect to Baseball Reference's WAR. For those who still cling to traditional statistics in measuring pitchers, Rogers represents a perfect case study as to why more modern statistics can be helpful.
% Better than Avg.
The event pitchers affect most in the game of baseball is walks. Rogers was about league average, slightly better. Strikeouts are what pitchers control second most, and Rogers was well ahead of the pack there. Ground ball rate and home run rate are commonly thought of as the next most controllable outcomes, and Rogers graded out extremely well there. Even his line drive rate was only slightly worse than league average. So why did the diminutive rookie sport such a gaudy earned run average?
Bad luck. And potentially bad form.
Despite well above average peripherals (including his batted ball profile), opponents reached base on 39.4% of batted balls. His strand rate was also incredibly low. This can partially be attributed to two disastrous outings, on August 25, and September 25.
On those two days, Rogers got five outs and allowed 12 ER combined. He faced 19 batters, walked one, struck out three and allowed one home run. On the other 14 batted balls, 12 results in hits. That is just plain stupid. As I recall, it was speculated that Rogers was tipping his pitches on August 25, a flaw that will certainly be exploited in MLB. I only listened to that particular game on the radio, so I cannot say whether I saw whether he did or not, but I would not be surprised.
Whether it was tipping pitches or just horrifyingly bad luck, neither are liable to repeat in 2011. Bob Apodaca and Rogers would make adjustments to pitch tipping (he had a 3 ER in 12.1 IP streak following August 25), and the bad luck just won't return. At least not at those levels.
Note: fWAR is calculated from FIP, essentially stripping all "luck-based" stats, including hits. That is why fWAR is so bullish on Rogers. rWAR actually takes runs allowed and adjusts for defense, thereby attributing all hits to Rogers just as ERA does. That is why rWAR calls Rogers the Rockies' worst pitcher. You make your pick, but I look at fWAR for young pitchers and other small sample sizes, then move to rWAR once significant sample sizes have been logged.
Grade: B-. Since I adhere to FIP and fWAR for small samples sizes, it seems to me that Rogers pitched quite well in his rookie season.
I have confirmed directly through Tracy Ringolsby that Esmil Rogers has an option remaining for 2011. While he has used all of the usual maximum of three options (2008, 2009, 2010), he has been granted a fourth due to limited service time within the organization. Although he was signed in 2003, he did not debut with the Rockies in the stateside minor league system until 2006.
This is significant, because the Rockies' bullpen currently seems fairly rigidly constructed with Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt, Matt Belisle, Matt Lindstrom, Franklin Morales, Matt Reynolds and Felipe Paulino. Of the seven, only Matt Reynolds has an available option, but he figures to be an integral part of the bullpen as a left-hander. That leaves Rogers as the odd man out due solely to contract status. He would bide his time in AAA as the so-called "sixth-starter."
Of course, life isn't always terrible as the sixth starter. Unless you're the 2010 Giants, the sixth starter is guaranteed a handful of starts at minimum due to injuries and/or ineffectiveness. We will be seeing Esmil and his smooth pitching motion at some point.