When Rafael Betancourt left the field Thursday night after blowing his second consecutive save, it may have been the last time we see him in a Rockies uniform, or any uniform for that matter.
He is currently on the DL with what's listed as a right elbow strain and Betancourt and the Rockies fear that an MRI on Monday could reveal a torn ligament. If his elbow is torn, Betancourt would be a likely Tommy John surgery candidate and at age 38 with just a 2014 option left on his contract, it could be the end of the road for Raffy.
Beloved by his teammates for his leadership and work ethic, losing Betancourt is no slight loss. Betancourt has been one of the best relief pitchers in Rockies franchise history. His 1.01 WHIP is basically the lowest of any pitcher in franchise history, in fact, the the only two pitchers that have lower WHIPs, pitched one and two innings respectively. Betancourt has been a model of consistency and until this season, a work horse.
He is fifth in the franchise with 57 saves, despite only being the closer for one full season and now part of another. In his Rockies career he has struck out 275 batters compared to just 44 walks for an outstanding 6.25 K/BB ratio. His 275 strikeouts in 236.1 innings means that he averages 10.47 strikeouts per nine innings pitched with 44 walks he averages just 1.67 walks per nine innings.
Not only was Betancourt dominant, but he did it using primarily one pitch, his fastball. As a set up man for the Rockies in 2010 and 2011 Betancourt threw his fastball 78 % of the time while occasionally mixing in a slider. There aren't many pitchers that can survive on basically one pitch in the late innings of a game, but Betancourt did it night after night with deception and pin point control. I'm not saying he's Mariano Rivera, nobody is, but he's the closest thing Rockies' fans have seen to Rivera on a consistent basis.
It wasn't until Betancourt became a closer that he dropped the use of his fastball down to roughly 37% in order to be able to fool hitters on a more consistent basis. Being able to adapt and change his style of pitching in order to become a closer shows even more about Betancourt's ability as a pitcher
The Rockies acquired Betancourt on July 22nd of 2009 for minor league pitcher Connor Graham. It's arguably one of the best trades in franchise history as Betancourt pitched to a 1.78 ERA in 32 games after being acquired and was a stabilizing force in the back end of the Colorado bullpen. The Rockies made it to the playoffs and it was due in large part to Betancourt.
If Raffy is done for the season, and potentially his career, Rockies fans should recognize him as one of the best pitchers in franchise history.