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Rockies 2014 season review: Jorge De La Rosa

In a starting rotation projected by many to be among the finest the Rockies had ever assembled, only Jorge De La Rosa answered the bell again and again for the Rockies in 2014.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Jorge De La Rosa entered 2014 having just had his best year in the majors, earning 4.3 rWAR in 167 2/3 innings of 3.49 ERA pitching. The 33 year-old lefty was also in the final year of his four year, $42 million contract - a contract that had seen De La Rosa's season abbreviated by injury in its first two seasons. In other words, there was a lot on the line for De La Rosa personally and professionally entering the year as Colorado's top pitcher (particularly since Jhoulys Chacin was injured).

Accompanied by holdovers Chacin, Tyler Chatwood, and Juan Nicasio as well as trade acquisition Brett Anderson, De La Rosa was supposed to head one of the best starting rotations in Rockies history. Instead, he was the lone man from that projected rotation left standing at the end of the year. In fact, for much of the season De La Rosa was the only starter in the rotation from that group.

What happened

The season began with a disastrous Opening Night performance in which De La Rosa and Wilin Rosario argued vociferously en route to the pitcher unraveling in the 5th inning. That start was followed by two more in which the lefty did not make it out of the 5th inning - at which point his ERA was an unseemly 9.69.

Fortunately, a trip to Petco Park in San Diego began a string of eight starts in which De La Rosa lowered his ERA each time, recording a quality start in six of them. Of course, De La Rosa then alternated between extreme ineffectiveness - including a 7.11 ERA in 31 June innings in which hitters had a .916 OPS against him - and competence - including a 1.93 ERA May and a 2.30 ERA July. The net effect was a year in which De La Rosa was somewhat less effective than he'd been in 2013 - despite a lower than average .263 BABIP.

One thing JDLR did this year is give the Rockies innings - over his last 17 starts, he went at least six frames in 15 of them - leading Colorado in innings pitched by 42 innings over Franklin Morales. Despite the pleas of many to trade him at the deadline when it was clear the Rockies were going nowhere, Colorado instead inked him to a two year, $25 million contract.

By the numbers
Jorge De La Rosa, 2014
IP 184 1/3
ERA 4.10
FIP 4.34
K/9 6.8
BB/9 3.3
GB% 51.6
BABIP ..263
rWAR 2.4

As he did in 2013, De La Rosa really excelled against left-handed hitters. Namely, he was death against them - holding lefties to a paltry .196/.260/.272 batting line, or an excellent 53 sOPS+ allowed. JDLR also did well to generate bunches of ground balls - in fact, his 51.6% ground ball percentage was 16th among qualified pitchers in MLB this year. De La Rosa developed a cutter in 2014 that he threw 16% of the time, but he mostly relied on his four-seamer and splitter/changeup - the latter of which was easily his most effective pitch, a pitch that rated 4th most effective in MLB among pitches of that type.

Continuing a split that defies logic (and also makes him extremely valuable to the Rockies), De La Rosa also was much more effective at Coors Field (10-2 with a 3.08 ERA in 15 home starts, .664 OPS against) than he was on the road (4-9, 5.09 ERA, .746 OPS against). That brings his career Coors Field line to 45-14 with a 3.98 ERA over 445 innings.

One final fun fact: JDLR allowed just a .407 OPS to hitters in the six hole in 82 plate appearances - easily the lowest outside of the pitcher's spot in the lineup.

2014 Grade: B+

As the other pitchers in the projected Opening Day rotation went down with injuries - and then their replacements were injured - De La Rosa took the ball every fifth day and gave the Rockies 184 1/3 league average innings. There's considerable value in that, which is why JDLR receives the grade he does - but if we're being honest, De La Rosa just wasn't as effective in 2014 as he'd been previously.

What to expect in 2015

In Jorge De La Rosa, the Rockies have a pitcher who not only is not intimidated by having Coors Field as his home park, he excels there to a historic degree. He's a known commodity that will hopefully serve as a consistently solid starter over the next two years, in which there is considerable uncertainty. With the contract he signed, De La Rosa will be making the most money he's ever made in a year in his age 34 and 35 seasons. Hopefully, Colorado will have a healthy and effective rotation around De La Rosa in those seasons.