FanPost

How did the Rockies' 2014 starting pitchers perform and what happens in 2015?

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings Purple Row! First post here on the site, so I'd appreciate any feedback you may have for me as I look forward to contributing to the community in the future. Sorry if any of this seems redundant (I know the topic of Rockies' pitching has been harped upon by bloggers, journalists, etc. seemingly 24/7), but I've been studying in Rome and have been a touch out of the loop. My idea for this post is to discuss the position itself, review the performances of the Rockies' starting pitchers this past season, and finally offer my own thoughts on the rotation heading into the next season.

The Importance of Pitching

It's no secret that the game is increasingly pitching-oriented. The combination of an ever-increasing league wide strikeout rate and falling totals in walks and hits has placed growing emphasis on the importance of dominant pitching. While big bats are still coveted and are a necessary component of any team hoping to play meaningful games in the fall, the impact of skilled hitters is being felt ever so slightly less as their abilities become mitigated to some degree by effective pitching.

It's hard to explain hitters' struggles in recent years. Some attribute it to increasing velocity or better framing behind the plate. A catcher's ability behind the plate can clearly have tangible effects on whether pitches are called strikes or balls, and higher velocity would naturally equate to more whiffs. Perhaps the change can be partially attributed to the introduction of increasingly aggressive defensive shifts, although the jury seems split on their actual effectiveness. Additionally, expanding strike zones, perhaps in an effort to speed up the game, have seen a growing number of pitches outside the zone called for strikes. Finally, the emphasis placed on power hitting may be influencing hitters' decisions to swing at pitches they might otherwise have taken. "After all," writes CBS Sports' Marty Gitlin, "on-base percentage takes a back seat to slugging percentage on major league payrolls."

Take a look at league-wide numbers from the past seven seasons, courtesy of FanGraphs.

Season

Hits

Runs

K%

BB%

BB/K

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

BABIP

2008

43972

22585

17.5%

8.7%

0.50

.264

.333

.416

.749

.300

2009

43524

22419

18.0%

8.9%

0.49

.262

.333

.418

.751

.299

2010

42554

21308

18.5%

8.5%

0.46

.257

.325

.403

.728

.297

2011

42267

20808

18.6%

8.1%

0.44

.255

.321

.399

.720

.295

2012

42063

21017

19.8%

8.0%

0.40

.255

.319

.405

.724

.297

2013

42093

20255

19.9%

7.9%

0.40

.253

.318

.396

.714

.297

2014

41595

19761

20.4%

7.6%

0.37

.251

.314

.386

.700

.299

A steadily rising strikeout rate and falling walk rate has witnessed a decline in batting statistics across the board, despite a relatively constant BABIP. I'm not an expert in sabermetrics, but to me this implies that the struggles in hitting we've been seeing is by and large the product of tougher pitching. Whatever the case may be, and I'd be interested to hear what all of you have to say on the topic as I'm not sure myself, it seems clear that the already massive influence a pitcher has on the game is only growing. Unfortunately, as I'm sure we're all well aware of, pitching is the Rockies' biggest issue.

Season Review

The Rockies raked this past season, scoring 755 runs with a team slash line of .276/.327/.445. They also boasted, while healthy, one of the league's premier infield defenses. With two-time Gold Glove winner Troy Tulowitzki and 2014 Gold Glove Winner DJ LeMahieu up the middle and Justin Morneau and Nolan Arenado, himself a Gold Glove winner for his first two seasons, at the corners, Rockies' pitchers could be confident that balls hit on the ground would likely result in an out. I mean, how many times have you watched this play? I've watched it about a thousand times this past week.

Absolutely gorgeous.

The Rockies hit extremely well and played solid defense throughout most of the year but still finished 66-96, their fourth losing season in a row. While they were plagued by the injury bug, with injuries to superstars Tulo and Carlos Gonzalez, various key contributors from the 2013 season such as Jhoulys Chacin, Tyler Chatwood, and Nolan Arenado, and to newcomers like Brett Anderson, the major issue the Rockies had was with their pitching. A dismal effort from a shaky bullpen combined with an injury-riddled starting rotation meant that the Rockies, despite their performances with the bat and glove, struggled mightily. With that said, let's see how the guys who took the mound to start the games performed.

Name

W

L

GS

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

GB%

HR/FB

ERA

FIP

xFIP

Jorge De La Rosa

14

11

32

184.1

6.79

3.27

1.03

.263

51.6%

12.9%

4.10

4.34

3.95

Jordan Lyles

7

4

22

126.2

6.39

3.27

0.85

.295

51.7%

11.9%

4.33

4.22

3.98

Franklin Morales

6

9

22

142.1

6.32

4.11

1.52

.315

42.8%

15.9%

5.37

5.42

4.53

Tyler Matzek

6

11

19

117.2

6.96

3.37

0.69

.312

49.7%

8.3%

4.05

3.78

3.92

Juan Nicasio

6

6

14

93.2

6.05

2.98

1.83

.298

45.9%

18.3%

5.38

5.45

4.18

Jhoulys Chacin

1

7

11

63.1

5.97

3.98

1.14

.285

42.9%

11.6%

5.40

4.82

4.53

Yohan Flande

0

6

10

59.0

5.19

2.44

0.76

.272

58.2%

12.5%

5.19

4.00

3.73

Christian Bergman

3

5

10

54.2

5.10

1.65

1.48

.333

32.7%

10.5%

5.93

4.74

4.55

Brett Anderson

1

3

8

43.1

6.02

2.70

0.21

.314

61.0%

3.3%

2.91

2.99

3.55

Tyler Chatwood

1

0

4

24.0

7.50

3.00

1.50

.254

45.7%

22.2%

4.50

4.88

3.64

Christian Friedrich

0

4

3

24.1

9.99

3.70

1.11

.324

39.1%

12.0%

5.92

4.00

3.66

Eddie Butler

1

1

3

16.0

1.69

3.94

1.13

.328

51.6%

13.3%

6.75

5.69

5.23

Jair Jurrjens

0

1

2

9.1

8.68

2.89

3.86

.485

36.1%

30.8%

10.61

8.06

4.21

Pedro Hernandez

0

1

1

5.2

3.18

3.18

0.00

.316

61.1%

0.0%

4.76

4.01

5.11

So, what do we get from this? The Rockies had to use a ton of different guys, even resorting to having to put Matt Belisle on the mound to toss a few innings; I didn't include him on the list due to his irrelevancy regarding the article. Watching the likes of Pedro Hernandez, Jair Jurrjens, and Yohan Flande take the mound for the Rockies was cringe-worthy. If players like them are starting anymore than a handful of games next year for the Rockies, we're in for a long season. Thankfully, the former two are free agents and Flande showed that he could be a viable option in the bullpen. Similarly, Christian Friedrich towards the end of the season started looking like a guy who could potentially be a solid bullpen option, especially against lefties.

Brett Anderson is gone for now, although there is some talk he may be resigned, and Nicasio has said his farewells as he departs for L.A. Morales, whose occasional flashes of brilliance were marred by inconsistency and wildness, is also a free agent. It remains to be seen when/if Chacin will be back and, even if he does come back, what version we'll get. Although he must be given some leeway due to injury, he seemed to struggle on the mound and is a major variable going into the next season. two years ago Chacin showed that he could be an elite pitcher for the Rockies. Now? Now it's tough to say what, if any, contribution the Rockies can expect this coming season. Chatwood is not expected back for the majority of the season, if at all.

Bergman will never impress you with his stuff, but it seems he might become a serviceable back-end starter. He pounds the zone, per the Rockies pitch-to-contact philosophy, but got hammered as a result. I'm happy to see a guy, however, who isn't afraid of going after hitters. He's still young and has time on his hands. I'm a big fan of Bergman for whatever reason, and I can definitely see him as the Rockies' 5th starter depending on the state of the roster.

Eddie Butler, another young pitcher making his debut, wasn't around long enough to evaluate due to injury. Unlike Bergman, Butler has the stuff and the pedigree to be an effective front-end starter on a major league rotation. As long as he's healthy, something that seems to be said about pretty much everyone on the roster, Butler should enter the season as a member of the rotation. He's got the stuff, improving command, and will hopefully be a valuable member of the rotation moving forward.

Our third debutant, Tyler Matzek, put together a great year highlighted by his complete game shutout of the Padres. After a difficult stretch where he struggled with command and a blooming walk rate in the minors, Matzek seems to have finally gotten everything together to the point where he looks like a potential elite starter for the Rockies. If Matzek can put in an effort comparable to or better than this past season, we're in for a real treat.

Finally, we arrive at two other pitchers who put in very solid performances. Jorge De La Rosa deservedly got paid in the form of a two-year, $25 million contract. He showed an uncanny ability to win at Coors, something that can be said about few others. For a rotation as inconsistent as it was, he was a stabilizing force that was much needed. Jordan Lyles, on the other hand, was an unknown commodity coming into the season. After the Dexter Fowler trade, I was one of many who thought the Rockies' front office had completely lost it. I stand corrected, and I'm pleased to be able to say so. Besides the fact that the trade made room for the likes of Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson, the Rockies received a guy who seems like a solid option in the rotation moving forwards. There was little to suggest that Lyles would have any success in Colorado, and I thought it likely that he would spend the bulk of the year in the minors. It turned out, however, that Lyles would emerge as one of the Rockies' most consistent starters. His performances, whilst not injured, coupled with the seasons Blackmon, Dickerson, and Morneau put together make the trade look a very good one for the Rockies.

Roster Projections

Having taken a brief look at the performances of the Rockies' numerous starting pitchers this past season, I'd like to now offer my own thoughts on the rotation moving forwards. I think that, assuming everyone remains healthy, the Rockies will break camp with a starting rotation of Jorge De La Rosa, Tyler Matzek, Jordan Lyles, Eddie Butler, and Christian Bergman barring any acquisitions or breakout performances from some of the Rockies prospects. Tyler Anderson remains an interesting option, but I think it likely that he'll spend the beginning of the season in Triple-A continuing his development. Jon Gray should also see time at the Show, but it is likely that this won't be until a few months into the season.

Thanks for the read Purple Row: I hope you found the post interesting. I'd like to hear from you all on your opinions regarding the Rockies' rotation outlook heading into the next season. Who do you think will be the starting five? What moves, if any, do you see the Rockies making? And, finally, who do you think will be the Rockies' starters at the season's end?

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. But the above FanPost does not necessarily reflect the attitudes, opinions, or views of Purple Row's staff (unless, of course, it's written by the staff [and even then, it still might not]).