One of my favorite things about baseball is that, over a 162 game season, even the worst teams will have good moments, and even the best teams will have bad moments.
The Philadelphia Phillies, who finished the year with a league-worst 63-99 record, won 16 different games by five or more runs! The St. Louis Cardinals, who finished the year with a league-best 100-62 record, lost 16 games by five or more runs! Alfredo Simon, who had a league-worst 5.05 ERA, had six different starts in which he threw at least seven innings and allowed one or fewer earned runs. Even Zack Greinke and his astounding 1.66 ERA experienced two starts in which he allowed at least five earned runs. Following this train of thought, the Rockies probably had some good pitching performances, too, right? It turns out they did!
To determine the Rockies top pitching performances of the season, I went through the team's schedule and picked out their top 10 performances in terms of Win Probability Added (WPA). The way WPA works is pretty simple: it's purely a calculation of how much more or less likely to win a team was based on a given player's performance. If a player had a .1 WPA, his team was 10 percent more likely to win the game because of him. Conversely, a -0.1 WPA means that a player's team was 10 percent less likely to win because of his contributions (or lack thereof). So, without further adieu, here are the Rockies' top 10 pitching performances of 2015.
10) Brooks Brown: May 31 (.292 WPA) - Colorado Rockies 4, Philadelphia Phillies 1
We kick off the list with one of only two appearances made by a reliever. After starter Jordan Lyles left the game early in what would end up being his final start of 2015, Chris Rusin relieved him and threw 4⅔ scoreless innings. The Rockies led 4-1 after six innings; however, in the seventh inning, Rusin ran into trouble, allowing a walk and two singles to load the bases with nobody out before Brown relieved him. That wasn't a problem, though! Brown proceeded to strike out Cameron Rupp, Darin Ruf, and Ben Revere in order on just 11 pitches to get out of the inning unscathed and preserve the 4-1 lead that would eventually be the final score. He capped off the inning with this beautiful changeup to Revere:
9) Jordan Lyles: April 23 (.321 WPA) - Colorado Rockies 2, San Diego Padres 1
It was an abbreviated season for Lyles, which makes it tough to remember that when he was out there, he was actually pretty solid. He posted a 3.79 FIP in 49 innings. This was the best start of the bunch for Lyles, as he allowed just one run on six hits in 6⅔ innings, while walking two and striking out four. Lyles got bonus WPA points in this one as well since the Rockies only scored two runs in the game, making his innings more important. If, like me, you had mostly forgotten about this game, here are the highlights from Lyles' start:
8) Chad Bettis: September 11 (.352 WPA) - Colorado Rockies 4, Seattle Mariners 2
One of two pitchers to make multiple appearances in the top 10, Bettis makes his first appearance here in what's also the latest in the season of any game on the list. He allowed just three hits in seven scoreless innings, walking three and striking out six in the process. Dustin Garneau's three-run home run finally broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning and gave Bettis a chance to win. Also noteworthy: the Rockies beat an AL team in this game! Bettis was a legitimately above average pitcher this season, so enjoy the highlights of this one:
7) Rafael Betancourt: August 5 (.374 WPA) - Colorado Rockies 7, Seattle Mariners 5
In one of his last appearances as a Rockie, Betancourt had the most influential (in a positive way) appearance by a Rockies reliever this season. The Rockies and Mariners were tied up, 5-5, in the 10th inning when Betancourt inherited a very sticky situation. Christian Friedrich began the inning and walked the first two batters he faced; he then got an out on a sacrifice bunt before giving way to Betancourt with men on second and third with just one out. Ketel Marte was the first hitter Betancourt faced. He struck him out. The next batter was Kyle Seager, and he popped out harmlessly to left fielder Kyle Parker. The Rockies eventually won the game in 11 innings and gave Betancourt one more nice moment before his days with the club came to an end.
6) Jorge De La Rosa: September 4 (.386 WPA) - Colorado Rockies 2, San Francisco Giants 1
The master of Coors Field was at it again in this game, as he took down the Giants for his ninth win of the season and 78th of his Rockies career. As he tends to be fairly often for the Rockies, De La Rosa was fantastic. He allowed just a single run on six hits in seven innings. He didn't walk a batter and struck out seven on the day. I know you want the highlights, so here you go:
5) Jorge De La Rosa: August 19 (.408 WPA) - Washington Nationals 4, Colorado Rockies 1
There are a few noteworthy things about this game. First, as I'm sure you noticed, De La Rosa joins Bettis as the only pitchers with multiple appearances on the list. Second, this is the first game we've looked at that the Rockies didn't win. But don't blame De La Rosa for that! He actually had quite the struggle with his command here, tying his season-high with six walks in the game, but it didn't stop him from being effective. De La Rosa tossed six shutout innings and allowed just four hits with six strikeouts to go along with the walks. Unfortunately, the bullpen was unable to hold the 1-0 lead the Rockies had when De La Rosa departed, but let's not talk about that part right now. Time for more De La Rosa pitching highlights!
4) Jorge De La Rosa: May 16 (.417 WPA) - Colorado Rockies 7, Los Angeles Dodgers 1
I'm sensing a theme here. This is De La Rosa's third straight appearance on the list, and it was an especially encouraging start for him. After putting up an ugly 9.56 ERA across his first four starts of the year, De La Rosa went out and threw 7⅓ shutout innings. In the process he allowed just two hits, walked none, and struck out three. On the downside, he had to leave the game after re-aggravating his nagging groin injury, but this one remained his longest scoreless start of the season. I know you want to watch the highlights, and who am I to deprive you of them? Enjoy!
3) Jorge De La Rosa: June 30 (.438 WPA) - Colorado Rockies 2, Oakland Athletics 1
There are pitchers not named Jorge De La Rosa on this list, I promise. This would be De La Rosa's most impactful start of the year. He threw seven more scoreless innings to give the Rockies a lead during a road game in which the offense, unsurprisingly, struggled to score. It was another game where he may not have had his best stuff, he walked four and struck out four, but he once again did a fantastic job of not only limiting damage but preventing it entirely. Here's Jorge throwing some more baseballs.
2) Chad Bettis: May 29 (.474 WPA) - Colorado Rockies 4, Philadelphia Phillies 1
See? I told you there were other pitchers on here. As we move into the top two, we're getting to the two starts that really distinguished themselves from the pack. Coming in at number two is Chad Bettis in his second appearance in the top 10. I'm sure most of you reading this remember this game well. Bettis took a no-hitter (that would've been a perfect game if not for Troy Tulowitzki's error) into the eighth inning where it was broken up on a weakly hit ground ball by Cody Asche that beat the shift. At the end of the day, Bettis gave the Rockies eight shutout innings while allowing only two hits, walking none, and striking out seven. This was the game that made a lot of people believe that Bettis might actually be a nice thing. Does that mean the Rockies can't have him? Only time will tell. For now, enjoy the highlights of the highest game score from a Rockies pitcher in 2015.
1) Chris Rusin: August 16 (.555 WPA) - Colorado Rockies 5, San Diego Padres 0
Here we are. We've reached the top of the list. As we all predicted, Chris Rusin had the most influential start of the season for the Rockies. Not that it wasn't deserved -- the guy threw a complete game shutout -- but before the year started Rusin figured to be more "Triple-A depth" than "guy throwing a shutout at Coors Field." Unfortunately, the win in this one was pretty meaningless and Rusin cratered to the tune of 11 earned runs in two innings in his very next start, but we aren't here to talk about that! Go Chris Rusin! Throw more shutouts next season, please. It took Rusin 106 pitches to complete the feat as he allowed just five hits and a walk in the game to go with his four strikeouts. Rusin also gets bonus points here for where he did it, tossing just the 12th shutout by a Rockies pitcher at Coors Field.
So there you have it, the 10 most awesome Rockies pitching performances of the season. These performances helped the Rockies to get nine of their 68 wins and were some fun moments in an otherwise bad season.