Signed over the offseason to a one-year, $507,500 contract, Chris Rusin was finally able to get himself a spot in an MLB-level rotation with the Rockies after years spent bouncing between the Chicago Cubs and their minor league affiliates. Drafted by the Cubs out the University of Kentucky in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB Draft, Rusin made his debut in 2012, making seven starts. He pitched 66.1 innings for the Cubs in 2013, but appeared in just four games for them in 2014. With the Rockies, Rusin pitched a career-high 131.2 innings over 22 starts (24 appearances).
It was a bit of a mixed bag for the lefty — something that can be said about pretty much everyone on the Rockies' roster — with some absolutely masterful performances and some downright dreadful ones. Rusin had a fine debut with the Rockies when he got the call, going seven innings and allowing just a run against Cincinnati. He followed that up with 4.2 scoreless innings from the 'pen against Philadelphia before allowing just two in a seven inning start against Miami. Rusin was hammered in his next start, however, and allowed six runs over 5.1 innings on 11 hits and two walks. This was the narrative for Rusin's year in a nutshell; he would have a run of really nice outings before landing in a rut and getting blown up.
After opening the season impressively, my fear was that his performances were simply a product of being an unknown and that opposing teams would figure him out. That Rusin was able to pitch solidly throughout the season is encouraging. In fact, his two best starts came later in the season. The gem of those was, of course, his shutout of the San Diego Padres in which he allowed just five hits and struck out four. He followed that up three starts later against the Giants, going all nine innings and allowing just three runs. On the other end of the spectrum, however, were some really brutal outings, the worst of which came against the Mets as Rusin was hammered to the tune of 11 in just two innings.
His stuff is far from electric, but when he's finding his spots and inducing weak contact, Rusin's a solid pitcher. He finished the year with an ERA of 5.33, xFIP of 4.21, and a WAR of 0.9. His strikeout numbers (5.88 K/9) and walk rate (2.80 BB/9) both improved with the Rockies — hard to believe, I know — and he was effective in inducing ground balls (52.1 GB%). All told, Rusin's definitely a guy I'd like back with the Rockies in 2016 as backend starter. If he can just find some more consistency, he'll be very valuable moving forwards. Last, but far from least, we can look forwards to some more of these.