You might be aware of the fact that the Rockies have been terrible in 2015. With a record of 39-49 at the All-Star break, the Rockies are in last place in the NL West and have absolutely no shot at playing relevant games this fall. That's what most people predicted heading into this season--you don't pre-order champagne in bulk when your Opening Day starter is Kyle Kendrick--but seeing the Rockies struggle all year has nevertheless been a disappointment.
It has been a team effort to achieve this year's mediocrity. When you're a last place team, it isn't one or two players that disappoint; there will always be a large number of culprits you can blame. But in selecting a least valuable player you can't cop out and say "everyone has been awful." That defeats the purpose of the exercise. What you have to do is pick a player that embodies everything that has gone sideways for the Colorado Rockies; preferably a player who should have been a perceived strength for the team, but has instead become a massive liability.
Accordingly, I won't pick the player that has the worst WAR (a tie between Scott Oberg and Daniel Descalso at -0.9). Those guys weren't expected to be particularly good this year--we wish they hadn't been terrible, but their terribleness was foreseeable, even expected. I also won't pick Kyle Kendrick, who has been an unmitigated disaster in purple pinstripes, as any rational person should have predicted. But again, his struggles were practically an inevitability; you wouldn't get angry at the moon when the rising tide destroys your sand castle, would you?
And so, factoring in expectations, organizational weakness, and utter failure of performance, the least valuable Rockie of the first half of 2015 has been...
It feels wrong to pile on poor Matzek. It wasn't his fault he lost the strike zone. Being a Major League Baseball pitcher must be one of the hardest jobs in the world. You have to throw quality pitches, a feat of incredible athletic complexity, 100 times per start. If you lose focus for even one of those pitches, a muscle-bound slugger will wallop the ball deep into the night, and 40,000 raucous fans will immediately turn on you. They will boo you, and trash talk you on radio, and write a million tweets about your personal and professional shortcomings.
Getting the yips is even worse. Obviously it sucks to give up a bunch of home runs, like Kyle Kendrick has done. But at least that kind of struggling offers the hope of redemption; perhaps in your next start the hitters will get too anxious, or you'll get a bunch of ground balls, or your slider will be sharper. But when you can't throw strikes, you're really screwed. When it's walk after walk after walk, the very foundation upon which baseball is built is shaken. The rhythm of the game is destroyed. The bat is no longer swung. Plays in the field are no longer made. Instead of nine men versus nine men, the game becomes one man versus himself. In front of 40,000 people. With his job and his livelihood on the line. It is excruciating.
That's what happened to Matzek. If you looked exclusively at traditional stats, Tyler Matzek's five starts for the Rockies in 2015 don't look so bad. He had a 4.09 ERA and a 2-1 record. But those stats depict Matzek's story about as accurately as he pitched: not very. After walking just 3.37 batters per nine innings in 117 2/3 major league innings last year--the best rate of his career--Matzek's control deserted him in 2015. He walked 19 batters in 22 innings before the Rockies pulled the plug. He was simply incapable of throwing a fastball over the plate.
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<h4><span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png" /></span> Must Reads <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png" /></span></h4>
<div class="must-reads-compact-link-container"><a href="http://www.purplerow.com/2015/6/1/8670839/tyler-matzek-pitching-mechanics-delivery-colorado-rockies">Tyler Matzeki s bent, but not broken<span class="must-reads-compact-byline"></span></a>
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Matzek was demoted to Triple-A, where he made one start, walked seven batters in one inning, and was immediately shut down. Tyler is now out of game action and working with minor league bullpen coaches, trying to figure out what in the hell happened.
Matzek's implosion hurts especially bad because the Rockies are so thin at starting pitcher. It wasn't outside the realm of possibility for the Rockies to contend this year; they just needed a best case scenario with their starting pitching. If Matzek could have done what he did last year, and Jordan Lyles pitched 180 innings, and Jorge De La Rosa pitched to his career numbers, and Kendrick pitched serviceably...
Well. We know Lyles got hurt. We know Kendrick hasn't been serviceable. JDLR has been JDLR at least, but that's too little too late. The margin of error for Rockies starting pitching in 2015 was vanishingly small, and when Tyler Matzek collapsed, the season collapsed with him.
1. Carlos Gonzalez
A 93 wRC+ and 0.8 WAR from our second highest paid player is a major disappointment, recent hot streak notwithstanding.
2. Daniel Descalso
The point of Daniel Descalso was to prevent the Rockies from giving at bats to sub-replacement level hitters like Charlie Culberson or Rafael Ynoa. But Descalso has been as bad as Culberson was last year (31 wRC+ so far, compared to Culberson's 33 in 2014). And we gave a bunch of at bats to Rafael Ynoa anyway.
3. Kyle Kendrick
Damn you, moon!