The Colorado Rockies on Wednesday dropped yet another game at Coors Field, falling to an absolutely embarrassing 17-24 at home and 35-49 overall.
Simply put, the Rockies are a bad baseball team. In addition to not having enough talent on the field, Colorado struggles to keep its players healthy. And even when the best players aren't dealing with injuries, the team has been so poorly managed as of late that the positive contributions are nearly canceled out.
But, dang, has Chris Rusin been solid or what?
Rusin on a rainy night in LoDo posted his fourth consecutive quality start, giving up only two solo home runs to Los Angeles Angels megastar Mike Trout -- a thing for which it would be hard to blame any pitcher -- in six innings of work. The 28-year-old left-hander owns a 2.96 ERA and has walked fewer than two batters per nine innings during that span.
The result is a nice partial season's worth of numbers for Rusin. His 4.13 ERA (108 ERA+) in 52⅓ innings has been a tremendous shot in the arm for the Rockies, even if the results aren't there in the win column. That's often no fault of Rusin's; Colorado has lost four of his six quality starts largely because of poor offensive production.
From the beginning, Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich saw something in Rusin, whom the team very quietly claimed off of waivers from the Chicago Cubs last September:
"Rusin is a guy that we claimed that our scouts have liked as that back-end type of starter. He's a control-command guy; he sinks the ball, gets ground balls, doesn't get in trouble with walks, forces contact and there doesn't seem to be any sort of fear."
"His stuff isn't going to wow you, but he's going to compete."
The Rockies throughout their history have had trouble finding pitchers willing to overcome the mental hurdles often created by Coors Field and do that last thing Bridich mentioned. But Rusin has been different, albeit in a small sample size. The University of Kentucky product has made only three starts at 20th and Blake but has made the most of them, posting a 3.32 ERA while walking just four batters in 19 innings.
Perhaps the best part of Rusin's strong start to the season is that there isn't much luck involved -- and that his mental toughness is quantifiable. His strand rate of 74.1 percent is right around league average and the rate of balls in play against him that go for hits is actually about 20 points above that. Additionally, his HR/9 and HR/FB rates are well above league average and his career totals, suggesting he might actually be due for some positive regression in those departments.
His 3.98 xFIP should help steer critics away from the "luck" thing, as well.
Rusin gives up a lot of hits, and because he's a contact pitcher, that will likely always be the case. But he's able to mitigate that by inducing a lot of ground balls and keeping walks to a minimum.
The Rockies have done well in past years finding diamonds in the rough to insert into their bullpen. But with Rusin, it's possible that they've stumbled upon a pitcher who can stick in their rotation while giving the team a good chunk of average to slightly above-average innings.
Not bad for an almost unnoticed waiver wire pickup.