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Mike Dunn’s first season with the Rockies was a roller coaster

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The Rockies 18th best player had his share of ups and downs in 2017

Welcome to the 2017 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the in-season contributions of every player to don the purple this past season. The goal wasn’t and isn’t to quibble with order. Instead, it’s to get a snapshot of a player along with a look forward. For that reason, we simply sorted by Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement (rWAR) and will start at the bottom and end up at the top.

No 18, Mike Dunn (0.7 rWAR)

In their efforts to strengthen the bullpen this past offseason, the Rockies signed former Miami Marlins reliever Mike Dunn to a three-year deal worth $19 million. This was the first of the three guaranteed years in Dunn’s contract and it was a mixed bag in terms of results. Dunn was effective in his first few appearances as the Rockies built up a big lead in the NL West. Through the first week in May, Dunn sported a 1.48 FIP and a 0.84 WHIP with a 10.9 K/9 and just a 2.2 BB/9. It looked like the Rockies had made a pair of brilliant offseason moves as the one-two punch of Dunn and Greg Holland racked up eight holds and 13 saves through the season’s first 32 games. Things were looking good for Dunn and Rockies fans were glad to have him locked up for the following two years.

But through the rest of May and the remainder of the season, Dunn worked his way out of a high-leverage role and was used mainly as a lefty specialist and cleanup man. From May 9 through the All-Star break, Dunn compiled a 7.58 FIP, a 2.05 WHIP and a 6.4 BB/9. His numbers at home were astronomical and he quickly lost his setup job. Throughout the second half of the year, Dunn vastly improved on his ugly season numbers and ended up being one of the more reliable arms in the pen later in the year but he never regained his former high-leverage role.

Considering he was able to compile a 1.09 WHIP and a 3.42 FIP in the second half, it’s a bit surprising that Dunn never got another opportunity to retake his job as a back-end reliever. He generally came into close ballgames when the Rockies were behind or in games the Rockies led by four runs or more. However, a lot of his success may have come because of his role change in which case Bud Black was happy to have a reliable role-player type available to him. In the end, Dunn finished the season with a 4.63 FIP, a 1.41 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, and 0.2 WAR.

Looking ahead to next season, the presumed departures of Greg Holland, Jake McGee, and Pat Neshek open up an opportunity for Dunn to step back into a high-leverage role. His 5.0 BB/9 represented a career high and his numbers at Coors were especially alarming. If he can control his pitches and work on solving the Coors Field riddle, he could be successful in that role. However, his strong 2016 numbers with the Marlins were a bit of a career outlier so it is possible that the Mike Dunn we saw this year is the Mike Dunn we will see moving forward.

Dunn’s season mirrored the Rockies season in a lot of ways. He came out of the gate on fire and looked like a dominant force in the early part of the season but faded soon after. He went through tough stretches where nothing was going right but still showed signs that he might bounce back. Eventually he evened out and played well enough to be useful during the playoff run. The Rockies had an up and down year and so did Dunn. Here’s hoping next year sees an improvement for both.

2018 Outlook

Dunn heads into the second year of his deal in 2018. His contract was backloaded so his $4 million salary jumps to $7 million next season. Presumably, the Rockies will look to use him in more of the setup role they originally intended for him as he is one of just a handful of capable relievers currently on the roster for next season. Should the Rockies fail to sign a closer in the offseason, look for Dunn to be one of the early favorites for that job.