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. 12, Jake McGee (1.4 rWAR)
Jake McGee rebounded from a rough 2016 by becoming a go-to reliever for the Colorado Rockies on their way to a playoff berth. In the process, he became another case study for the year-to-year volatility of relief pitchers and possibly earned himself a nice little deal in free agency.
The Rockies held on and reached the playoffs largely on the strength of their bullpen, and McGee was a big part of that success. The lefty posted a 3.61 ERA in 62 appearances with a 9.1 K/9 mark. He saved three games and offered a certain peace of mind during the season that the team had another option to close out games.
Part of the reason that McGee was such a versatile option for the Rockies was the fact that he delivered relatively even splits. He was actually even a tick more effective against right-handed hitters, giving up a meager .202/.262/.323 line against them as compared to a .256/.313/.377 line against lefties.
As a pitcher who relies largely on his fastball, McGee regained velocity en route to regaining his effectiveness. In a tumultuous 2016 with the Rockies, McGee averaged 93.4 mph velocity on his fastball, the lowest mark of his career. That number jumped back up to 94.9 mph for an average velocity in 2017. With his main weapon back, the lefty was then able to play off that more effectively with his slider and get hitters out the way the Rockies envisioned when they traded for him prior to 2016. He still doesn’t miss bats like he did in his Tampa Bay days, but he was back to being an effective reliever.
What was the difference for McGee? It seems like the explanation that offered a knee injury as the reason for the bad results last season was proven at least partially correct. With better health, McGee’s delivery was back to normal and he was able to build on his solid second half in 2016. A year after Boone Logan enjoyed a huge bounce-back and showed the fickle nature of relief pitchers, McGee similarly turned things around and endeared himself to Colorado fans in his walk year.
McGee hits free agency this winter. He certainly pitched well enough that he should be paid handsomely to set up and possibly spot-save somewhere. It remains to be seen if that will be a fit for the Rockies, with factors including their potential interest in other free agents and the three-year deal they already gave Mike Dunn last year.
McGee does not necessarily overlap with Dunn because, as seen in his 2017 results, McGee is hardly a lefty specialist. Still, given the price of pitchers in free agency and the premium that the Rockies sometimes have to pay on the open market, here’s betting McGee moves on to another team.