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Bryan Shaw’s 3-year contract got off to a terrible start

Shaw had the worst season of his career — by a lot

You’re reading the 2018 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at the season had by every player to play for the Rockies in 2018. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the least amount of rWAR and end up with the player with the most.

★ ★ ★

No. 39, Bryan Shaw (-1.1 rWAR)

Bryan Shaw had the type of season that just confirms the “relievers are weird and shouldn’t be signed to big contracts” notion. And yet, just how bad Shaw was in 2018 is still surprising. Not only did Shaw post career-worst marks in just about every category, he did so by a lot.

Shaw had a 3.13 ERA over his first seven seasons and a 5.93 ERA in 2018. He had a 3.52 FIP over his first seven seasons, and he had a 4.92 FIP in 2018. Shaw’s adjusted ERA over his first seven seasons was 34 percent better than league average, while his adjusted ERA in 2018 was 21 percent worse. It was the first time in his career he was even below average. That Shaw had a bad season isn’t particularly surprising, but just how bad of a seas he had is. He ended the season on the sidelines, as Shaw was left off an NLDS roster that included DJ Johnson, who has 613 career innings pitched.

Still, that doesn’t mean Shaw’s entire contract was a mistake. It just means it got off to a pretty terrible start. We just have to look back at the first of the Rockies series of three-year contracts given out to relievers: Boone Logan. Logan played in eight seasons prior to joining the Rockies. He hit his stride during the four seasons he pitched the Yankees just before signing with Colorado, when he posted a 3.38 ERA, a 3.63 FIP, and an adjusted ERA 26 percent better than league average.

Logan’s first season with the Rockies went about as bad as it could go: a 6.84 ERA in just 25 innings. But in each of his final two seasons, his innings total increased while his ERA went down. By the time his contract ended, it didn’t look like a bad deal overall.

There’s a chance that can happen with Shaw as well. But the glimmer of hope for Shaw to bounce back — relievers are more unpredictable than other players — is also the same reason why the contract was probably a bad idea in the first place. There’s one year down and two to go, so we’ll see.