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This was the year we all became Kyle Freeland Guys (and Gals)

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The Denver native put together perhaps the best pitching season in Rockies history.

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. 1, Kyle Freeland (8.4 rWAR)

Entering the 2018 season, Kyle Freeland was a nice story, the local kid who made good and had a solid rookie season with the Rockies. Exiting the 2018 season, he was legitimately thought of as one of the best pitchers in the National League.

What happened in between made Rockies fans everywhere into Kyle Freeland Guys:

Freeland’s 2018 season was quite possibly the best season by a pitcher in Rockies history. He posted a 2.85 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 202 13 innings with 173 strikeouts and 17 wins for good measure.

The 2.85 ERA was the best for a Rockies starter since Marvin Freeman had a 2.80 ERA in just 112 innings in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Considering pitchers that pitched at least the 162 innings needed to qualify for the ERA title, it was the best ever, surpassing the 2.88 mark from Ubaldo Jimenez’s 2010 season.

Also best in Rockies history for a pitcher was Freeland’s 8.4 rWAR in 2018. In fact, even including hitters it ranks as the third-best season in Rockies history by rWAR, behind just Larry Walker’s 9.8 in 1997 (his MVP year) and Todd Helton’s 8.9 in 2000.

However, Freeland’s 2018 season was about more than the simple numbers he accumulated. Including the postseason, the Rockies were 24-10 when he took the mound, and a staggering 16-2 in Freeland’s starts after July 1. He only gave up more than three runs once in those 18 starts. Days Freeland started just became win days in the minds of Rockies fans.

Freeland’s pièce de résistance came in the NL Wild Card Game, when he shut out the Cubs, who finished the regular season with the NL’s best record, through 6 23 masterful innings at Wrigley Field. He allowed just four hits, all singles, and walked only one while striking out six as the Rockies won 2-1 in 13 innings. Of the 82 pitches Freeland threw on the night in Chicago, 60 were strikes.

All of that led to Freeland finishing fourth in NL Cy Young voting, behind the PhilliesAaron Nola, Washington’s Max Scherzer and Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who took home the hardware. It was the third time a Rockies pitcher had a top-four finish in Cy Young voting: Freeman was fourth in 1994 and Jimenez finished third in 2010.

Freeland’s season also resonated with Rockies fans the way other great pitching seasons haven’t, because as a Denver native a lot of fans saw him as one of their own. Someone who, like them, had grown up going to games at Coors Field, only now he has become one of the few pitchers to conquer the notorious hitters’ paradise. Not only did he survive Coors, he thrived there, with a 2.40 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in his 15 home starts with 86 strikeouts in 93 23 innings in Denver.

Not only was Freeland the best Rockie in 2018, he was also the fan favorite. Looking forward, he will very likely be the Rockies’ Opening Day starter and ace in 2019, here’s hoping we hear a lot more from the Kyle Freeland Guys next season.