Fact: the Colorado Rockies have never had a pitcher win a Cy Young Award. In fact, they’ve only ever had three candidates crack the top ten (Marvin Freeman, 1994; Jeff Francis, 2007; and Ubaldo Jiménez, 2010). Ubaldo Jiménez’ remarkable 2010 and third place podium finish ranks him highest amongst Rockies Cy Young candidates, but still no pitcher has taken home the hardware while playing in purple pinstripes.
A few weeks ago, Purple Row’s Eric Garcia McKinley wrote about Kyle Freeland’s incredible pitching season. While most players hit some sort of sophomore slump, Freeland is undoubtedly in the midst of a career year. After starting off the 2018 season under the radar as the Rockies’ fifth starter, he has been putting himself on the map as one of the three best pitchers in the rotation alongside Germán Márquez and Jon Gray, and might even be pushing for the role of ace in this young staff. Beyond that, he is having such a career year that he might be forcing himself in the conversation for the NL Cy Young as a dark horse candidate, and rightfully so.
Kyle Freeland’s dominance has been well-documented this season, particularly at Coors Field. In 12 starts at home in 2018, he has posted a 2.27 ERA. The next lowest 2018 Rockies starter home ERA in 2018 belongs to Tyler Anderson at 4.34 -- which is nearly twice that of Freeland. Here are Kyle’s complete 2018 stats:
Kyle Freeland’s 2018 Stats
Comparatively, here are Ubaldo Jiménez’ stats from his 2010 campaign:
Ubaldo Jiménez’ 2010 Stats
Now, there are still 21 games left to be played in 2018, which means Freeland probably has about 3-4 more starts in him. However, as you can see, Freeland’s numbers are mostly skewed towards Coors Field whereas Jiménez’ are mostly skewed away from Coors Field. That in itself is impressive and should absolutely merit Cy Young rumblings, especially since Jiménez is the only other Rockies pitcher to ever have posted a sub-3.00 ERA in the franchise’s 25-year history and he finished on the podium in 2010.
The National League is laced with incredible pitchers, from Max Scherzer to Jacob deGrom and even Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner (despite their shortened 2018 seasons). In the American League, there are only a few dominant pitchers, such as Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, and Justin Verlander.
Currently, Freeland’s heaviest Cy Young competition comes from a three man race of Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola, and Jacob deGrom. Scherzer boasts 260 strikeouts; deGrom has a 1.68 ERA to his name; and Nola owns a 9.4 bWAR. Freeland’s numbers aren’t quite as pretty from the outside, but again his excellent season at Coors Field should be enough for him to be at least a dark horse candidate for this award. Even catcher Chris Iannetta agrees:
The average era for the last 15 NL Cy Young award winners at Coors Field, in the year they won that Cy Young award is 4.18. @KFREE_21 has a 2.27 at Coors. At the very least, he should be in the conversation! @rockies @mlb Stats per @MosesMassena16.— Chris Iannetta (@Chris_Iannetta) September 7, 2018
Now, deGrom has the lowest career ERA at Coors of the other two at 2.51 in two starts (Nola 2.57 in one start, Scherzer 5.88 in five starts) but that still shouldn’t take away from the fact that Kyle Freeland has a 3.05 career ERA at Coors and 2.27 ERA in 2018.
The bottom line
It will be interesting to see how the 2018 NL Cy Young race pans out over the next few weeks. Everything will come down to miniscule factors that set the candidates apart, such as deGrom’s 1.68 ERA but 8-8 record or the Nationals and Phillies slowly fading from the playoff picture despite Scherzer and Nola having incredible seasons.
Much like Larry Walker’s 1997 MVP season, any pitcher who wants to win a Cy Young in Colorado will have to blow the competition away and leave no doubt in voters’ minds that he deserves it. While Kyle Freeland’s breakout year may not win him the hardware in 2018, it should at least put him in the conversation for a while if his dominance of Coors Field continues and hopefully one day put him at the top of the podium rather than just on it.