Welcome to the 2019 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2019. 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 lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 32, Mike Dunn: -0.2 rWAR
Around the All-Star break in 2017 (before I joined the Purple Row staff), Colorado Rockies’ director of brand management and social media Julian Valentin and the @Rockies crew gathered a group of active Rockies Twitter members to help out with getting Rox players voted into the All-Star Game. I happened to be one of them. For our efforts, the Rockies sent us all a package of goodies.
So, what does all of this have to do with Mike Dunn?
Well, among the goodies I received was a signed baseball from Dunn.
Ever since then, I have taken a shine to Dunn. I even asked for a Dunn “shirsey” for Christmas 2018 and was delighted when my wish came true, and I received my gift.
Now, when the Rockies signed Dunn to a three-year, $19 million contract during the 2016-17 offseason, it was not without some concerns. In his six prior seasons with the Marlins, he had excellent strikeout numbers, but also walked over four batters per nine innings and gave up around a homer per nine as well. These numbers weren’t the most pristine for a reliever stepping foot into Coors Field.
Ultimately, Dunn’s Rockies’ tenure was plagued by ineffectiveness and injury. In his first year with the club, Dunn walked over five batters per nine innings en route to a 4.47 ERA. The strikeout numbers were still there, leaving some hope for 2018. However, in his second year with the club, Dunn walked more batters than he struck out over 17 innings before succumbing to an AC joint injury that resulted in season-ending surgery.
Back in the big leagues in 2019 (though he again missed some time due to the same injury), Dunn showed the lowest fastball velocity of his career (91.5 mph from a guy who regularly threw in the mid-90s at his peak). Dunn threw his slider more than ever before, perhaps as a means of compensating for the decreased velocity on his heater. According to FanGraphs’ pitch values, Dunn’s slider was measured at -4.4 runs.
Dunn finished the 2019 campaign with a 7.13 ERA in 17 2/3 innings, allowing four home runs. He was designated for assignment on June 18 and released shortly after. Just for fun, however, we will note that Dunn’s DRA- of 87 was actually his best since 2014. So there’s that.
It was Dunn’s final appearance that appeared to be the final straw for the Rockies. Pitching on June 14 (Game 2 of the series from hell against the San Diego Padres), Dunn allowed four runs in just a third of an inning—his final pitch in a Rockies’ uniform resulting in a home run by Hunter Renfroe (the second of three he would hit that day). Here it is if you would like to relive that moment:
Dunn’s Rockies’ career will live on through my occasional wearing of his “shirsey” and the cold winter day when I will stare at my signed baseball and be reminded of warmer days spent on the diamond.