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Sam Howard and Harrison Musgrave are lefty relievers on different paths

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They’re a lot of like in other ways though

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.

★ ★ ★

No. 19ish, Sam Howard: -0.2 rWAR
No. 18, Harrison Musgrave: 0.3 rWAR

I know, I know, our rigorous ranking methodology of clicking “sort” on Baseball-Reference’s WAR column has been compromised by my desire to end this series before Thanksgiving week and the fact that I can’t really tell Harrison Musgrave and Sam Howard apart.

Howard and Musgrave are both left-handers who spent the bulk of their minor league careers as starting pitchers, which lent to the illusion that they represented starting pitching depth in the organization. Both have seen limited major league action, and both have done so exclusively as relievers. Neither has seen success much success in that role. They’re also both about the same age – Howard is 26, Musgrave is 27.

The major difference now is that one remains on the 40-man roster, while the other isn’t. Despite being a lot alike, they’re on different paths within the organization.

Musgrave began the 2019 season on the major league roster. He appeared in 10 games from Opening Day until early May. Overall, he had pretty good results, posting a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings of work. Musgrave struck out about 25% of the batters he faced, but he had trouble with walks. He issued a free pass to about 14% of batters. But Musgrave found himself on the 10-day injured list in early May with a left elbow flexor strain. When the Rockies needed room for Peter Lambert on the 40-man roster, Musgrave was moved to the 60-day IL. He came off the IL in July and pitched some rehab assignments, but at the end of the month the Rockies designated him for assignment. He passed through waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A. His path back to the majors is murky.

Howard had considerably worse results in 2019. His 6.63 ERA in 19 innings pitched left a lot to be desired, specifically a much better ERA. Like Musgrave though, he posted good strikeout numbers. Howard also struck out about 25% of the batters he faced. He walked about 11%. Howard’s problem was the home run ball, as a quarter of the fly balls he allowed left the park. Going forward, Howard looks like he will provide depth for the Rockies. It’ll just be in the bullpen. The major question for him is whether his home run problems had to do with the baseball or a flaw in his pitching. The strikeouts are there, and Howard will be a nice lefty in the bullpen in case the Rockies decide to trade Jake McGee.

I guess it’s not so hard after all to distinguish between Sam Musgrave and Harrison Howard.