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The many ways to be in awe of German Márquez

There were many reasons to be in awe of Márquez, but one stood out

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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. 4, German Marquez: 3.8 rWAR

Every time German Márquez took the mound in 2019, I was in awe.

It wasn’t about his contract extension, signed in early April, for five-years and $43 million with a $1.5 million signing bonus and a series of performance-based incentives that will keep him with the Rockies through 2023.

It wasn’t even about his 2019 pitching, which, while still solid, wasn’t up to his 2018 standard. Márquez remained a workhorse, pitching 174 innings in 28 starts — for a time, the most in the National League. Before being placed on the IL on August 26 with right arm inflammation, Márquez had struck out 175, down from 230 in 2018. He went 12-5 with a 4.76 ERA and a WHIP of 1.201. (You can see his Baseball Savant Pitcher Visualization Report here.)

It also wasn’t about his complete game one-hitter (the first in Rockies history) on April 14 against the San Francisco Giants. The lone hit was an Evan Longoria eighth-inning single. Nolan Arenado, despite all his skill, couldn’t get to the ball, throwing his glove into the dirt with frustration as Márquez lost the no-hitter. Later, Arenado said, “I just wanted him to get it so bad . . . . He pitched so good and this year has been so tough, it was just good to see him go out and pitch that well. He did an unbelievable job.”

Still, the win couldn’t have come at a better time. It snapped an eight-game losing streak in the Rockies worst start ever in a season that was already doomed (though no one knew it yet). Márquez was a stopper. “I always go out there with my heart on my sleeve. I go out to compete,” Márquez said. “But I knew with the losing streak, the team needed me.”

It wasn’t about hitting, either. Coming off his Silver Slugger 2018, Márquez was less effective with the bat in 2019, slashing .229/.229/.354. “I like my swing,” he told Nick Groke. “I’m thinking like a pitcher. So I can see them working. I think it helps. . . . I take it seriously.” Márquez and Peter Lambert were Silver Slugger finalists, but the award went to Zack Grienke.

These were all important accomplishments in a 2019 that failed to meet expectations. But I was mostly in awe of German Márquez because I wondered how he did it, how he cleared his mind and took the mound, completely focused on the game, with everything going on in Venezuela, given that his family is there while he plays baseball here.

The political situation didn’t get much attention in the baseball press. In a March 1 article, Patrick Saunders noted the concerns of the Rockies’ four Venezuelan players, Márquez, Senzatela, Daza, and Tinoco. Márquez said, “It’s sad to see everything really bad, and even though I enjoyed the time with my family there this offseason, it’s tough to see all the violence (and chaos).” He added, “My hope for Venezuela is for it to get better from all the crazy things that are happening, and soon. I don’t know if that will happen.”

Márquez’s Instagram captures his two lives. Among the baseball pictures are glimpses of his family. A holiday photo shows Márquez standing by a Christmas tree, holding his young son, with the caption “Mi mejor regalo” — my best gift. I am in awe that Márquez can do the work of baseball while separated from his family. Then again, playing baseball is a way in which he cares for them.

When the Rockies played their Coors Field opener, AT&T SportsNet did a quick promo before the game started. In it, players stated why they played. “I play for my country,” Márquez said, his voice breaking. I only saw that clip once, but I thought about it every time he pitched.

And I thought about a spring training photo session, the one where some players had pictures taken of themselves while wrapped in the flags of their home countries — Daza and Tapia and Estévez and Tinoco and Cuevas and Márquez — reminders of these players’ complicated lives beyond baseball.