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. 14, Bryan Shaw (0.6 rWAR)
We saw a lot of Bryan Shaw in 2019, just like we did in 2018. We’ll probably see a lot of him on the Rockies in 2020, and pending a deal that sends Shaw out in a trade, we’re on track to see at least some of him on the Rockies in 2021 as well (more on that shortly).
Shaw is a workhorse. He appeared in 70 games this season and that is far from his career high. He worked more than 70 innings for the fourth time in his career. That used to be a feature for Shaw. The Rockies certainly thought it was when they signed him to a three-year, $27 million deal before the 2018 season.
Unfortunately it has just meant that the Rockies get a lot of mediocre innings. The 5.38 ERA that Shaw posted is just further evidence that Colorado is not getting what they thought they signed up for. He surrendered a career-high 12 home runs, but as we’ve mentioned throughout this Ranking the Rockies series, everybody surrendered a career high in home runs this season.
It’s not so much the number of home runs that’s the problem as much as it is what the home runs looked like. When things went bad for Shaw he was just so darn hittable, with those cement mixer sliders floating over the middle of the plate. If you need an image of what Shaw’s struggles look like, that’s the one.
It wasn’t all bad for Shaw. He got off to a good start and posted a respectable first half. There were signs there that Shaw can provide value as a durable reliever - just as more of a mop-up guy than a high-leverage pitcher, and certainly not in a manner that lines up with his multi-year contract.
And speaking of that contract, we should mention the potential that a team option for 2021 will be triggered automatically. If Shaw combines for 110 appearances between the 2019 and 2020 season, his $9 million option for 2021 is triggered. That leaves just 40 appearances for next season - Shaw appeared in 44 games in the first half of 2019 alone.
So it is that Shaw joins Jake McGee and Wade Davis as expensive pitchers with no obvious role in a bullpen that needs a lot of help. In Shaw’s case specifically, you have a durable reliever who pitches to contact in a hitter’s ballpark in a moment when it seems as bad as ever to pitch to contact.
There’s value in Shaw’s ability to eat up a lot of innings. But if his skills suit him better for mop-up duty, that means that he would probably need a strong bullpen around him, the kind of strong bullpen the Rockies thought Shaw was going to help them build before 2018. Things change quickly with relievers, but there’s not a lot of reason to be excited about Shaw entering next season.