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Who is the greatest closer in Rockies history?

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Former Rockies reliever Greg Holland struck a deal with the Kansas City Royals on Monday. His tenure as the Rockies closer was brief, and the trend in Colorado is not limited to Holland.

With so many candidates and no Mariano Rivera, how do we determine the greatest Rockies closer of all time?

Baseball Reference has a year-by-year list of “Most Common Pitchers” for the Rockies in which they identify 16 different closers in Colorado’s 28-year history. While the Yankees have Rivera on their list for 15 consecutive years, the list for Colorado takes a much different look:

Colorado Rockies: Closer by Year

Year Closer
Year Closer
2020 (26-34) Daniel Bard
2019 (71-91) Wade Davis
2018 (91-72) Wade Davis
2017 (87-75) Greg Holland
2016 (75-87) Jake McGee
2015 (68-94) John Axford
2014 (66-96) LaTroy Hawkins
2013 (74-88) Rex Brothers
2012 (64-98) Rafeal Betancourt
2011 (73-89) Huston Street
2010 (83-79) Huston Street
2009 (92-70) Huston Street
2008 (74-88) Brian Fuentes
2007 (90-73) Brian Fuentes
2006 (76-86) Brian Fuentes
2005 (67-95) Brian Fuentes
2004 (68-94) Shawn Chacon
2003 (74-88) José Jiménez
2002 (73-89) José Jiménez
2001 (73-89) José Jiménez
2000 (82-80) José Jiménez
1999 (72-90) Dave Veres
1998 (77-85) Jerry Dipoto
1997 (83-79) Jerry Dipoto
1996 (83-79) Bruce Ruffin
1995 (77-67) Darren Holmes
1994 (53-64) Bruce Ruffin
1993 (67-95) Darren Holmes
Courtesy of Baseball Reference: “Colorado Rockies Yearly Pitching Staff - Most Common Pitchers”

*The Baseball Reference list doesn’t include closers who filled in for a shorter period of time (i.e. Manny Corpas, 2007), so technically the Rockies have had more than 16 closers in team history.

A consistent bullpen can be hard to come by when reliever performance can face serious year-to-year volatility. A hitter-friendly Coors Field can magnify those effects, particularly in tight save situations. If you’re a premier closer at the peak of your career, why would you try and prove yourself in Colorado when literally any other ballpark is more favorable for pitchers? When such rationale can lure top arms away from Coors Field, are we forced to look at ‘shorter’ tenures when identifying the best Rockies closers? How many years does a closer need in order to qualify?

Brian Fuentes and José Jiménez are on the Baseball Reference closer list in four different seasons, tied for most in franchise history. Huston Street is the only closer listed for three, while Jerry Dipoto, Darren Holmes, Bruce Ruffin and Wade Davis are listed for two.

The list identifies Fuentes as the Rockies’ closer in four of his seven seasons with Colorado. In those four years (2005-2008), he recorded 111 saves and a 3.04 ERA over 263 23 innings. Fuentes was a three-time All-Star with Colorado, collecting the appearances consecutively from 2005-2007. His career high save total came one year after he left, however, as he notched 48 in a 2009 All-Star campaign with the Angels.

From 2000-2003, José Jiménez is labeled as the Rockies closer. In that four-year span, he recorded 102 saves and held a 4.13 ERA in 300 23 innings. It is important to note the humidor wasn’t built at Coors Field until 2002, so Jiménez’s figures can be unfairly inflated. His 2004 figures with Cleveland were inflated in a different manner, however (8.42 ERA, 36 13 IP). Jiménez was out of baseball after that season.

Huston Street debuted with Oakland in 2005, earning the AL Rookie of the Year with a 1.72 ERA. He arrived in Colorado four years later and stuck around for three seasons, most notably serving as a key member in the Rockies’ 2009 postseason run. While in Colorado (2009-2011), he recorded a 3.50 ERA with 84 saves over 167 13 innings. His postseason experience was limited to one appearance (2 23 IP, 4 ER), so Rockies fans were left with an incomplete idea for what Street could do in October.

Fuentes makes a case for the Rockies’ best closer ever, but it is important to note the biggest saves in team history were taken away from him. We would be remiss if we didn’t include the best postseason closer: Manny Corpas.

Todd Helton caught the final out that sent the Rockies to the 2007 World Series, and it was Corpas that delivered the pitch. He held a 0.87 postseason ERA in 2007 over 10 13 of the most electrifying innings in Rockies history.

The Rockies have featured some solid one-year performances by closers that are worthy of note. 2017 won’t put Greg Holland in the ‘greatest’ discussion after he spent only one year in Denver, but his All-Star appearance and league-leading 41 saves stand as one of the better single-season efforts by a Rockies closer. Daniel Bard’s ERA in 2020 was separated by just 0.04 compared to Holland’s 2017 figure; while the 60-game season was brief, perhaps it was even more challenging for closers to acclimate (especially for Bard after a seven-year absence). We are left to see how much lightning remains in the 35-year-old’s bottle. Wade Davis led the NL with 43 saves of his own in 2018, but his name in the ‘greatest’ discussion can be quickly dismissed after a drastic change of course.

Don’t be too quick to point blame at Colorado’s closer inconsistencies, however. Mariano Rivera may have held the job in New York for 15 years, but Baseball Reference’s list for the Yankees features six different closers over the past nine years. The Diamondbacks have 15 different names listed over their 23 year history, which is just one fewer arm than the Rockies in six fewer seasons.

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Reliever Greg Holland re-signs with Royals | MLB.com

Holland has played for five different teams in the past four years. His peak years came while in Kansas City, as he recorded multiple seasons with 40-plus saves and ERA figures below two. He collected a World Series ring in 2015 alongside Wade Davis.

If Kansas City makes it a point to sign their strong relievers from previous years, is there any chance Davis lands a spring training invite with the Royals?

Sage Hospitality Group’s Rally Hotel at McGregor Square set to open in spring | Colorado Real Estate Journal

The “Rally Hotel” at McGregor Square is scheduled to open this spring. The hotel will feature “176 guest rooms,” “three distinct food and beverage concepts,” and “a rooftop pool and deck on the bridge-way overlooking Coors Field.”

Every MLB Team’s Most Untouchable Prospect This Offseason | Bleacher Report

The Rockies’ outfield depth has thinned after the departure of David Dahl. It could mean 2020 draftee Zac Veen is even more indispensable than we once thought. Veen was projected as high as fourth overall in the draft; the Rockies picked him up at pick number nine.

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