Yesterday on Twitter, a fun fact was unearthed by Mike Petriello of MLB.com:
Sometimes you run across a fact so unexpected that you can't help but make it a trivia question.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) December 15, 2020
Which team, last three years (18-20) has used the *fewest* pitchers? No minimums in value or playing time. Just fewest overall pitchers?
The answer? Of course it’s the Rockies. Does this make any sense? At first glance no, but it is certainly something interesting to distract us from the inactivity of the offseason.
There is a fairly wide range of the number of pitchers used by a franchise over this three-year period. The Rockies have the least with a total of 44, while the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners are tied for the highest number with 82. The full list can be viewed here.
There are really only a few things that would cause churn within a team’s pitching staff. Well, only two that I can think of: performance and injury. I suppose a third factor could be the front office’s propensity to trade and/or sign free agent pitchers, but we’ll focus on the first two for now. Teams that have fewer pitchers over a three-year period would likely have stability in either the starting rotation, bullpen, or both as the same names and faces are taking the mound more often. That stability is hard to come by, and most clubs are looking to improve at least a rotation spot and/or a few bullpen slots year-over-year. Factor in all the arm injuries pitchers deal with and the numbers really add up. Teams need (and use) a lot of pitchers.
Looking at the Rockies rotation, it’s fair to say that in 2018, pitching carried the team. The quartet of Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, German Márquez, and Antonio Senzatela logged a lot of innings in 2018 and have been familiar faces in the rotation since (although Freeland did disappear to Triple-A for part of the 2019 season), accounting for close to 70 percent of starting pitcher innings over the three-year period.
Injuries have also had a relatively minimal impact on the rotation. Jon Gray’s 2019 season ended early due to a broken foot suffered in August and he also spent most of 2020 on the injured list. The fifth spot in the rotation, though, has been a bit of a carousel, with Tyler Anderson, Chad Bettis, Peter Lambert, and Chi Chi Gonzalez getting opportunities among others, although to be fair, Anderson and Lambert were both sidelined by significant injuries. After the left side of the infield, the starting rotation is largely seen as the Rockies’ greatest strength.
On the other hand, the Rockies bullpen has been quite the disaster during this three year period. The Rockies really committed to giving their highly criticized bullpen trio of Wade Davis, Jake McGee, and Bryan Shaw opportunities to perform. Between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, they accounted for just shy of 30 percent of relief innings pitched. Combine that with heavy doses of Yency Almonte, Jairo Díaz, Carlos Estévez, Jeff Hoffman, and Scott Oberg and there’s not a lot of room for additional arms. The front office put itself in a position where acquiring other bullpen pieces wasn’t easy (no more money) and it wasn’t going to look very good to give up on their investments so quickly. With relatively few prospects coming up through the farm, the Rockies were pretty much stuck with what they had these last three years.
While it’s certainly interesting that the Rockies stuck out in this rather obscure category of pitching usage, in a lot of ways it tells the story that Rockies fans are familiar with. Hopefully we’ll see the continued success of this young rotation and some better results from a bullpen now freed from the contracts of its overpaid veterans.
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It’s another top five list from MLB.com’s Thomas Harding. This time it’s a recap of the best seasons by a Rockies starting pitcher in franchise history. The incredible 2010 performance by Ubaldo Jiménez was atop the list which included a no-hitter and landed him third in the National League Cy Young vote that season. Two current Rockies pitchers, Kyle Freeland and German Márquez made the list for their 2018 campaigns. Freeland finished fourth in the NL Cy Young vote that season and pitched brilliantly in the Wild Card elimination game which the Rockies eked out 2-1 in extra innings. Márquez, meanwhile, was a strikeout machine that season, setting new franchise records for several strikeout categories.
On Monday, the Cleveland Indians officially announced that they will be dropping the name Indians, which they have used since 1915. Joe Posnanski, writer for The Athletic, expresses his view on the name change and some candidate names that are rumored to be in consideration. As Posnanski puts it, “It has, from the very start, been built around cringey puns, degrading logos and war imagery.” And as for what the new name will be, I think the Spiders should be at the top of the list. As long as they don’t end up being the Cleveland Rocks we should all be satisfied though. Surely there are enough names out there that among 30 MLB teams the Rocks and Rockies won’t need to coexist.
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