Welcome to the 2021 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2021. 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. 44, Chi Chi González: -0.7 rWAR
Chi Chi was essentially the Rockies’ sixth starter — with injuries to other members of the rotation throughout the season, the 29-year-old right-hander would be the first man to step up and eat some innings. González could really make a name for himself as a key part of Colorado’s new pitching identity — it was time for the former first-round draft pick to cement his place in MLB.
Now look, I know that seems lofty. But at the same time, González was the 14th-ranked Rockie last year, and it may have been fair to think he’d take some strides forward in a full season. Unfortunately, Chi Chi found that the struggles he encountered in 2020 were here to stay, and it may well have spelled the end of his Rockies tenure.
In some ways, Chi Chi did make improvements this season: his BB/9 were down by two, his WHIP was slightly down, and he lowered his ERA by about half a run. Those slight positive trends weren’t enough though, as he saw his H/9 go up, his K/9 drop, and his ERA+ dip. None of those stats changed in any grand way, but it speaks to the inconsistency that has followed González through his career.
There were moments this season where one would think that he was finally starting to put it together. Remember that start in May where he shut out the lauded Reds offense for seven innings? We’d see that and think, “Okay. The strikeouts will come. He’s not walking guys. This could be it.” But then you’d see how he ended the season, pitching just five times since August 1st and allowing 12 earned runs in those final 11 innings, which for you math-haters like me is, uh, not great. In fact, his second half was historically bad, as Chi Chi’s post-All Star Break ERA of 10.35 will attest.
And then, mercifully, it ended. On the last day of the regular season, the Rockies designated González for assignment, and his 2021 ended on a most uncertain note. Is his career with the Rockies over? Maybe not — after all, he was non-tendered last season and the team re-signed him on a minor league deal, and that’s not an impossibility this winter.
Maybe it’s time, though, to move on. Chi Chi may have the stuff to be an effective middle-rotation starter for another club, but with the Rockies shifting their focus from clubbing opponents into submission to lights-out starting pitching, perhaps a change of scenery is best for both parties. It’s hard to cut ties, but sometimes you’ve got to understand your role and know when it’s time to go.
And that’s okay.