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.
★ ★ ★
No. 5, Kyle Freeland: 2.4 rWAR
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Please forgive the overused line, but Kyle Freeland’s 2021 was a tale of two seasons. Freeland’s first half was comprised of beginning the season on the Injured List after suffering an injury to his shoulder in Spring Training and five rough starts as Freeland struggled to find a consistent arm slot with each of his pitches.
Freeland returned to the lineup on May 25th, and the Rockies faithful breathed a collective sigh of relief that his shoulder injury wasn’t as bad as was feared. However, Freeland’s first five starts were not what he would have liked them to be, as he went 0-2 with a 9.58 ERA. In addition, Freeland allowed nine home runs in his 202⁄3 innings of work.
Freeland’s fifth start of the season came on June 16th, the same day our very own Mario DeGenz wrote an article detailing how Kyle Freeland had been tipping his pitches. Whether someone in Freeland’s orbit saw the article, or whether Freeland’s arm-slot issue was picked up separately, he was able to correct the problem and turn his season around.
The second half, and the positive part of Freeland’s season, began with his next start on June 22nd. Freeland turned in eight straight starts in which he pitched at least five innings and allowed three earned runs or less. Although he had a 2-4 record over that stretch, Freeland did post a 2.15 ERA. He also addressed his biggest problem, allowing just three home runs in his 46 innings of work over that span.
Freeland continued his strong work to finish the season, going 5-2 with a 4.17 ERA over his last ten starts. Freeland showed how dependable he can be as he turned in seven starts of at least six innings over the last nine games of the season.
A highlight of any pitcher’s season is when @PitchingNinja features one of their pitches. In the clip below, Freeland showed just how possible it is to throw a breaking ball in Denver, breaking off a filthy curveball.
Kyle Freeland, Nasty 81mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/Fb9AhV9TfB— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 28, 2021
Through all of the ups and downs of the season, Kyle Freeland finished with a 7-8 record to go along with his 4.33 ERA and an ERA+ of 110 over 23 starts. He will continue to be a key piece of the best starting rotation in Rockies history as he is under team control through the 2023 season.