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. 4, Germán Márquez: 3.3 rWAR
Germán Márquez, the Colorado Rockies staff ace sat atop the rotation, had yet another solid season in purple to the delight of fans and the front office. In the third year of his five year, $43 million contract, Márquez was paid just $7.5 million while leading the rotation in total innings, strikeouts, and W-L% while having the second best ERA behind Kyle Freeland. Márquez was also the only member of the Rockies’ rotation to not miss a single start. Talk about bang for your buck.
Germán Márquez in 2021
|April 1 - May 4||7||33.1||6.21||.273||.376||.398||3||34||21|
|May 9 - August 6||16||103.1||2.53||.197||.259||.311||8||107||28|
|August 12 - September 27||9||43.1||7.48||.310||.365||.538||10||35||15|
Márquez left spring training struggling with his fastball command and working hard to find his rhythm, and it took him some time to hit that groove. Through his first seven starts during he had a bloated ERA of 6.21 and was struggling with walks. His low point came on May 4th against the San Francisco Giants, where he was shelled in the first game of a double header. Márquez was chased from the game after just 2⁄3 of an inning and surrendering eight earned runs on six hits and two walks. It was the shortest start of his career.
But then? Something seemed to click. His next start on May 9th saw him give up just one earned run in six innings, though he then gave up four on May 14th. Then he hit the ground running. For the next two and a half months Germán Márquez was absolutely excellent. From May 9th through August 6th, Márquez pitched 12 quality starts through 16 games. He had just one outing under six innings: a mid-June stinker against a powerful Cincinnati Reds offense where he gave up eight earned runs on 12 hits. His response? Pick himself up, dust himself off, and flirt with perfection.
On June 29th against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates, Germán Márquez took the mound for what would be one of the most impressive starts of his career. Márquez threw a complete game shutout in the pitcher-unfriendly confines of Coors Field. He’s the first player in franchise history to do so. Not only did he do that, but he also held the Pirates to just one hit at Coors Field. First Rockies pitcher to do that too. He also pitched an elusive Maddux: a complete game shutout on under 100 pitches. Oh, did I mention that he didn’t allow his first hit until the top of the ninth inning? Márquez no-hit the Pirates through eight complete innings in the Mile High City, coming so tantalizingly close to earning the franchises’ first ever no-hitter at home. Unfortunately, one pitch changed that.
A disappointed Márquez said after the game “I felt it early. I felt like I had a chance. One pitch, that’s all it was. Just one pitch. It is what it is.”
The milestones kept coming for Germán Márquez. With his 3.3 rWAR he moved into the Rockies’ all time top 12 in WAR, joining other franchise icons Aaron Cook and Ubaldo Jiménez as one of the few pitchers on the list. On May 27th, Márquez notched his 700th career strikeout in his 120th career game. With number 700, he became both the youngest and fastest player in franchise history to reach the mark. With two more strikeouts, he beat out Félix Hernández as the the pitcher from his native Venezuela with the most career strikeouts through 120 games. Márquez would end the season with 816 career strikeouts, surpassing Ubaldo Jiménez for third most all time, hot on the heels of his teammate Jon Gray.
Germán Márquez's 700th strikeout pic.twitter.com/AQTn0uqIjA— RoxGifsVids (@RoxGifsVids) May 27, 2021
Germán Márquez’s hard work and excellence during the middle of the season paid off in an incredibly special way: he was selected to his first ever All-Star game as the Rockies’ sole representative. Even more special is that he would take the mound for the National League All-Stars at his home ballpark of Coors Field. He pitched like an All-Star that night. Entering the game to a roaring standing ovation, Márquez set down the side in order on thirteen pitches and a strikeout. He even got to play with his former longtime teammate Nolan Arenado one more time.
Márquez was also a strong hitter (for a pitcher) in 2021. In 53 at-bats he slashed .264/.264/.415 with five doubles and nine RBIs. On July 31st against the San Diego Padres, he connected on a Yu Darvish pitch for his second career home run. He was the Rockies’ sole nomination for the Silver Slugger Awards, and absolutely should have taken home the hardware over the official winner in Atlanta’s Max Fried. He led all pitcher nominees in offensive bWAR, doubles, SLG, and RBIs, while also being the only nominee with a home run. Márquez struck out less than Fried and was arguably more valuable despite the lower average and OBP. In what could have been the final race of pitchers for the award, Márquez wanted to win.
“It would be fun to win the Silver Slugger again. You guys know that I love to hit. I love to get on base.”
I wish it could be said that Márquez finished out the season in the same electric manner, but unfortunately he began to slide as the season hit the final stretch. Starting in August he began to strike out less batters and give up more runs. In his final nine starts he only made it through six innings just three times. In four of those starts he lasted four innings or less. With an ERA of 7.48, a FIP of 5.66, ten home runs and 15 walks from August 12th to September 27th, Márquez limped to the finish line having not missed a start.
The massive increase in workload from a shortened 2020 season was largely felt in the Rockies rotation. Jon Gray and Austin Gomber both felt the fatigue of a long season, with the latter being shut down to injury after August. Only Antonio Senzatela and Kyle Freeland really thrived during the last two-odd months of the season.
Rockies Rotation - August to October
Germán Márquez had a tremendous increase in workload between 2020 and 2021. In 2020 he pitched 81 2⁄3 innings. In 2021 he more than doubled that with a whopping 180 innings. It again bares repeating that Márquez is the only pitcher in the rotation to have pitched his full slate of starts this season, and he did so with almost 30 innings more than any other starter.
Rockies fans shouldn’t have much cause for alarm. Despite the difficult start and finish to his season, Márquez was still the Rockies ace. He led the team in strikeouts and innings pitched, and his season ERA was in line with the rest of the rotation. It’s realistic that, without the rough patches, he could have pitched his single best season. With the rough patches included, his numbers are in line with the rest of his career. In 2017 and 2019 he finished with an ERA of 4.39 and 4.76 respectively, while his 176 strikeouts this year are a second best behind his dominant 2018 campaign. The major thing he needs to improve on for 2022 is something many Rockies pitchers struggled with: walks. Márquez walked a career high 64 batters this season, which is the most on the pitching staff.
Regardless of what moves the Rockies do or don’t make over the offseason, Germán Márquez is virtually guaranteed to remain the staff’s ace atop the rotation. Now that he’s adjusted back to a full season’s workload, you can expect him to continue doing what he does best: putting on a Marquee show every week.