The Christmas season has come and gone, the MLB lockout is in full swing, and we all eagerly hope that 2022 will bring some positive change to life and baseball. As for me, I continue to explore the wonderful world of Rockies history and revisit players from the past and their experience in Colorado. We’ve covered a wide variety of players in the previous four iterations of this topic, and while we’ve covered plenty of position players, this time around we will focus entirely on some pitchers that played for the Rockies.
Jay Witasick (2005)
2005 was quite a forgettable year in Rockies history. Not only did they lose 95 games and finish last in the National League West, but their offensive power was down, pitching was still struggling to conquer Coors Field, and were in transition to what would become “Todd and the Toddlers.” However, among the moves the Rockies made prior to the season, one move that panned out was the signing of free-agent reliever Jay Witasick.
Signed on April 9, 2005, Witasick had developed into a reliable bullpen arm over the previous four years with San Francisco and San Diego. He slotted into a bullpen that featured Brian Fuentes as the closer, and a revolving door of other pitchers. Witasick went 0-4 in 35 2⁄3 innings with the Rockies over 32 games, posting a 2.53 ERA with a 3.33 SO/BB ratio. His 50.5% groundball rate in Colorado was the best of his career and the 1.2 bWAR he accumulated was the second-best of his career. At the deadline in July, the Rockies cashed in traded Witasick, along with Joe Kennedy, to Oakland for Eric Byrnes and Omar Quintanilla.
Ray King (2006)
The Rockies continued to retool after the 2005 season and decided to address their bullpen while opening spots on the roster for younger players. In December of 2005, the Rockies acquired Ray King from the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Larry Bigbie and Aaron Miles. King had proven himself a quality arm at the big league level with the Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, and the Cardinals which made him an enticing piece for the Rockies bullpen.
Unfortunately, King showed signs of decline during the 2006 season. He tossed 44 2⁄3 innings across 67 games for the Rockies, posting a 4.43 ERA. He induced plenty of groundballs, but his numbers were all trending in the wrong direction as he struggled with walks. This development was nothing new for King, but his 1.15 SO/BB ratio was the worst of his career since his first season in 1999, and when he did throw the ball over the plate, opposing batters were slashing .327/.398/.503 against him.
He finished the season with Colorado and played a couple more seasons elsewhere, but King marked a trend the Rockies have of acquiring a successful veteran pitcher that immediately struggled in Colorado and never quite got back on track after he left. Still, it was a good move initially, it just didn’t pan out exactly how they wanted it.
Manny Delcarmen (2010)
Speaking of veteran trades that don’t pan out, Manny Delcarmen joined the Rockies in a trade with Boston at the end of August in 2010. The Rockies weren’t far back in the playoff race and figured that Delcarmen would be a cheap, quality piece down the stretch. The team played well for a time in September, even finding themselves just 1.5 games back of a playoff spot. A collapse in the final two weeks of the season sealed their third-place finish in the division.
Delcarmen pitched in just nine games with the Rockies, finishing three of them, and tossing 8 1⁄3 innings while going 0-2 with a 6.48 ERA. He didn’t dominate like the team hoped he would, and the Rockies opted to not utilize him as often as other pitchers. He struggled to prevent hits, allowing 12 hits over that short time frame, with opponents slashing. 324/.390/.459, all of which were career-high marks. He became a free agent after that season and bounced around the league with several teams but was never able to reach the big leagues again.
Jason Hammel (2009-11)
On April 5, 2009, the Rockies decided to gamble on a struggling starting pitcher and acquire Jason Hammel from Tampa Bay. The move worked in the Rockies' favor as Hammel quickly found a place for himself in the rotation and grew to become a reliable starter during his time in Colorado. During his three years as a Rockie, Hammel went 27-30 with a 4.63 ERA in 524 2⁄3 innings and proved himself a durable arm by pitching in 96 games and starting 87 of them.
His ability to throw strikes and limit walks and other damage were instrumental in his success, and his 4.07 FIP ranks as the fourth-best in franchise history. It’s also notable that his 4.4 bWAR as a Rockie, is the second-best mark of his career, behind his time with the Chicago Cubs. He tended to be better on the road than at home, but even at Coors Field Hammel provide the Rockies a fighting chance to win ball games.
The Rockies decided to trade Hammel to Baltimore in exchange for Jeremy Guthrie after the 2011 season, where he continued to shine. Hammel defined himself in Colorado and went on to have a strong career with Baltimore, Chicago, Oakland, and Kansas City until he retired in 2019, and he may owe a lot of that success to the Rockies and the chance they took on him in 2009.
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The Rockies could always choose to add another random pitcher to their roster for the 2022 season in the form of Bartolo Colon. This is a longshot to actually happen and hopefully, the team doesn’t actually consider it, but Nathaniel Sunshine shares some of the pros and cons about the hypothetical signing of Colon. Perhaps my favorite piece of information is that if Colon was on the team at the age of 49, he still wouldn’t be the oldest player the Rockies have ever had as that honor remains with Jamie Moyer.
Hopefully everyone had a wonderful holiday yesterday, and this article from Christmas Eve by our pal Bryan Kilpatrick is a good for a chuckle about some awful gifts that no one should have gotten for the holidays. It’s always great to get sports merchandise for Christmas, but if you received any of the three gifts mentioned in the article, let’s hope you got the receipt along with it.
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