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The rotation that could be ...

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, July 23

While the starting rotation was certainly one of the few bright spots heading into the 2021 season with Germán Márquez, Antonio Senzatela, Jon Gray, and Kyle Freeland returning with solid experience and high-ceiling potential, that fifth starter was a question mark.

Would it be Chi Chi González? Would Peter Lambert recover from Tommy John surgery in time? Would Derrek Rodríguez return to MLB form? Could Ryan Castellani live up to his potential?

Then the Nolan trade happened and Austin Gomber became the likely candidate to round out the rotation. The five starters under 30 all had promise and could anchor the season that would hopefully answer the question to help decide the future: Is this team better than they played like Dick Monfort and Co. argued in 2019 and 2020 or are they an incomplete squad need of a rebuild?

Ninety-six games into the season, the starting pitchers have been pretty solid. They rank tied for 17th in wins (26), 17th in WHIP (1.28), and 19th in ERA (4.31). Being in the middle of the pack should at least give the Rockies a chance to win. That is if they didn’t have a below-average offense that is also lacking the power usually characteristic of the Colorado Rockies. That’s not the focus of this post, however. The focus is that starting rotation we were so looking forward to seeing.

I wanted to check out the stats on how that promising five has fared so far. While I know it’s been a rough season that started out with Freeland being hurt and Gomber just rejoining the crew this week, there aren’t many stats to check out.

Guess how many times that original fivesome has pitched in five straight games?

Three times.

From May 21 to June 5, the Rockies got to have their rotation of choice in play. The Rockies went 8-7 overall in the stretch. While it’s a small sample size, the .533 winning percentage is significantly higher than the .438 (42-54) the team has overall.

Rockies Starting Six in 2021

Pitcher Age IP GS/G WGS LSG ND Rox W Rox L Rox Win % CG SHO QS QS % RS/GS RS/IP IP/GS ERA WHIP WPA
Pitcher Age IP GS/G WGS LSG ND Rox W Rox L Rox Win % CG SHO QS QS % RS/GS RS/IP IP/GS ERA WHIP WPA
German Marquez 26 118 1/3 20 8 7 5 12 8 0.600 3 1 13 65% 4.7 4.4 5.9 3.50 1.158 1.4
Antonio Senzatela 26 94 1/3 17 2 8 7 5 12 0.294 0 0 7 41% 4.1 3.4 5.5 4.58 1.399 -0.8
Jon Gray 29 93 17 6 6 5 8 9 0.471 0 0 9 53% 4.6 3.7 5.5 3.68 1.215 0.7
Austin Gomber 27 84 1/3 16 7 5 4 8 8 0.500 0 0 9 56% 4.2 4.3 5.3 3.47 1.043 1.1
Chi Chi Gonzalez 29 85 2/3 14/18 2 5 7 4 10 0.286 0 0 3 21% 5.2 4 5.3 5.99 1.471 -1.8
Kyle Freeland 28 48 2/3 10 1 4 5 4 6 0.400 0 0 3 30% 3.2 2.2 4.9 5.36 1.582 -0.3

From Freeland’s near two-month absence (left shoulder), to Gray’s 20-day IL stint (right forearm flexor strain), to Austin Gomber’s one-month leave (left forearm tightness), to current absentee Senzatela (COVID protocols), the Rockies have only played 15 out of 96 games with the original five rotation in play.

González has filled in to make 14 starts and he is slated to make his 15th today against the Dodgers. He’s pitched well at times, even posting three quality starts, the most impressive of which came in the form of a seven shutout innings vs. the Reds in May.

But he’s also had more than a handful of dreadful starts. The Rockies are 4-10 when González started and he owns the highest ERA (5.99) and WHIP (1.582) and the lowest team winning percentage in games he starts (.286) and lowest win probability added by pitcher (-1.8) of the starting six (not including Jhoulys Chacín or Ryan Castellani, who each started one game this year). González hast stepped up to start when the Rockies didn’t have many other options, but he was meant to fill in, not to become a staple in the rotation.

Even though Senzatela has had a down year and the Rockies don’t win much more when he’s on the mound (5-12 with his win probability added by pitcher at -0.8), he’s still managed to make seven quality starts and lower his ERA throughout the season after posting an 18.90 mark after his season debut with the Dodgers to 4.58 currently.

The Rockies aren’t good enough to make up for two struggling pitchers in a rotation, especially when Freeland is still looking for consistency. The Rockies need a sustained stretch where all five original starters can provide stability to a rocky bullpen and a stagnant offense, especially when it’s on the road. While contending is out of the question, it could give a glimpse of what the Rockies could be.

When Márquez, Gomber, Gray, or Freeland have started for the Rockies, Colorado has a 32-31 record. They have recorded a quality start in 50 percent of those 63 games.

Senzatela should be able to rejoin the rotation soon and with 66 games left in the season, maybe the Rockies can generate some more data on just how good the Márquez-Gomber-Gray-Freeland-Senzatela combo can be. That being said, the fivesome could be nullified by the trade deadline and/or Gray’s free agency looming at the season’s end. We may never know what could have been.

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Story reportedly drawing interest as CFer | MLB.com

But have you seen him play shortstop? That was my first thought when I saw this headline. MLB.com is reporting that at least one team is interested in Story “with the idea of playing him in center field.” I am trying to come to terms with the fact that Story might have already played his last game as a Rockie at Coors Field and that he will be on another team sooner or later. But I want the best for Story and want to see him continue his All-Star career. Maybe he can follow in the footsteps of Kris Bryant and adapt to the outfield. He is a great athlete, but if he is moved, I hope the shortstop who forces him to make the move is truly better at the position.

LSU pitcher Jaden Hill fell to Rockies in second round of MLB draft due to injury history. Now he’s ready to prove their gamble right | Denver Post ($)

Hill, the Rockies second-round draft pick (44th overall) this year, officially signed a $1,689,500 deal with the team on Wednesday. Hill’s had an injury-prone journey so far, including suffering a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow his junior year at LSU and then having to undergo Tommy John surgery earlier this year. His injuries prevented him from his top-10 draft projections, which gave the Rockies a shot at him in the second round. His upside includes a “mid-to-upper 90s fastball and swing-and-miss change-up.”

The Denver Post’s Carly Ebisuya included a quote from Rockies’ Senior Director of Scouting Operations, Marc Gustafson, who said that Hill is worth the risk: “You have to be creative, you have to keep an open mind. We had a really good history with Jaden and our area scout, Zack Zulli, so we had a good comfort level that this is a guy let’s take a shot on.”

Colorado Rockies: Daniel Bard and Mychal Givens could be on the Houston Astros radar | Rox Pile

‘Tis the season for trade rumors. Others include that Story is getting interest from the Yankees and the Reds, or that Story won’t get traded. Another is that Jon Gray is being targeted by the Padres. Only eight more days until the clock strikes midnight on the trade deadline.

On the farm

Triple-A: El Paso Chihuahuas 9, Albuquerque Isotopes 4

Ryan Castellani had another rough night on Thursday, giving up six runs in the third after two scoreless frames. He was only able to record two outs in the third on the way to earning the loss to drop to 2-7 on the season with an 8.04 ERA. Chris Rusin entered the game and didn’t fare much better. Despite getting out of the third inning, he gave up three runs in the fourth. Ryan Vilade went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Alan Trejo hit his sixth homer of the year, a solo shot in the second inning that briefly gave the Isotopes the lead.

Double-A: Bowie Baysox 4, Hartford Yard Goats 0

The Yard Goats were held to six hits, they went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position, and left seven runners on base in Thursday night’s shutout in Maryland. Hartford RHP starter David Hill threw five scoreless innings with five strikeouts before the Baysox loaded the bases and plated three in the sixth. Sean Bouchard went 2-for-4 for Hardford and Willie MacIver recorded the only Hartford extra base hit with a double in the sixth inning.

High-A: Tri-City Dust Devils 2, Spokane Indians 1

After Brenton Doyle hit a solo homer in the second and the Dust Devils responded back in the bottom half of the inning to tie it up, that 1-1 tie lasted until the bottom of the ninth inning. That’s when Fineas Del-Bonta-Smith got the first out, but then gave up a single and a walk before Gareth Morgan hit an RBI single for the walk-off win. Spokane starter Will Ethridge pitched a solid game, only allowing one run on six hits.

Low-A: Modesto Nuts 8, Fresno Grizzlies 4

Despite the fact that Modesto jumped out to an 8-0 lead after five innings, Fresno rallied back with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, but it wasn’t enough for a win on Thursday night. Zac Veen started the rally in the sixth when he hit a sacrifice grounder break the shutout. Colin Simpson then followed with a three-run homer to lead the charge, but the comeback came up short.

Sam Weatherly (3-6) took the loss for the Grizzlies, having given up eight runs on eight hits in five innings, but he did record 10 strikeouts. Austin Kitchen entered in relief and threw three scoreless innings for Fresno and Anderson Bido added one more to prevent further damage.

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