The Rockies are currently 1-6 in an ongoing nine-game homestand. There hasn’t been much to celebrate in the past seven games aside from Larry Walker’s jersey retirement, although a series of visiting starters have been fighting for Cy Young supremacy before our eyes.
Three of the six leaders in the NL Cy Young race made a start at Coors Field last week. The Rockies made a huge impact.
- Max Scherzer isn’t the frontrunner that he was before.
- Walker Buehler’s candidacy may have come to a close.
- Kevin Gausman may have scored himself a few points on the ballot.
2021 NL Cy Young Leaders
2021 NL Cy Young Odds
As the current leaderboard stands, the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer leads the ERA race by an extremely slim margin over Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes. The margin was much wider a week ago, until the Rockies ended Scherzer’s streak of dominance in a Dodger uniform.
Max Scherzer (LAD) - Thursday, September 23
5 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Scherzer was outdueled by Kyle Freeland last Thursday in an extra-inning contest that ultimately fell in the Dodgers favor. The Cy Young leaderboard was no longer showing Scherzer as a runaway favorite after this contest, as his ERA jumped from a 2.08 to a 2.28.
He was on his way to a sub-two ERA before the Rockies blew it out of the picture. Eight scoreless frames would have got Scherzer there, while he was riding a streak of five scoreless starts.
Scherzer is still the Cy Young frontrunner according to betting lines, but his Dodger teammate Walker Buehler saw a bigger bruise to his Cy Young candidacy after visiting Denver.
Walker Buehler (LAD) - Wednesday, September 22
3 2⁄3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Colorado could have ended Buehler’s Cy Young hopes entirely, although Burnes and Scherzer were already ahead of him in most categories.
Buehler saw his ERA jump from a 2.39 to a 2.58 last week and he failed to complete a fourth frame of work against the Rockies. It was just his second time in 31 starts this year that Buehler pitched fewer than four innings.
He struck out just two — his second-lowest total in a start this year — and matched a season-high seven hits allowed.
There is one more contender the Rockies faced that has been on the ERA leaderboard for much of this season. Kevin Gausman may have proved a degree of recognition after a fantastic showing at elevation.
Kevin Gausman (SF) - Sunday, September 26
6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K
The Colorado kid showed he was all too familiar with thin air in his Sunday gem. He came one strikeout short of his season high (in two fewer innings) and the Rockies touched third base just twice with Gausman on the mound. His only blemish came on a solo homer by C.J. Cron.
Gausman’s season figures are not entirely at the level of Scherzer, Burnes, Buehler or even Brandon Woodruff, but he may still get some form of credit. A Cy Young Award ballot is complete with a first, second and third-place nominee, and under the ‘point’ system the ballots follow, 12 pitchers in 2020 had at least one point in the voting.
Breaking down the leaders
Scherzer is the leading candidate for ERA, the granddaddy of all concrete pitching stats. He also leads in pitcher wins, a
terrible sometimes-acknowledged stat that may garner praise from certain voters.
Meanwhile, Corbin Burnes has shattered the more ‘predictive’ figures of FIP, xFIP and fWAR, suggesting he’s pitched even better than his ERA suggests. Burnes has the highest strikeout percentage and lowest walk percentage among the leading Cy Young candidates.
Milwaukee’s ace was not immune to Coors Field stuggles, however. Let’s go beyond this past week of Rockies action and look at the whole year:
Corbin Burnes (MIL) - Friday, June 18
5 1⁄3 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
The former hero for the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Burnes was unable to regain some high-altitude magic earlier in the summer. His league-leading FIP would be alongside a league-leading ERA right now if this start were a little less dismal.
One day earlier, the home Rockies got the best of another name in the Cy Young discussion:
Brandon Woodruff (MIL) - Thursday, June 17
5 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 5 K
Milwaukee’s one-two punch of Burnes and Woodruff may have preferred the fate of a different Cy Young nominee in Philadelphia.
Zack Wheeler (PHI) - N/A
Did not pitch at Coors Field this year
Wheeler has pitched more innings than the other pitchers named on this list, another figure that writers will pay significant attention to. He is the only one to elapse the 200-inning mark at this point in the season which is part of why he leads the NL in pitching bWAR (the less-predictive, more-reflective counterpart to fWAR).
According to the current betting lines, the three top Cy Young finalists fell flat in their visits to Colorado this year. While one outing may not be enough to derail Cy Young hopes entirely, all three of them can point to their showing against the Rockies as a game that got away—one that could have put them in a better position to secure some end-of-season hardware.
The dominant home Rockies have cooled off in late September, but they have still found a way to work down some consistent starters. There wasn’t a standout performance in Denver at the top of the Cy Young pack this year, but the award could have a much clearer contender if Scherzer or Burnes fared well at 20th and Blake.
The Rockies have been able to play spoiler this year. The spoiling has transferred to Cy Young hopes and dreams.
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Giants first baseman Brandon Belt suffered a broken hand on Sunday against the Rockies after squaring to bunt on a 93-mph heater. One of the hottest bats in the San Francisco lineup may not suit up for the remainder of the season, although a return for the postseason has not yet been ruled out.
Belt has posted an unthinkable .349/.451/.721 slash in the month of September, helping to keep the Giants ahead of the 100-win Dodgers in the NL West. San Francisco remains two games ahead in the division.
Duane DaPron of Rox Pile wrote this recap on infielder Rio Ruiz, a waiver acquisition from Baltimore in late May. Ruiz has seen limited action for the Rockies this year, piecing together a .188/.243/.219 slash in 32 at-bats, but DaPron points out how consistent work in Triple-A Albuquerque (.304/.361/.496) led Ruiz to a solid run in his 10th year as a professional.
On the farm
Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 5, Reno Aces 2
The Isotopes closed out a five-game set with the Reno Aces, finishing the set 4-1. Albuquerque did not allow a hit after the fourth inning on Monday.
Reno finished the night 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. Jose Mujica, Nate Griep, Logan Cozart, Chad Smith and Ben Bowden each tossed a scoreless frame, while Reagan Todd pitched the fourth inning and allowed one unearned run.
The second baseman Joshua Fuentes had himself a night at the plate, going 3-for-4 with three doubles. He scored just once and recorded a single RBI but his efforts helped jump-start the Isotopes offense. Elehuris Montero hit after Fuentes and collected two RBIs in a 1-for-3 performance, while CSU-Pueblo’s Taylor Snyder drove in two of his own.
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