Following yesterday’s game against the Giants, the Rockies have just 22 games left in the 2021 season. Despite the fact that the team isn’t playing meaningful baseball in September and subsequently never really had a shot at the playoffs, it’s been a pretty exciting season – and a much better showing than most experts and projections predicted. A big reason for that has been starting pitching, where all five of the team’s regular starters have consistently given the team a chance to win. But which one of them will finish the season with the lowest ERA?
Last year, that title went to Antonio Senzatela thanks to a breakout season and a sterling 3.44 ERA. Antonio and Germán Márquez (3.75) were the only two starters to get their ERA’s below 4, with Freeland a bit behind at 4.33. None of the five main starters have ERAs above 5 this season, a huge improvement over many years past where it seemed like there was always at least one starter who struggled to keep the opposition quiet. Let’s take a look at where things stand as we make our way into the final few weeks of the year.
Germán Márquez: 4.08
Jon Gray: 4.18 (before yesterday’s game against San Fran)
Antonio Senzatela: 4.16
Austin Gomber: 4.53
Kyle Freeland: 4.69
With Austin Gomber out for the rest of the season due to a stress fracture in his lower back, his 4.53 figure isn’t going anywhere. It also gives Kyle Freeland a chance to get back into fourth place, a spot he held with a 4.22 ERA before his seven run debacle against San Francisco on Monday.
Nobody will be surprised to see Márquez at the top of this list. He was the team’s Opening Day starter, their only representative in the All-Star game, and led this category last year. There isn’t much doubt that he’s the best pitcher this team has and should be so for the foreseeable future if they can lock him down to a long-term deal. If you take away the eight run nightmare against the Giants (sensing a trend here?) when Germán pitched just two-thirds of an inning and saw his ERA balloon from 4.13 to 6.21, he’d be well below the 4.00 marker again this season.
Jon Gray looked like he was going to vault to the top of the list yesterday until a tough sixth inning against the Giants. But if yesterday’s game is any indicator of how he’ll be impacted by the inflammation that forced him to miss his last start, Gray will be just fine. He went six innings, giving up just three runs (all in that sixth inning) and striking out eight in his return to the hill.
Then you’ve got Antonio Senzatela who has proved that last year’s shortened season was no fluke. The ERA was almost certainly going to go up–3.44 for a Rockie is insanely good–but even so, he’s having a great year. Senzatela appears to be the real deal and is on a particularly strong run right now, giving up more than three runs just once since the beginning of July.
For me, Márquez is the guy to beat as this season winds down for the Rockies. No disrespect to the others who have been one of the best groups this team has ever fielded over the course of a 162 game season. He’s been the most consistent starter this team has for years and there’s no reason to think that will change in September. That’s not to say Jon or Antonio couldn’t sneak ahead, or even Kyle Freeland with a dominant stretch, but it just feels like Márquez will be taking home the ERA crown for the Rockies, surprisingly, for the first time in his career.
The only guy I left out here is Austin Gomber. If he somehow is the leader by the time the Rockies close out the season against the Arizona Diamondbacks, things will have gone catastrophically bad for this team.
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I’ve got a bone to pick with this list of players and I’m not afraid to let my Rockies fandom show here. How can you piece together a collection of underrated players without at least mentioning CJ Cron? The Rockies are by no means on the radar of most baseball fans nationally, but Jorge Polance of the Twins made the cut so that doesn’t seem to be a problem.
CJ has 26 HRs, just four shy of tying his career best, 80 RBIs which is already more than any other season he’s had, and has an OPS of .920. These are all pretty stellar numbers for a guy who nobody talks about outside of Colorado. Admittedly, I still enjoyed this read, it just could have used a little more Cron Zone.
The Hall of Fame ceremonies was one of the many events postponed last year due to the pandemic, but Rockies legend Larry Walker finally made his way to Cooperstown for the recognition he has long deserved. He joined MLB icon Derek Jeter, as well as Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller.
As always, the induction was a special event, perhaps best summed up by the fact that Larry Walker felt the need to grab a photo on his phone once he made his way up to the podium.
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On the farm
Double-A: Somerset Patriots 1, Hartford Yard Goats 0
Starting pitcher Karl Kauffmann allowed just one run on three hits through 5 1⁄3 innings. He struggled with the walk, giving up four free passes compared to his three strikeouts. The bullpen in Zach Matson and Will Gaddis only gave up one combined hit in 2 2⁄3 shutout innings, but the Yard Goats’ offense couldn’t pull ahead. The Yard Goats were shut out despite registering eight hits, and were 0-for-5 with RISP.
High-A: Vancouver Canadians 11, Spokane Indians 5
It was a tough night for Helcris Olivarez, who lasted just 3 1⁄3 innings while up for total runs and two earned on three hits. He walked two batters, and hit two more. Olivarez has hit 17 batters so far this season. The bullpen failed to keep Vancouver off the board, with all but Boby Johnson giving up at least one run. Fineas Del Bonta-Smith had an uncharacteristically bad night, walking two and giving up four earned runs on four hits. Spokane put up five runs on eight hits, but couldn’t keep up due to the poor pitching.
Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies @ Modesto Nuts: PPD
The playoff-bound Grizzlies didn’t play due to weather. The game will be made up in a double header on September 11th.
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