Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. 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.
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No 4, Kyle Freeland: 2.4 rWAR
Due to the off-season work stoppage between MLB owners and the MLBPA, there was plenty of deferred business to attend to once the new CBA was signed. One of those items was salary arbitration hearings. Typically held during the final weeks before the season, hearings were delayed because of the 99 day lockout, leading many players to perform in regular season games on undetermined season salaries.
Colorado Rockies’ homegrown lefty Kyle Freeland was one of those players. Qualifying as a super-two player, Freeland had two more arbitration-eligible seasons remaining before the Rockies would lose club control and he would be eligible for free agency after the 2023 season.
After losing fellow homegrown hurler Jon Gray to the Texas Rangers in the previous off-season, the Rockies were facing the prospect of seeing the clock tick down on another starter beloved by the fan base. The first step was an arbitration hearing scheduled for May 24 to settle between the $6.425 million offer by the team and $7.8 million requested by Freeland.
Until that time, there were games to be played. Freeland received the Opening Day nod for the Rockies, but delivered a forgettable performance with five earned runs allowed in 3 ⅔ innings in a 5-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers. His second outing was slightly better, but not by much as he couldn’t get through the sixth inning without allowing another five runs to the Chicago Cubs.
His third start came on April 19th against the Philadelphia Phillies where he would deliver a much stronger outing, surrendering just two runs over five innings in a 6-5 Rockies victory. But the day was notable for what Freeland did off the field, as it was announced he had agreed to a five-year, $64.5 million contract extension to stay in Colorado.
With the uncertainty surrounding the southpaw resolved, Freeland and the Rockies could move forward with the sole focus of winning more games. Over his next three starts, Freeland would hold up his end of the bargain with just three runs allowed over 18 innings.
After a blow-up start against the Royals, Freeland would hold a 3.86 ERA over his next 49 innings, limiting the opposition to three runs or fewer in six of eight starts. Entering July, Freeland held a respectable 4.31 ERA and healthy ERA- of 93.
The start to July would be unkind to Freeland as he surrendered 15 runs in 16 innings over three starts. But on July 25, Freeland would face off against the Milwaukee Brewers and deliver his best start of the season with seven strikeouts, no walks and just four hits allowed in seven scoreless innings against the Brew Crew.
Kyle Freeland, 6th and 7th Ks. pic.twitter.com/WC4IrafBJc— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 26, 2022
Freeland would follow up that superb outing with strong performances against the Dodgers and San Diego Padres, earning wins in each to bring his season record to an even 7-7. A dud against the St. Louis Cardinals would pump the brakes on his hot streak, but Freeland would rebound in his final nine starts. From the middle of August to the end of the season, Freeland delivered a 3.78 ERA over 50 innings with healthy walk and strikeout rates of 6.4% and 18.8%, respectively.
Overall, Kyle Freeland finished with 31 GS, 174 ⅔ IP, 9 wins and a 4.53 ERA. While his fine numbers were not eye-catching when compared to the rest of the league, they were noteworthy relative to his peers in the rotation. He finished second on the staff in innings pitched, quality starts (13) and strikeouts (131), while posting an ERA nearly a half-run lower and rWAR almost full win higher than the next best starter, Germán Márquez.
All told, it was arguably Freeland’s best season outside of his incredible 2018 campaign. Tossing the second-most innings in a season in his career, Freeland posted his lowest walk rate (6.9%) and limited his HR/FB to under 10% for the first time since his peak 2018 season.
With a down-year from Márquez and significant injury to Antonio Senzatela, reliability from the starting rotation was in short supply for the Colorado Rockies in 2022. Kyle Freeland was not part of the problem, however, and showed why he was worthy of a new long-term deal. With four years and $57.5 million remaining on the extension before a $17 million option for 2027, the Rockies will happily take more of what they saw from Freeland in 2022 moving forward.