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The Rockies and the complete game shutout

Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, April 27, 2022

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Recently at Arizona, Dodgers ace Walker Buehler did something the 2022 MLB season hadn’t yet seen: he tossed a complete game shutout. He was the first starting pitcher to throw a single pitch beyond the 8th inning period, and needed just 108 pitches to complete his masterpiece, a three-hit blanking of the Arizona Diamondbacks. This got me thinking about complete games, and it got me thinking about shutouts. Let’s talk about the Rockies and the crown jewel of pitching performances (short of a perfect game or no-no, obviously).

The Rockies Totals

There have been 33 shutouts in Rockies history, so about than one per season, and they’ve been tossed by 23 different pitchers. These things are rare in general in modern baseball, but even more so when you play half your games in the most hitter-friendly park of the modern era. Who has the most? Here it is:

As you can see, only two guys have three, Ubaldo Jiménez and Jason Jennings. Two of those deserve special mention, for very different reasons. One of Ubaldo’s three is the game that, to this day, remains the lone no-hitter in Rockies history, and one of Jennings’s three was his first ever start, which is just incredible and one of the few times in MLB history that’s ever happened (I don’t have the actual data, but it has to be). And yet, it’s not the only time it’s happened in Rockies history: Mark Brownson’s first career start in 1998 was his first and only shutout as well.

Some of these names may induce a trip back down memory lane for some of you who’ve followed this team for decades. For someone like me, who’s a much newer fan (2018 was my first full season of following baseball), Germán Márquez stands out because I remember both of his shutouts very well, as they were both one-hitters who were no-no’s very deep into the game. One was in San Francisco, broken up in the 8th inning, the other was a no-hitter he took into the ninth at Coors Field against the Pirates just last season.

There other ones who stand out here, but let’s do some numbers and charts first, because that’s fun. First, here they are sorted by the year in which they were thrown...

And now, by the month in which they were thrown...

A few things here. The two years with the most shutouts are 2001 and 2006, both with four, and I wouldn’t have guessed that in a million years. I would have guessed that the Rockies went three seasons without a single complete game shutout between 2002-2004, however, the longest streak in franchise history. As far as the months go, I actually expected to see a bit more of a split between the colder months and the hotter months but as it turns out, that’s not the case, with the sole exception of July.

And here’s something else. Here are all 27 pitchers who have ever tossed a shutout in Rockies history, sorted by the amount of shutouts they threw and their average Game Score:

The X axis is the Game Score of the shutouts (or average Game Score, for guys who had multiple shutouts), the Y axis is the amount of shutouts. You can see some of the outliers: Germán Márquez with an average shutout score well over 90 across his two shutouts, Roger Bailey with two shutouts with an average score below 75, Jon Gray with the highest Game Score ever for a Rockies pitcher... For those wondering, the average Game Score for a shutout in Rockies history is 82.9. Let’s single some of these out.

Highest Game Score: 95, by Jon Gray on September 17th, 2016 (9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 16 K)

This is, quite possibly, the finest game ever pitched by a Colorado Rockie. I’d say it is, but however you slice it, there’s no way this is lower than third. Games featuring 16+ strikeouts and zero walks are an extreme rarity in MLB history (less than 50), and Gray pulled this off in Coors Field of all places.

Lowest Game Score: 69, by Brian Bohanon on September 9th, 2000 (9.0 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K)

Nice. How do you toss a shutout and get a lower Game Score below 70? This is a pretty good example of how. Bohanon gave up nine hits (three of them for extra bases), walked three and struck out three. He faced 39 batters, threw 139 pitches and generated just seven swings and misses all game. Despite that, he held the Padres hitless (0-for-10!) with runners in scoring position, and that’s how you allow zero runs despite tons of baserunners. This type of game will never happen again in the big leagues.

Earliest Shutout: June 21st, 1994, by David Nied (9.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K)

The first shutout in Rockies history, the only one they’d get in their first three seasons of play, and their only one at Mile High Stadium. To make it even more impressive, this was a dangerous Astros lineup Nied shut down, with Biggio-Bagwell-Caminiti in the heart of the order (Houston finished 2nd in the NL in runs scored that season and Bagwell won MVP after hitting .368/.451/.750 and driving in 116 runs in 110 games). One more fun nugget from this one? The pitcher David Nied beat in this game was none other than Darryl Kile, who four years later would go on to toss one of the 33 shutouts in Rockies history himself.

Latest Shutout: June 29th, 2021, by Germán Márquez (9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K)

Since 2018, the Rockies have managed two shutouts, and Germán Márquez has tossed both of them. Both were deep no-hit bids, both of which I watched live and agonized over. This one was broken up in the ninth inning and might be the most nerve-wracking ballgame I’ve ever watched. By Game Score it’s one of the five best shutouts on the list, with an 89. Only four games have a 90 or higher. By way, how cool is it that the first and last (so far) shutouts in Rockies history were tossed in basically the same point of the year? Same goes for the highest and lowest Game Score, too. Weird!

And now, for my favorite chart I’ve made for this week’s Rockpile. Here’s a timeline of every Rockies no-hitter, with the X axis representing the moment in history in which it was thrown and the Y axis representing the Game Score of every single one:

Now, THAT is a beauty. The most interesting thing about this chart is that it quite clearly shows how the quality of the average shutout has significantly increased in recent years, as the trend is very strong. Nowadays, the only way a starter gets enough of a leash to go out there and get 27 outs is if he’s pitching an absolute gem. No more allowing 12 baserunners and still getting a shot to get the final few outs, you have to be on point: you have to go back to 2007 to get a shutout with a Game Score below 80, and even that’s a significant outlier. I love that some basic data I gathered clearly reflects that. Here’s the Google Docs, by the way, If you want to check it out.

Do you have one particular shutout you remember fondly? For me, I’m limited to picking between Germán’s two, as they’re the only ones I’ve seen live. That’s what happens when you’re Spanish and don’t even know what baseball is until you’re almost 18 years old.

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Baseballs aren’t flying as far, and home runs are down across MLB. Is it the ball itself? | The Athletic ($)

From Ken Rosenthal and Eno Sarris. The new baseballs seem to have more drag (back up to pre-2019 levels, and are one element keeping run scoring down across baseball. Entering today’s games, the average MLB slash line was a pitiful .231/.307/.368. That’s a .675 OPS, the lowest number since 1972 and the first time the MLB average OPS has dropped below .700 since the late 80s. The ball isn’t the only factor (cold weather, shortened spring and waves upon waves of relievers are also to blame), but it’s one of them.

Randal Grichuk on trade, transition to Rockies | Rox Pile

Grichuk had already trained with a good amount of his current teammates before becoming a Rockie, so that part of the transition wasn’t a problem for him. The most challenging part, according to him, has been coming back to the National League for the first time in almost five years and getting used to the teams and pitchers he’ll face on a regular basis. He also seems to prefer living in Denver to Toronto!

On The Farm

Triple-A: Sacramento River Cats 9, Albuquerque Isotopes 7

Too little, too late for the Isotopes (7-12) in this one, as a three-run, ninth-inning rally came far too short to beat Sacramento (11-8). Albuquerque starter Matt Dennis got blitzed (4.1 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 HR), and while the bullpen held it together very nicely after he exited, the deficit was too much to overcome even with a good, well-rounded offensive performance from a lineup that saw six different hitters drive in at least one run and seven hitters score one run each. The Isotopes have lost six of their last eight and will look to rebound today with righty Zach Neal (1-2, 6.59 ERA) on the hill.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats at Harrisburg Senators

The ballgame was postponed due to inclement weather. It will be made up today.

High-A: Spokane Indians 14, Everett Aquasox 6

Through six innings of this contest, Spokane (8-8) was trailing Everett (5-10) by a score of 5-1, but they turned it around and led 10-6 after seven frames... yeah, you read it right. The Indians exploded for nine runs in the top of the seventh inning, putting the game out of reach for good before adding four more runs in the eight inning for good measure. That top of the seventh featured 13 Spokane batters coming to the plate, seven hits, three walks, and an Everett error. The barrage of runs made it so starter Austin Kitchen’s poor outing (5.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 3 K, 2 HR) was forgotten. It was a team effort for the Indians, who had all but one batter collect at least a hit and four different hitters with 2+ RBIs. They’ll next send righty Mike Ruff (1-1, 1.80 ERA) to the mound against the AquaSox for the second game of their six-game set.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 7, Stockton Ports 2

Adael Amador just keeps on raking. The young switch-hitting shortstop had himself a game at Stockton, going 2-for-4 with a pair of homers, three RBIs and a walk, leading the Grizzlies (8-8) to a convincing win over the Ports (6-10). A quality combined effort from the pitching staff (four different pitchers took the mound, going 3.0, 3.0, 2.0 and 1.0 inning respectively) kept the Stockton bats in check, and the bats did the rest. Amador, who’s just 19 years old, is now hitting .339/.457/.607 in Low-A with a 13/9 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Fresno will start 20-year-old right-hander Case Williams (0-1, 10.80 ERA) today, who’ll be looking for his first win of the young season.

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