The Colorado Rockies need pitching and the means to obtain an impact form of pitching will have to come via trade. In the past the Rockies have dabbled quite a bit in the free agent, waiver claim, and trade market for starting pitching but not much has panned out as much as they had hoped. Still, there are stories of success in the team’s history, and the acquisition of Cal Quantrill contains echos of Jason Marquis and his memorable 2009 season in purple pinstripes.
Marquis entered the 2009 season with new mechanics and hope to change his fortunes a bit. At the age of 30-years old he was entering his 10th Major League season after spending four years with the Atlanta Braves, three years with the St. Louis Cardinals, and the previous two years with the Chicago Cubs. He had always been a durable innings eater and had a respectable 4.55 ERA through the 2008 season, but walks and home runs had plagued him.
In December 2008 the Rockies sent Luis Vizcaíno to the Cubs after a disappointing 2008 season in exchange for Marquis and $1 million to offset the $9.8 million he was owed in the final year of his deal.
“The addition of Jason to our ballclub brings us the veteran leadership and depth to our rotation that we have been seeking to add this offseason,” Colorado general manager Dan O’Dowd said in a statement at the time of the trade, “We like (Marquis’) athleticism, age and durability.”
During the off-season, Marquis had tweaked his delivery to improve his release point by staying over the rubber longer in his balance point, allowing his arm to catch up, resulting in a slightly longer stride and helping him throw downhill more. He was never one to have large strikeout numbers, but he found success when relying on ground balls and soft contact.
As the season got underway, Marquis suddenly found himself as a staple in the rotation. In the first half of the season, he had a 3.65 ERA over 123 1⁄3 innings and became the third pitcher in franchise history to win 11 games before the All-Star break. Most notably Marquis tossed two compete games in the first half, including his June 30 start when he pitched a two-hit, no walk, 17-ground-ball-outs, 86-pitch shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers to become the first 10-game winner in the National Leaugue that year. He was eventually named just the fifth Rockies All-Star pitcher in team history. His second half wasn’t as spectacular, but he still managed a 4.56 ERA over 92 2⁄3 innings.
Marquis’ ability to get groundballs was on full display throughout the season. In 2008 he had a 46 GB% before posting a 53 GB% in 2009 thanks to his mechanical tweaks. He was second in the NL in ground ball outs induced (353) and ground balls induced (408), tied for second in double plays induced (28) and third in ground ball percentage (53.6%). Despite an 8.7% walk rate and 12.5% strikeout rate, Marquis was among the most effective and reliable pitchers in baseball that season and a key cog in the Rockies rotation that had a stellar year.
His durability was perhaps the most important part of his season. Marquis tossed a career-high 216 innings, just the third time he had ever eclipsed 200 innings as a starter. In all but four of his 33 starts, he pitched at least five innings. 26 of his starts that season saw Marquis pitch at least six innings. Nine of his starts saw him pitch at least eight innings or more. He worked deep into ball games and while they weren’t always the cleanest outings, he always gave his incredible offense a chance to win.
He was also incredible efficient on the mound. He ranked as the third-lowest in pitches per plate appearance (3.53), tied for fourth in wins (15), eighth in innings pitched (216.0) and HR/9 (0.6), 4th-lowest in pitches per inning (15.0; of NL pitchers with 160 or more innings), and tied for 6th in shutouts (1). He also recorded his lowest HR% since 2003 with a 1.6% rate.
As the Rockies were able to make the playoffs that season, he became the first player in baseball history to have been on a playoff team in each of the first 10 years of his career while playing for at least three different teams
The Rockies tried to make a deal with Marquis following the season to retain him, but he declined and eventual moved on to the Washington Nationals and bounced around the league until 2015. The years that followed that season with the Rockies never quite replicated the magical but he still turned in a solid and respectable 15-year career.
The organization doesn’t exactly have the same rotational foundation in 2024 as they did in 2009, but the team would be well off if they can somehow catch lightning in a bottle again with a trade. Marquis was established and provided the exact type of veteran leadership the team needed as they aimed for the postseason. His mechanical changes reaped major benefits as he conquered Coors Field via the ground ball.
My hope is that Cal Quantrill could have the same type of resurgence, or any pitcher for that matter, that Marquis did. Durable, reliable, and effective starters are hard to come by and if the Rockies want to compete, they should keep looking for trades like the one for Marquis back in 2009.
If you’d like to hear more about Jason Marquis, check out the most recent episode of the Every Rockie Ever podcast, available wherever you get your podcasts as well as YouTube.
Originally this whole article was going to be about the idea of signing Kyle Gibson to be an innings eater but the Cardinals decided to make me scrap the whole thing. The Cardinals have been busy this week trying to rebuild their rotation, it’s just been peculiar that they decided on two veterans who will mostly eat innings.
Watch: Rockies longest homers of 2023 | MLB Film Room
2023 may have been a bad season for the Rockies, but at least we can reflect on the majesty of some select dingers from the past year courtesy of guys like Nolan Jones, Ryan McMahon, and C.J. Cron.
Please keep in mind our Purple Row Community Guidelines when you’re commenting. Thanks!