clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Gomber proved perseverance, worth in 2023

The 5-year veteran posted a career-best 27 starts when the Rockies most needed stability in the rotation

Welcome to the 2023 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2023. 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.

★ ★ ★

No. 8, Austin Gomber: 1.1 rWAR

In his fifth season in Major League Baseball and his third with the Rockies, Austin Gomber evolved.

Not only did he start more games (27) and pitch more innings (139) than in any other season in his career, but at one point in July, he was the only remaining starter from the Rockies original rotation who was still healthy.

Germán Márquez was lost for the season with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. Ryan Feltner had a skull fracture and faced an uncertain future. José Ureña’s struggles led to him being cut, and Kyle Freeland missed three weeks after the All-Start break with a right shoulder subluxation.

Gomber stepped up and became a reliable staple every fifth game when the Rockies needed it most. In July, he made five starts, going six innings in each, and posting a 3.00 ERA in the month. Through July 31, he was 8-8 with a 5.68 ERA and led the Rockies with 22 starts. Colorado also had a 12-10 record in his starts up to that point.

By July 28, Freeland got healthy. By the end of the season, Freeland and Gomber ended up starting about 35% of the Rockies games in 2023.

“Obviously, that’s unfortunate that we’ve had to deal with the injuries that we’ve had to deal with but we did definitely take this sense of pride in trying to be available and take the ball every five days for the team,” Gomber told Purple Row in August.

Off the field, Gomber became a leader by example and an experienced player younger pitchers could ask for advice.

“I was very fortunate when I came up to have a lot of really good veterans around me,” Gomber told Purple Row in August, specifically mentioning Adam Wainwright’s impact when he was with St. Louis. “So, you know, the longer I’m here and kind of transition more into like that veteran player, I try to take the lessons that were learned, taught to me, and try to send them on to the next generation.”

Gomber finished the year 9-9 with a 5.50 ERA and 1.489 WHIP. Despite dropping his strikeouts per nine to the lowest of his career at 5.6, especially compared to his career-best 8.8 in 2021, he continued his 2022 trend of keeping his walk rate low at 3.1 per nine. He overcame an 0-4 start in his first four appearances, when he also posted a 12.12 ERA, to record the best rWAR — 1.1 — of his career. It was a big change from his 0.3 rWAR in 2022 when his ineffectiveness on the mound sent him to the bullpen.

On Aug. 28, Gomber was pulled in the third inning against the Braves with lower back pain. He tried to rehab it to get back, but the inflammation didn’t calm down. On Sept. 8, he was placed on the IL, ending his season. Despite missing the final month of the season, Gomber pitched 23 2/3 more innings than any of his previous MLB seasons.

In order to be a go-to starter, pitchers have to prove they can make it through a 162-game season, or at least most of it. Being able to do that and learning from that experience will only help Gomber, who turned 30 in November, in the years ahead. He also said Freeland has been giving him good advice about “hammering down a routine.”

“I’ve been around long enough now I kind of have like a routine that I know works for me,” Gomber told Purple Row toward the end of the season. “I think that’s the biggest thing is just being disciplined for, you know, the entire season and understanding that. There’s things that you got to do every day, whether you feel good or not, right? Get yourself in a position to be able to do it for, you know, six months straight. So, I feel like I have a good base just trying to stay there.”

While there’s still lots of room for improvement as Gomber had career-high numbers in home run percentage (4.3%), hard-hit percentage (44.4%), batting average against (.297), on-base percentage (.331), and OPS (.787) in 2023, he also showed the mental resilience and tools to stay in games to end with a .500 record.

With Márquez and Antonio Senzatela expected to spend at least half of 2024 on the IL, the Rockies will need Gomber to be a workhorse again and help the Rockies build toward a future with more wins.