Mile High Pitching

The Colorado Rockies are leading the NL wild card race. They play in a surprisingly good NL West. Last year four NL Central teams and three NL East teams had better records than the NL West winner. This year the Dodgers are the class of the NL, and Colorado and San Francisco fight for the wild card. Colorado really has been a pleasant surprise and equally surprising is that they are doing it on the strength of one of the top pitching staffs in the game. We often let park effects influence how we think about teams (San Diego always has great pitching, if they could only get hitters), so it can be weird to think of Colorado having great pitching.

Looking at FIP, which does not correct for park or league, Colorado has the fifth best pitching in the game. At this point team tRA is not available here, but StatCorner’s tRA says Colorado’s pitching is 64 runs above average behind only by San Francsico (66), the White Sox (71) and Atlanta (77). Over at BtB JinAZ’s tERA has Colorado’s pitching as best in the game. I think it is fair to say they have one of the five best pitching staffs in baseball.

One of the big reasons is the health of their starting rotation. Ubaldo Jimenez, Jason Hammel, Jorge de la Rosa, Jason Marquis and Aaron Cook have started all but three games for the Rockies. Not having to dip into the sixth starter/minor league/replacement level pool for a number of starts really helps.

That is hardly a big name group, but they really get it done. Jimenez has always provided strikeouts and ground balls, and this year added the third leg of the stool cutting down on his walks. Hammel and De la Rosa have been surprisingly good. While Marquis and Cook provide solid, lots of ground balls with few walks or strikeouts, performance. Almost every game this season the Rockies have started a great to just below average pitcher, few teams can make such a claim.

In addition to health, another strength of Colorado’s pitching is ground balls. They are second in the league as a whole with 47% GBs per ball in play. Three fifths of their rotation, Cook, Marquis and Jimenez, get over 50%GBb/BIP. No accident I am sure, as ground balls are especially valuable relative to fly balls in Colorado.

Post season baseball has a good shot at returning to Colorado sooner than many expected.

We hoped you liked reading Mile High Pitching by Dave Allen!

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

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David A
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David A

What, is this a FanGraphs article showing some love for Jason Marquis? Omg, call in the FIP police.

Joe R
Guest
Joe R

To be fair, this isn’t Dave Cameron.

David A
Guest
David A

Well I think FIP in general is FIP’ed up when it comes to Marquis. His career ERA is about 1/2 a run lower. This year too. Something seems wrong about that.

Joe R
Guest
Joe R

FIP doesn’t take into consideration the way balls are put in play. Marquis’ LD rate has always been low, this year it’s one of the lowest among MLB starters. Usually is top third in ground balls, too, and right now he’s 4th among pitchers with the minimum IP in GB rate. Low LD rate + High GB rate usually results in outperforming peripherals.

Of course he’s being helped by a low 7.4% HR/FB rate right now, which is really low for Colorado.