The Rockies Unlikely Rotation Success

The Colorado Rockies are going to the playoffs, but they’ve gotten there in an unlikely manner. Instead of outslugging other teams, they’ve outpitched them. And that’s with a rotation of Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook, Jason Marquis, Jason Hammel, and Jorge de la Rosa. I took a look at their surprising success over at MLB Notebook.  An excerpt’s below; click through for the full version.

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“#1 starter Ubaldo Jimenez has been a beast this year, with 218 innings of 3.47 ERA ball. He’s still getting strike-outs (8.2 K/9) and has really improved his control (3.5 BB/9) while still keeping the ball in the year (0.54 HR/9) with his excellent groundball rates (over 53%).  His 3.36 FIP is 10th in the NL, and his 5.8 WAR – which leads the Rockies – is 4th amongst starters. This was largely expected of him given his 3.83 FIP and 4.4 WAR from last year, though he has taken a step forward.

#2 starter Aaron Cook has only pitched 158 innings this year due to injury, and he gave up a few more home runs than one would expect given that he was his usual groundball-inducing self (56.7% GB rate). His 4.60 FIP and 2.1 WAR aren’t great, but they’re solid. Cook has actually traded off average and very good seasons recently, with 4.3 WAR in ’06, 2.6 WAR in ’07, 4.8 WAR in ’08, and the 2.1 WAR in ’09.

After that is where it gets interesting.

Jason Marquis came into the season with a career FIP of 4.82. He had had precisely zero seasons in his career with even a 2 WAR. He was a #4 starter. This year has been a different story.  He’s 15-12 with a 3.95 ERA in a career high 212 IP and career best 4.11 FIP.  It’s largely on the strength of a low home run rate (0.64 HR/9) that he likely won’t be able to continue despite getting a lot of groundballs (55.6%).  The results still count though, and Marquis’ 3.9 WAR is second on the Rockies’ staff.

Jason Hammel was traded to Colorado from the Rays after they ran out of room for him on their roster.  He had spent parts of three seasons in the majors with Tampa Bay, and his best was 2007 when he had a 5.05 FIP and accumulated 0.5 WAR. In 2009 he’s cut his walk rate in half, from the low 4’s to 2.16 BB/9, and has benefited from a 9.9% HR/FB ratio to lower his HR/9 to 0.88. Like with Marquis, that probably won’t continue but a 3.73 FIP in a career high 174.2 IP, and 3.8 WAR have been a very pleasant surprise considering the expectations were that of a back of the rotation starter or swing-man.

Jorge de la Rosa is in his sixth season in the majors, having previously washed out with the Brewers and the Royals. His success this season isn’t quite as surprising as the two Jasons’, since he did have a 4.06 FIP for the Rockies last year. It might have been obscured by a 4.92 ERA though. This year he’s got the FIP down to 3.91, with a strike-out rate (9.39 K/9) that’s sixth in the NL. He also had 3.8 WAR in his career high 185 IP.”