Thursday, August 14, 2014

Jorge De La Rosa gives the Colorado Rockies a chance to win every fifth day

De La Rosa always gives the Rockies a chance.
The Colorado Rockies are on the fast track to their first 100 loss season. The only thing that might stop them from getting there is Jorge De La Rosa.

Despite a terrible season from his club, De La Rosa seems to find a way to put his team on the winning side of the ledger far more often than not. It isn't always the most clean outing, and it isn't necessarily the most dazzling every time, but De La Rosa gives his team a chance to win every time he takes the mound.

On a team with 47 wins overall, De La Rosa owns 12 of the victories. He continues to dominate at Coors Field, something that no one else has seemed to figure out since the beautiful park was opened way back in 1995.

Some argue that pitcher's victories are the least telling stat, but there is no denying that even with a somewhat pedestrian ERA of 4.32, that De La Rosa knows how to pitch. He isn't out there hoping for the ball to bounce in the right direction, he is bearing down and getting outs when he needs them.

De La Rosa's strong suit seems to be shutting down would-be big innings. In the 2nd inning on Thursday night, the Rockies lefty looked like he might give up a big inning. Ryan Ludwick hit a double after Devin Mesoraco led off the inning with a walk. With a run already in, no one out and a runner on second base, De La Rosa didn't allow a huge inning. He settled in and got outs. He quickly got two ground ball outs, and nearly got out of the inning, but Zack Cosart drilled a hard ground ball into left field. However, that was all the Reds would get until Ludwick homered on a mistake pitch in the 6th.

In the end, De La Rosa gave up three runs in seven innings of work. He gave up five hits, struck out five and walked just one. That type of line is so typical for De La Rosa. To someone who just looks at the box score, they may simply see a good, but not great outing. To an outsider, his numbers look just better than average.

However, watch the games in which De La Rosa pitches and it is very clear. The team plays differently with him on the mound. They know that they are going to have a shot to win. He may give up a few runs, but it is never going to be enough for the Rockies to be playing catch-up all game long. That type of confidence is something that empowers a baseball team, especially a bad one, to play better. It makes them feel like they have a chance.

The Rockies have very little left to play for. They are a team that is playing for pride, but have very little hope of gaining that back. The season is a joke. The team is miserable. Their superstars are both out for the season and there is no reason to believe that the team will be able to avoid their first-ever 100 loss season. However, watching De La Rosa pitch gives fans one reason to continue watching every fifth day.

The sad reality of De La Rosa, the only pitcher to ever master Coors Field, is that he could easily walk away at season's end. He is a free agent who looks like he will be highly coveted. The 33-year-old still probably has around three years remaining of solid baseball. He still throws in the mid-90's and has a change-up that falls off of the table.

Despite loving pitching in Denver, and loving the organization, the Rockies haven't returned the love. They didn't even approach him in the offseason about returning after 2014. While De La Rosa may give the club the first chance to re-sign him, they will certainly have to pay more for him, after what looks to be another 14-plus win season. Pitchers who have won 14 or more games three times in their career do not come cheap, and De La Rosa would be very wise not to take a hometown discount.

The Rockies, who have many needs to address in the offseason, need to start by giving De La Rosa what he deserves. Pitching is the biggest struggle for this Rockies team and losing De La Rosa certainly wouldn't be a great place to start the offseason. The Rockies need all of the quality arms that they can get. If they have to overpay for De La Rosa, they should absolutely do it.

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  1. Great article. DLR has been the bright spot in an otherwise dismal season. He thrives in Colorado. He was a disappointment everywhere he went before, but found himself in Denver. I would not be surprised if he took a hometown discount, but he deserves more for what he has been.

  2. Completely agree about the value of JdlR. But the Rockies don't have the slightest idea of how to extract the most from that value he provides and that is necessary if the team pays the most to get a free agent. His unique value is at Coors. On the road he is a highly replaceable middle rotation guy.

    The solution is to maximize his starts at Coors - even if that means his time between starts varies between 4-7 games (4 days rest is all the body needs and too much rest allows for rust to creep in). Instead, like every other team (who doesn't have to deal with altitude in structuring their roster), we will worship the holy five man.

    Which means ALL of our starters need to be developed specifically for Coors. Which means we can't possibly hire dominant pitchers (who could be REALLY useful on the road where our bats suffer) - and we can't possibly wring some value from pitchers who fail to or take time to adjust to altitude or whose repertoire will only work at altitude in smaller doses - and we can't possibly salvage trade value from pitchers who won't fit longer term (by shinying up their numbers with road starts in pitchers parks). Instead we churn and burn and break and toss and scavenge garbage and rinse and repeat.

    I'd love to see JdlR signed here long term. But our current problems are so much deeper and broader than this. One expensive pitcher in a broken system is possibly the worst of all worlds. Because it gives false hope - once every five days 'we have a chance' - and that only serves to reinforce the current broken status quo.