On June 19th Jim Tracy declared that the Rockies starting pitchers would only throw 75 pitches per start. At the time the Rockies had by far the worst ERA among starting pitchers in baseball so something had to be done…many were not sure this was what needed to be done. I personally think the Rockies have a stable full of awful starters, for various reasons, so 75 pitches, 100 pitches or 120 pitches; they are going to be terrible.
I went back and looked at each start since June 19th and looked at innings pitched, number of pitches thrown per start, number of earned runs allowed and if the pitcher records a win, loss, no decision and if the start was a quality start (six innings pitched or more in which the starter allowed three or fewer earn runs). Here are some things I found:
- The Rockies have used eight different starting pitchers over their past 32 games played since June 19th.
- Only once has a pitcher recorded an out in the seventh inning and that was Drew Pomeranz on July 6th against the Washington Nationals, in Washington.
- The most pitches thrown in any outing was last night by Jeff Francis. Francis threw 97 pitches last night and the previous high during this stretch was way back in June when Jim Tracy let Josh Outman attempt to compete the fifth inning so he could qualify for a “W” but Outman flamed out and only pitched 4 2/3 innings and thew 92 pitches.
- During this stretch of 32 games Rockies starting pitchers have averaged 77 pitches per start.
- Edwar Cabrera thew the fewest pitches. Cabrera threw 65 pitches in that brutal outing in which he only lasted 2 1/3 innings against the Washington Nationals on June 27th at Coors Field.
- During this stretch Rockies pitchers have only pitched at least five full innings (the minimum for a pitcher to qualify for a win if his team has the lead) 17 times, or roughly 53% of games started.
- During this stretch the Rockies have only accumulated seven quality starts or had a quality start about 22% of the time.
- Finally, the Rockies starters have an ERA of 6.08 during the past 32 games. Currently the Rockies starting staff has an ERA of 6.22 which is a half run worse than the Minnesota Twins or 1.66 runs worse than the next closest National League team, the Houston Astros.
Nothing too impressive and not a lot of improvement…
If you had to pick one pitcher from the Rockies staff who seemingly has excelled with this new pitch limit; who would that be? My pick would be Francis. How do the numbers change if his starts are removed?
- This reduces the number of starts to 24 from 32.
- The starters ERA rises from 6.08 to 7.13 without Francis.
- The number of pitches stays exactly the same at 77 and the quality start percentage only drops slightly from 22% with Francis to 21% without.
- BUT – Francis does have five starts in which he has thrown five innings with three or fewer runs allowed since the start of this pitch count limit. Francis only has one start since June 19th in which he allowed more than three earned runs. During this stretch his ERA is 3.50 and I am willing to bet that if his leash was lengthened it would be lower. In many of his outings he seemingly was cruising along, pitching well, and yanked after five innings because he threw 78 pitches.
- There were four starts in which Francis was pulled after five innings in which he had allowed two runs or less and thrown fewer than 80 pitches (one such outing saw him only throw 66 pitches!).
How does this compare to other teams?
- The Rockies starters have thrown 486 innings this year and that is the fewest in baseball. Kansas City clocks in with 501 1/3 for second fewest and Philadelphia’s starters lead the league with 640 innings pitched.
- The Rockies have 24 quality starts as a team in 2012 and that is 10 fewer than KC. Washington leads the league with 65 quality starts.
- Rockies starters have averaged just barely over five innings per start in 2012 with KC’s starters averaging 5.2 innings per start (not 5 2/3, but 5.2). The teams right in the middle of the pack, Arizona and San Diego, get six innings per start while the Phillies are getting nearly 6.5 innings per start from their staff.
It is bad anyway you slice it. There isn’t any apparent metric that shows the team is doing any better with the new limit. I think it is hurting them because there are times (mainly when Francis is on the mound) that pulling the starter after so few pitches hurts the team.
What is the solution? I would start with better player development, myself. I don’t think any pitcher in their right mind would sign with the Rockies right now. It would have to be a case like Jeff Francis where he was available as a free agent and no other team wanted him. A last chance effort to resurrect a career.