JORGE DOESN’T ALWAYS LOOK PICTURE PERFECT BUT HE IS FLAT OUT THE BEST STARTER ON THE ROCKIES ROSTER AND HAS BEEN FOR YEARS
Get in the time machine and head back to 2008, March, when the team traded away Ramon Ramirez, who after a great rookie campaign in 2006 for the Rockies (61 games, 3.46 ERA and 1.256 WHIP) was horrible in 2007 despite the team’s World Series run. But with a live arm teams still saw potential and the Royals were able to land him for a player to be named later. How bad a player if you are the player to be named later for a player with an 8.51 ERA? I mean you must really stink. Ramirez incidentally would have four straight years of sub 3 ERAs before falling on hard times and spending 2014 in the minors before being outrighted. So, what did the Royals give up for Ramirez? On April 30, 2008 they sent one Jorge De La Rosa, the hard throwing but absolutely awful lefty (ERAs of 6.23 with the Brewers and 5.64 with the Royals). The Rockies like reclamation jobs (see Shawn Estes) but this was dumpster diving. DLR always had a nice arm, but was a head case. The Rox saw something though and worked hard on the mental game with him even as they also worked on his mechanics.
And they immediately saw results. In 2008 he went 10-8 with a 4.92 ERA and jumped his K/BB ration to 2.06 after having a high previously of 1.55 (only in 2013 did it drop back under 2). And the rest of is as they say history. So in 2014 as he headed into the last year of his contract, a lot of folks expected DLR to be trade-bait. The Rox however see DLR quite differently. This is the best pitcher ever in the organizations history, and age 33 he was still throwing well. I know that a lot of people were upset the team didn’t trade him at the trade deadline (Baltimore was said to have offered Eduardo Rodriguez, a 21 year old lefty from Venezuela, who was 3-7 with a 4.79 ERA at AA who had a 2.92 K/BB ration across the minors in 2014 – not exactly a deal you couldn’t turn down). Instead they signed him for another 2 years (and I am guessing DLR and the Rox are going to be inclined towards one another as long as he continues to perform). Do you trade your all-time best pitcher? Do you trade your staff ace? Do you trade a guy who had a 3.49 ERA in 2013 and a 4.10 ERA in 2014 despite irritation on his finger skin keeping him from throwing his best pitches. As we shall see, he remains dominant at Coors, even as he struggles from time to time on the road. So a review of 2014:
H: 15 Starts 10-2 90.2 innings (6 inn/start) 3.08 ERA 1.136 WHIP 2.21 K/BB .256 BABIP
R: 17 Starts 4-9 93.2 innings (5.1 inn/start) 5.09 ERA 1.335 WHIP 1.97 K/BB .280 BABIP
To be honest, those road numbers seem like a lot of bad luck (and poor defense, especially after all the injuries), and while a 1.335 WHIP isn’t great, it should result in something more like a 4.4-4.8 ERA, not a 5.09. What was really nice though is that after some early season issues (the first two months Jordan Lyles was the staff ace and DLR was probably at best a #3), he finished strong:
|1st Half:||10-6||4.56 ERA||19 Starts||5.1 inn/start||1.305 WHIP||1.70 K/BB|
|2nd Half:||4-5||3.53 ERA||13 Starts||6.1 inn/start||1.151 WHIP||2.75 /BB|
His BABIP was the same in the first and second half, so it was the increase in strikeouts, less walks, and in general just better pitching. It is no wonder the Orioles were interested in getting him. It might have been interesting to see him pitch against the Royals in the ALCS. But instead he was here.
Now, some interesting facts from the season. DLR pitched far better with run support (as does probably every pitcher), but the difference was stark:
|0-2 Runs||11 Games||0-9||5.52 ERA||1.381 WHIP||1.64 K/BB||.275 BABIP|
|3-5 Runs||6 Games||2-2||4.10 ERA||1.071 WHIP||2.73 K/BB||.250 BABIP|
|6+||15 Games||12-0||3.16 ERA||1.211 WHIP||2.25 K/BB||.271 BABIP|
Those are interesting numbers, showing that when DLR can just relax he doesn’t let the extra hit here or there bother him, doesn’t try and push for a strikeout. He pitches free and easy, and his ERA reflects that. His performance on those 3-5 run games is actually better, but for whatever reason his hits and walks found a way to score in those games, where as in the bigger run games they didn’t. His 0-2 run games are clearly his worst, and reflect the fact that these were on the road, where for whatever reason he didn’t pitch well. I would guess the future should be much better on the road. For his career his performance at home and the road are pretty equal, so 2014 is simply an odd year.
For his career he has been worst against the Dodgers (5-10, 5.66 ERA 1.573 WHIP) and strongest against the Dbacks (8-8, 2.98 ERA 1.260 WHIP). In 2014…he stunk against the Dbacks (0-3, 5.40 ERA 1.414 WHIP) and pretty good against the Dodgers (3-2, 4.88 ERA 1.265 WHIP) despite the Dbacks being awful and the Dodgers one of the leagues best. Baseball is a weird sport.
DLR made 32 starts despite having constant issues with his blisters, middle finger knuckle injury, thumb issues and a bad back. Imagine what he would $12 done healthy. He threw 184.1 innings, fewer than the team wanted but given the issues with altitude and recovery, probably heading to around 33 starts with 6.2 is more realistic. But given he was really only in his second season after Tommy John surgery…not bad.
2014 Season Grade:
H: A – What can you say about a guy who gives you 10 wins and a 3.08 ERA at the most offensive park in baseball? That is the living definition of a staff ace. Teams know if they draw Jorge they are going to have to work hard to score more than a few runs, and he can mess up a players swing with that hitch, his hard slider, and a 92+ fastball. The only reason he didn’t get an A+ was the innings/start. This teams needs more innings and more from the top is the place to begin.
R: C- – This is a hard grade to get right. Based on record and ERA, maybe a D or D+ would be more accurate, especially when you consider he is your staff ace. But then you look at the WHIP and BABIP and you think the ERA is a bit too inflated and that he might have run into some bad luck. Overall though I don’t think DLR would give a passing grade to his road performance, so I won’t either. If he was the #4 or 5 in the rotation his road numbers might have earned him a C+, but for your #1, it simply wasn’t good enough…not nearly so.
Overall Grade: B – I think a solid B sounds about right. On a team that was in danger of losing 100 games a 14-11 record facing most team’s top 2 starters is pretty darn good. But considering how dominate he can be, and was at home, an A grade would have needed an 18-8 or so record, with an ERA under 4. DLR is still the best pitcher in team history, but 2014 wasn’t close to his best season.
2015 Season Projection:
DLR will be throwing at age 34, so still young, and his 3rd season after TJ surgery. They have to get his back and hand healthy, not least so he can throw all his pitches in key situations. Without the fear of a contract hanging over his head (given DLR’s history of focus issues, a walk year is more pressure than opportunity), he can relax and throw. I see no reason, if the team can stay healthy and play defense, that we don’t see DLR win 18 games again and have a 3.50 or so ERA. If the bullpen is half-way decent, I would even say there is about a 20% chance we get the second 20 win season in Rockies history. He is a cheap staff ace at $12.5 million, and he wants to see this team get back to the playoffs so he can pitch this time (how might 2009 have worked out if he was healthy). With more help in the rotation I see a happy Jorge who might be the difference in this team playing meaningful games in September or not.
But even if DLR isn’t that good in 2015, he has been simply great. When the Rox got a player to be named later for a pitcher with an ERA over 8 the season before, do you think they ever imagined 69-45, a 4.60 ERA and a WHIP of 1.334? Do you think they ever imagined this player to be named later would produce 3 of the best ERA season at home ever? Do you think they imagined 2 season over 15 wins and 4 season over 10 wins, despite losing nearly 2 to TJ surgury? It isnt the Doyle Alexander/John Smoltz trade or Lou Brock/Ernie Broglio trade, but I think we can all agree it is the best trade the Rockies ever made. Can we at least give Dan O’Dowd a shout-out for that one.