DENVER — It’s like the authentic pirates of the Caribbean – William Kidd, Edward "Blackbeard" Teach, Anne Bonny, Bartholomew "Black Bart" Roberts and Henry Morgan – discovering a treasure trove.
Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland, German Marquez, Jeff Hoffman and Jon Gray.
Five young, exceptional starting pitchers.
Avast, ye mateys. Arrrrrrrrr!
(To translate: Pay attention, you people. Wowwwww!)
The Bud Black Five own a 22-8 record and have won 56 percent of the Rockies’ games.
In June every season we talk about the Rockies’ starting pitching. And, annually, the conversation is about how awful the rotation is.
"Draft and develop" has been the rallying cry of the Rockies front office and ownership – through the stewardship of the Brothers Monfort and general managers Dan O’Dowd and Jeff Bridich.
Finally, but not quite the way they wanted. Gray and Freeland were No. 1 draft picks and have been brought through the system. But Senzatela was signed as a free agent out of Venezuela as a teenager, then treated with, er, kid gloves; Hoffman was acquired two years ago in the Troy Tulowitzki trade, and Marquez came to the Rockies in 2016 in the deal that included Rays reliever Jake McGee and Rox outfielder Corey Dickerson (currently the third leading hitter in the American League).
The Kiddie Korps averages 23.4 years old -- 25, 24, 24, 22 and 22.
The Rox opened the chest and found a mound of gold doubloons. This is what they have been hoping for for years and years.
Of course, the hiring of Bud Black (Bart) was inspiration. Glad I was the first to write in newspapers (The Denver Post and The Gazette) and say on TV (The Denver Channel – KMGH) a year ago next month that they must lure Black to Colorado. You’re welcome for the advice, Dick and Jeff (who had seemed like Mutt and Jeff previously.)
Black has molded a mixture of veterans and rookies into – can we actually utter this – one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball.
The staff had been brat WORST in the past.
I realize the Twin Tylers have been left out so far – but Tyler Anderson and Tyler (Ch)Atwood generally have been the weak links in the rotation.
Chatwood (or is he Atwood?) has a mediocre 6-7 mark with a 4.37 earned-run average), and Anderson (or Chanderson) is 3-5 (5.85). The two top-of-the-rotation guys are dragging the bottom, while Senzatela and Freeland, who began the season as the fourth and fifth starters, have pulled the Rockies to the pinnacle of the National League West and been major contributors to the Rox rise to the second-best record.
Gray, who was supposed to be the ace, made three starts and was without a decision before a foot injury forced him onto the disable list. Hoffman and Marquez were in the minors, and Chad Bettis arrived in Denver this week after completing chemotherapy treatments. Gray will go out for a few starts in the minors, and Bettis probably won’t be available for more than a month, even if then.
Here are the numbers on the others:
Senzatela is 8-2 with a 3.56 ERA; Freeland 7-3, 3.34; Hoffman 3-0 and 2.61, and Marquez 4-3 with a 4.53. Kid Zensation and Hometown Hero Freeland have a combined 24 starts, while Marquez has start eight games and Hoffman the three
The Rockies are being carried by those four rookies. The first two, with 15 victories through 62 games, must be considered for duo rookies-of-the-year in the National League.
Robert Ripley, who was responsible for Believe-It-Or-Not, would have considered putting the foursome in his museum.
The Rockies with great pitching. Not!
But the dilemma – and what a dynamic dilemma – is what to do with Gray is ready to pitch in the majors again in late June?
Send one of the young hurlers down to Albuquerque? Move one of the bullpen as a long reliever, and release Jordan Lyles (who is being paid handsomely), or go to a six-man rotation?
Black is opposed to six starters and maintained that stance for years. He wants five regulars. Black is smarter than you and me.
Hoffman and Marquez have earned the right to stay up.
There is 'The Tyler Decision.' One of them, likely Anderson, is bound for the bullpen.
However, Black must consider max innings for his starters. None has pitched more than 166 innings in a major or minor uniform. Only Marquez has made more than 29 starts in a season (2016 in the minors and briefly with the Rockies). Three Rockies starters are on pace for as many as 190 innings and 32 starts. Black probably won’t force Freeland and Senzatela to that point when the Rockies are qualifying for the postseason.
So, whichever pitcher who shifts to the bullpen likely will get spot starts in September so Black can keep the numbers at 175-180 innings and 28-30 starts in the arms race.
Meanwhile, pirates everywhere – including Clint Hurdle, manager of the Pirates, and Captain Jack Sparrow – have to be enchanted and enthralled by the Rox booty (treasure).