Jun 13, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Colorado Rockies relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins (32) pitches in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
As the season gets underway, RoxPile.com is making some fun (but completely unqualified!) predictions about how members of the Colorado Rockies will fare this summer. In this edition: LaTroy Hawkins.
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LaTroy Hawkins is the man.
By all accounts, he’s one of the best people in the game of baseball.
He’s one of only 16 men to pitch in more than 1,000 games in the Major Leagues.
And as of right now, he’s the Rockies closer.
While Adam Ottavino may usurp him at some point this season (through no fault of Hawkins’ – Ottavino is just plain filthy), the Colorado Rockies will need Hawkins to pitch well and help anchor the deeper-than-usual bullpen this summer.
What The Numbers Say
FanGraphs lists various projection systems, which you can learn more about here.
Projection systems like Hawkins to pitch between 53 and 65 games this summer.
(Side note: if he pitches in 65 games, he’ll retire having thrown the seventh most games in Major League history. If he throws in 72 games, he’ll retire having thrown the fifth most games in big league history.)
History aside, somewhere around 60 is probably about right for Hawkins; projections also plan on him upping his K/9 to around 6.3 this year, from just 5.3 last season.
Steamer believes Hawkins will record 28 saves, while others believe he’ll end up being a set-up man and record as many as 15 holds, considering the Rockies’ new-found bullpen depth and the emergence of Ottavino.
Call to the Pen
In a best-case scenario, I’d envision Hawkins actually losing the closer’s role, but not due to ineffectiveness – more so due to Ottavino’s quickly-growing reputation and, oh yeah, a 98 MPH heater.
Hawkins is very valuable in the bullpen regardless of whether he’s throwing the sixth, seventh, eighth, or ninth innings.
It might be worth it to take the training wheels off Ottavino at some point this summer, knowing Hawkins (and Rafael Betancourt and John Axford, and maybe even Boone Logan) have the stuff to slam the door in the ninth if Ottavino does falter.
Either way, Hawkins in the best case scenario locates strikes, is efficient with his pitches, and consistent out of the pen to the tune of 70 appearances for the club.
Considering how well Hawkins keeps himself and his arm in shape, it’d be difficult to imagine his age catching up to him as it does most veteran players. After all, he had the third-most appearances of his career in 2013 with the Mets (72) and it didn’t slow him down as the Rockies’ closer last year.
The worst-case scenario, instead, centers on his strikeout rate and issues pitching to contact. Last year, Hawkins struck out just 5.3 batters per nine innings, which is below his career average (which is just 5.98, anyways), and very low for a late-inning reliever. His ground ball rate, at 46.7% (below his career average of 47.7%) wasn’t anything to write home about, either.
Ideally, clubs want late-inning relievers who can miss bats and get a ton of ground balls, knowing they’ll often come in to one-run games, or situations with multiple men on base. Hawkins did well enough last year despite low K and GB rates, but if he keeps pitching to contact (and contact in the air), things could potentially go off the rails.
Come on, you really think we’re gonna blow up LaTroy Hawkins in his final season? Dude’s awesome.
I maintain he won’t close the entire year, because of the emergence of Ottavino in the ninth inning, but Hawk is going to have a great year, pitch in about 65 games (first as a closer, and later, as a set-up man), and ride off into the sunset as one of the greatest people to ever be involved with the game of baseball.
Give us your predictions!