Colorado Rockies’ Chad Bettis May Be Baseball’s Most Unlikely #2 Starter


Aug 28, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Colorado Rockies pitcher C. Bettis (35) runs agility drills on the field before playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Rockies haven’t pitched well at all this year, but there are a few really bright spots out there. You’ve just got to look carefully.

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Going into 2015, one thing was (pretty much) certain: barring some weird, totally out-of-the-ordinary situation, the Colorado Rockies were going to be able to count on Jorge De La Rosa to hold down the top spot in their rotation.

A groin injury tripped up De La Rosa the first couple weeks of the year, but aside from that, he’s done exactly what the Colorado Rockies have wanted, expected, and — let’s be honest — very desperately needed.

That’s because outside of De La Rosa, the Rockies’ rotation was a mix of young guys the Rockies were kind of counting on (Jordan Lyles, David Hale, Chad Bettis), young guys the Rockies were hoping to really count on (Eddie Butler, Tyler Matzek, Jon Gray), random scrap heap options (Chris Rusin, Yohan Flande), and a veteran in that horrible very attractive “innings eater” role (Kyle Kendrick).

Not all of those guys have been awful, of course… but most of them have struggled pretty badly in one way or another. That’s what you get with a 5.00 team ERA and 4.62 team FIP in 2015, which I’m told is supposedly the year of the pitcher.

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Now De La Rosa has done what the Colorado Rockies desperately needed, but beyond him what about the man who has become Colorado’s #2 starter this year?

Chad Bettis came in to 2015 with low expectations. VERY low expectations. And yet here he is, after Friday night’s start with an 8-5 record, 4.46 ERA, 86 strikeouts against 106 hits and 37 walks in 103 innings over 18 starts.

Barring a crazy (and probably impossible, judging by how few games are left) pitcher-wins rally from Kendrick or Rusin, Bettis is going to finish second on the club in wins this year, with an outside shot to lead the team in that category. (No, sabermetrics folks, I’m not going to get into a pitcher wins debate here; wins are kind of indicative of success sometimes, though not anywhere near the best measure of a starting pitcher.)

There is one win stat to take seriously: in Bettis’ 18 starts, the Rockies are 12-6. In De La Rosa’s 26 starts, the Rockies are 14-12. Combine those two, and the Rox are 26-18 (.591). Extrapolated over 162 games, that’s the third best winning percentage in all of baseball. In games started by those other than Bettis and De La Rosa, the Rockies are 36-67 (.349). That winning percentage over 162 games, as you probably guessed, would be by far the worst in baseball.

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That makes Chad Bettis the Daniel Descalso of the Rockies’ rotation (the Rockies are 24-11 in games Descalso starts). And, it should really shock you at how stark a contrast it is that the team wins in Bettis’ starts, and loses without him on the mound.

I know, it’s unlikely the Rockies continue that pace behind Bettis (and to a lesser extent, De La Rosa) over a full season. By comparison, too, that isn’t the best 1-2 punch in baseball. The Dodgers, for example, are 17-12 when Clayton Kershaw starts, and 21-8 in Zack Greinke‘s starts. That gives them an overall 38-20 record from their 1-2 punch, and they (.603) form a real (and expensive) top end of the rotation.

But come on — you’re lying if before the season you expected the Rockies’ to win two-thirds of Bettis’ starts, and nearly 60% of the combination between him and De La Rosa. Nobody expected this, and even more than Chris Rusin’s good work, Chad Bettis is Colorado’s surprise of the summer. What happened, and how the hell did we get to a world where Chad Bettis is the Colorado Rockies’ #2 starter?

Looking ahead, Bettis probably profiles better as a #3 or #4 starter. I still have (relatively) little faith in the club if they truly expect Bettis alone to back up De La Rosa as a 1-2 punch next season without adding a good free agent and/or getting a lot out of Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood, Jordan Lyles, and some other folks.

[ Related: The Colorado Rockies must stop now and prepare Jon Gray for 2016 ]

All that said though, man look, let’s not over think this right now: Chad Bettis is throwing the best he ever has in his Major League career. He’s overcome some really bad seasons with the Rockies, yo-yoing between the rotation and the bullpen, and now he’s proven himself despite little faith from know-nothings (yours truly!).

Right now (for this shining moment?) Chad Bettis is the Rockies’ #2 starter, perhaps the most unlikely and unexpected #2 starter in all of baseball. He ought to move down the rotation a bit next year to make room at the top, but at the very least, his spot is hopefully one less thing the Rockies have to worry about this offseason.

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