For the 2017 Colorado Rockies, they relied heavily on their young pitching staff. Of the six starting pitchers that had 16 or more starts in 2017, four of them were rookies. One of those rookies was Kyle Freeland.
Most people did not even believe that Kyle Freeland would even make the Rockies opening day starting rotation. However, he started the Rockies fifth game of the regular season, their home opener against the eventual National League West and National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
Freeland would pitch a stellar six innings only allowing four hits, one run, and two walks while striking out six on 95 pitches. The Rockies would end up winning the game by a score of 2-1.
Freeland would continue with pitching well throughout the season as he went 11-11 with a 4.10 ERA in 33 games (28 of which were starts) and his ERA+ was 122, or 22% better than league average in the stadiums he pitched in.
Also, his 3.4 Wins Above Replacement (or WAR) was third best on the Rockies, only behind Nolan Arenado‘s 7.2 and Charlie Blackmon‘s 6.0. It also lead Major League Baseball for rookie pitchers and fourth best overall of rookies in baseball.
He particularly pitched well in the first half of the season. Prior to the All-Star break, Freeland went 9-7 with a 3.77 ERA in 18 starts. He also pitched the vast majority of his innings in the first half as 107 1/3 of his 156 total innings on the season were in the first half, or 68.8 percent.
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What to look for in 2018 from Freeland
In 2017, he pitched 156 innings. In 2016, split between Double-A Hartford and Triple-A Albuquerque, he had 162 innings of work. Prior to 2016, though, he never pitched more than 46 2/3 innings in a season in the minor leagues.
I would suspect that Rockies manager Bud Black will be more willing to push the envelope on Freeland’s innings if no injury issues arise with him. You may remember that in early August, Freeland was out with a left groin strain and was placed on the 10-day disabled list with it. It happened during the first inning of his start on August 4 at Coors Field against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Freeland was on the DL for the minimum 10 days but with leaving in the first inning with the injury and missing one start due to the stint, he almost assuredly would have eclipsed the 162 innings he amassed in 2016.
If he can provide the Rockies with what he did in 2017 or even pitch better, it will definitely be something for Rockies fans to look forward to in 2018.
Note: This is the second in a series of articles where we will be discussing some of the reasons for excitement for next season in Colorado. Feel free to add your own reasons in the comments below.