Contrasting Rotation Mentalities -- Rockies vs. Rays -- On Display This Week

Kyle Freeland photo © Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

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Ryne Stanek is the scheduled starter for the Rays in the opening game of the Rockies three-game visit to Tropicana Field.

He won't be around long -- bank on it. Not because he is ineffective. Stanek is the face of the recent trend of The Opener.

The Rays starting pitcher failed to work at least five innings in 88 of the 162 games last season. And in a large part it was by design. They had four starters, in fact, who made at least five starts and never once pitched the five innings necessary to qualify for a victory.

Stanek made 29 starts and never once pitched three innings. Diego Castilla worked less than three innings in all 11 starts he made. Sergio Romo made five starts and never pitched as many as two innings. And Hunter Wood made eight starts, and never worked as many as three innings in any of them.

By contrast, Rockies starting pitchers worked fewer than five innings in only 28 of 163 starts, and none of them were by design. They did not have a stater work less than two innings, only four times had a starter work less than three innings, and only eight times less than four innings.

The Rockies rotation led the National League with 932 innings pitched in 2018, third overall behind the Indians (993 2/3) and Astros (955 1/3). The Rays were at the other extreme. Their starting pitchers worked a major-league low 624 innings. How low was that total? It not only is the fewest innings pitched by a rotation during a 162-game season, but it is 196 innings fewer than the Reds rotation worked in 2017, which is the second lowest in a 162-game season.

Rockies starters went 59-43, a .580 winning percentage, which was second best in the NL to the Dodgers (57-38, .600) and sixth among all Major League teams. The Rays, meanwhile, had a rotation that went 35-36, a .490 winning percentage that ranked 17th in MLB.

The Rockies used only seven starting pitchers last year -- and that included Jeff Hoffman receiving one starts. They had four starters work the required 162 innings necessary to qualify for an ERA title, and six starters work 73 innings or more.

By comparison, the Rays had only one starting pitcher work at least 162 innings -- Blake Snell, who went 21-5 in 31 starts and had a 1.80 ERA over 180 2/23 innings. They had only two starters worked more than 57 innings. What's more Snell was not only the only starting pitcher with a winning record, but he was the only Rays pitcher among the 17 who started a game in 2018 who won more than three games.

Kyle Freeland not only led the Rockies with 202 1/3 innings pitched, but he set a franchise record with a 2.85 ERA, and German Marquez, whose 196 innings pitched ranked second to Freeland, set a franchise record with 230 strikeouts.

Those two will start on Tuesday and Wednesday, and are both coming off victories at Florida during the season-opening series against the Marlins.

It is not like the Rockies rotation suddenly developed iron men. While they led the NL in innings pitched by starters with 932, that total ranked only 12th in Rockies history. The rotation ERA of 4.17 ranked second all-time, behind the 2009 wild-card team, which had a rotation with a 4.10 ERA. The 2018 rotation did, however, set a franchise record, allowing a .252 batting average, 10 points behind the .262 average allowed by the starting pitchers in 2009, which is now the second lowest in franchise history.