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Rockies' Top 5 righty starters: Harding's take

@harding_at_mlb
May 26, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. Love this list? Hate it?

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. Love this list? Hate it? If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here are the top right-handed starting pitchers in Rockies history. Next week: left-handed starters.

Rockies' all-time around the horn team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | Bench

1) Ubaldo Jiménez, 2006-11, 2020*
Key fact: In 2009, Jiménez earned a club-record 19 wins, became the only pitcher in club history to start an All-Star Game and finished third in National League Cy Young Award voting

Jiménez made two cameo appearances in 2006, then jumped into an injury-affected rotation in ’07 and recorded a 112 ERA+ while helping the club get to the World Series. His true arrival came during the second half of 2009, when he went 9-3 with a 3.08 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 102 1/3 innings. Then came the magical 2010 season that included a no-hitter at Atlanta on April 17 and an All-Star Game start.

Back with the club under a Minor League contract, Jiménez stands as the Rockies’ all-time leader in Baseball Reference's pitching Wins Above Replacement (18.9), ERA (3.66), fewest hits per nine innings (7.64) and Fielding Independent Pitching (3.58).

2) Aaron Cook, 2002-10
Key fact: Cook, an unabashed ground-ball pitcher, threw two complete games in fewer than 80 pitches, less than a year apart -- on July 25, 2007, and July 1, 2008, both at Coors Field against the Padres

Many a worm died thanks to Cook, especially during his prime of 2005-09, when he went 51-39 with a 4.07 ERA as the Rockies rose from a lower-division team to a two-time postseason qualifier. During those five seasons, he struck out just 3.8 batters per nine innings, but his 2.72 ground-ball outs for each fly-ball out was fifth highest in the sport. Through good teams and bad, and through periods of injury, Cook is the franchise’s all-time leader with 206 starts.

3. Jhoulys Chacín, 2009-14
Key fact: Chacín finished above .500 just once with the Rockies (14-10, 3.62 in 2013), but had an ERA+ above 100 four times

Chacín's 14.7 pitching WAR ranks behind Jiménez and Cook (17.1) among right-handers in club history. He struggled in 2014 (1-7, 5.40 ERA) and was released during Spring Training of '15. But he has had some solid seasons since, including with the Padres in ’17 and the Brewers in ’18, and was in Spring Training with the Twins this year.

4. German Márquez, 2016-present
Key fact: Since the start of 2017, Márquez is seventh among NL pitchers in strikeouts (552) and starts (90), eighth in innings (532) and wins (37), and 10th in winning percentage (.617)

You may feel this ranking is low. If all goes as Márquez and the Rockies expect, he won’t be fourth for long. In essentially three seasons in the rotation (he made three starts at the end of ’16), he has amassed 11.3 pitching WAR (sixth all time). Last season, Márquez was leading the NL with 174 innings pitched when he was shut down (during a lost season) to rest his arm and allow the club to look at other pitchers with the future in mind. Márquez is signed through 2023, with a club option for '24.

5. Jon Gray, 2015-present
Key fact: Gray ranks fifth in club history with 670 strikeouts and seventh with 43 wins

Ditto for Gray. He and Márquez will be competing for higher ranks when this exercise is done in future years. Gray and lefty Jorge De La Rosa are the only pitchers in Rockies history with four seasons of double-digit wins, and Gray is the only one to do it in consecutive years. While pitcher wins aren’t the most en vogue stat, they mean something around here -- they mean dominating some games (14 games with double-digit strikeouts), and surviving bad games and even slumps. In his down season of 2018 (12-9, 5.12 ERA), he was 4-2 with a 4.68 ERA in 13 second-half starts, and he followed it up with a solid 2019 (11-8, 3.84).

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and like his Facebook page.