Free Germán

He could be a top 10 SP if he was freed from Coors Field.

At the moment of writing this article (7/29/2021), Germán Márquez is still a member of the Colorado Rockies. Hopefully, when this goes live on Friday, he will be playing on greener grass.

I want to make sure to my dear Colorado Rockies fans that I have no personal problem with your team; on the contrary, some of the nicest baseball memories I have are from my fellow Venezuelan player, Andres Galarraga, a national hero in my country, playing as part of the Blake Street Bombers.

But let’s be completely honest: Colorado is not a great baseball team and, even with the firing resignation of Jeff Bridich, their infamous ex-GM, it will take a while for that team to be any kind of competitive. And we don’t want to wait anymore on Germán.

 

The Future Is Now

 

Márquez is sporting a 3.1 fWAR, good for sixth in a good-pitching stacked National League, eighth in baseball.

His 3.29 FIP is ninth in the NL. Do you know how many Rockies pitchers have had a season with a 3.29 or better FIP as a starter (min. 10 games started) in the team’s history? Only three: Ubaldo Jimenez in his unreal 2010 season with 3.10, Jon Gray in 2017 (3.18), and Márquez in 2020 with 3.28. That’s the list.

By the way, in the last 30 years, only a hundred pitchers have done it two or more times. And he is currently doing it in Colorado, where balls go flying and pitching careers go to die.

Since Márquez’s debut in 2016, the Rockies starting pitchers’ ERA is 26th out of 30 in all MLB at 4.76, FIP is 22nd at 4.55, and 13th in xFIP with 4.30; Germán’s numbers for the period are 4.13, 3.76, and 3.59 respectively, about 15% better in all of them.

Even more, in that same period of time, only nine teams’ starting staff had a better ERA than Márquez, only the Dodgers had a better FIP (3.61) and none had a better xFIP than him. And that’s including all those cursed starts in Coors Field.

Talking about home/away splits, it should not surprise us that, during the same 2016-2021 period, Márquez’s splits are better than the average starting pitcher, especially out of Coors:

 

Márquez vs The League

 

I’ve highlighted in green the things Germán does better than the league, and in red what he does worse. Yep, no surprises here, he is better out of Coors, but if we put ERA aside, he is pretty much a good pitcher even there, compared to the league average.

But we don’t want to compare Márquez with just the average pitcher; we want to face him against the best. So, in the following chart, we have the same exercise but against the top three starting pitching staffs during the 2016-2021 span: Los Angeles (Dodgers), Cleveland, and Houston.

 

Márquez vs Top 3 Starting Pitching Staffs

 

I think you could’ve guessed where the comps were going to be better for Márquez, but the chart nicely summarizes that in green: every away stat is considerably better for him than for the top three starting rotations in the league. And of course, the home numbers are skewing his total numbers for the worse.

I’m aware that pitchers tend to perform worse on average out of their home park (that can be easily spotted in the first chart) so when comparing Márquez numbers with the other pitchers we have a bias against the other pitchers because of that.

But that’s the good thing about using the top-performing pitchers as the comparing pattern: the difference between their home and away stats shrinks a lot, compared to the league-wide numbers; that increases the confidence in the latter comp.

The other interesting point lies in the fact that Márquez’s FIP and xFIP are as good or better than the top pitching staffs even on the home comps.

 

What Can We Expect From Him?

 

This is a question with two different scenarios: Márquez stays in Colorado or not.

I am under the impression that he will continue there; the Rockies know they have a great pitcher, and, more importantly, he is under team control until the end of the 2023 season, plus a team option in 2024.

Staying in Denver is of course the worst-case scenario, no pitcher has aged well there. Still, Márquez at 26 is young enough to counter that, he is entering his prime.

For those of you who like to check Baseball Savant for all those nice Statcast metrics, this is what Márquez’s profile looks like:

 

 

There is a general warm feeling from it, and the results show it.

Another way I like to use for gauging his performance is with speX, an index that merges the effect of other stats like K-BB%, CSW%, pCRA, and O-Swing% + Zone%; you can read the idea behind it here.

To give you a quick and easy way of how does his speX profile look like, I’ll use a handy feature recently added to the speX leaderboard, in which we can graphically compare the index for the past 15, 30 days, and the season for up to three different pitchers:

 

 

 

We can see that, for the last 30 days (red bars in the graph), he’s had a similar profile as two of the top SPs of the game, Zack Wheeler and Gerrit Cole.

His overall number (blue bar) has gone a little down because his last two starts were a little off (7 ER in 12.1 IP) as his last 15 days index show (yellow bar), but he is still producing great numbers. And a good thing about speX is that it can provide some predictive information.

You can check him and every other pitcher on the leaderboard, here.

One other thing from Marquez is his great ability to self transform yearly; last season it was all about the curveball for him, it was good for an incredible -10.3 in Run Value, making it the best of its type in the game in that stat, ahead of Shane Bieber’s (-9.8).

He used in 25.4% of his total pitches, and I was expecting him to use it more, to the detriment of his 4-Seamer (38.5%).

Well, he did the opposite this year: increased his 4-Seamer used to 44.6%, decreased the curveball use to 19.2%, and took a step forward with his slider to 28.1%, from 16.9% last year. And this slider is now back to be an elite pitch, as it was in 2018, at a -8 RV. Talk about continuous reinvention.

So Marquez has in theory two elite pitches, the curveball, and the slider, and his four-seamer has now gotten into that kind of realm, with its -8 RV, too.

And looks like he is just cranking up one or the other at will, so this could be a huge step forward if he can do it all at the same time.

 

Bottom Line

 

I really wish that Germán gets traded to some other team in the league; he has the whole package of qualities to become a top 10 SP in MLB, but Coors keep handcuffing and keeping him one step behind.

Some teams could be a good fit for him; for example, the Dodgers, after all the situations going around with their starting rotation, would’ve been a great landing spot, but they made themselves with the services of Max Scherzer so that opportunity is gone.

There could still be a slight chance he could go to San Diego, who were after Scherzer but lost him to the Dodgers, but that is really slim, to be honest.

Anyway, I’m expecting Márquez to keep producing great numbers for the rest of the season; if he stays in Colorado, he could provide a steady  4.10 ERA,  3.75 FIP, and a 1.6 fWAR in that timeframe.

If he finally gets dealt out of Denver, a line of 3.45 ERA, 3.55 FIP, and  2.0 fWAR is pretty much possible for the rest of the season; who wouldn’t want that?

 

Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Carlos Marcano

Just a Venezuelan, not living in Venezuela. Intrigued by most of the things that can be measured in baseball, football, basketball, soccer, and life. I love to try to estimate performances.

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