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Kyle Freeland’s season deserves more attention

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Rockies starter Kyle Freeland pitched into the seventh inning on Thursday afternoon against the division rival Diamondbacks. Ultimately, the lefty was on the hook for three runs over 6 1/3 innings on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts. The Rockies went on to win 10-3, increasing their lead in the NL West over the Dodgers to two games and the D-Backs to four games.

Freeland improves his season stats to 15-7 with a 2.96 ERA and a 159/64 K/BB ratio in 182 2/3 innings. He isn’t the best pitcher in the National League and he won’t win the NL Cy Young Award, but we should be talking about his impressive season more than we currently are.

When a hitter has an outstanding season with the Rockies, the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field are used as a cudgel against any argument that that player should earn an award or just praise in general. This is the case for shortstop Trevor Story, who has catapaulted himself into the NL MVP conversation. It was true for Charlie Blackmon, who won the batting title last year. Rarely do people apply Coors credit in reverse: praising pitchers for succeeding in the toughest park for pitchers.

Freeland could become just the third Rockies pitcher to pitch enough innings to qualify for the Cy Young Award and finish the season with an ERA under 3.00. Ubaldo Jimenez did it last in 2010 (2.88) and Marvin Freeman accomplished it in 1994 (2.80). What makes Freeland’s success even more impressive is that his home/road splits are the opposite of what we would expect: he pitches better at Coors Field. His home ERA is 2.21 with 76 strikeouts and 29 walks in 81 1/3 innings. His road ERA is 3.51 with 77 strikeouts and 34 walks in 95 innings.

Freeland also sticks out like a sore thumb compared to his rotation mates. German Marquez is the only other pitcher with a respectable ERA, at 3.94 over 29 starts. Tyler Anderson is at 4.89 in 29 starts, Jon Gray 4.80 in 28, Chad Bettis 5.23 in 19 starts and five relief appearances, and Antonio Senzatela 5.01 over 10 starts and 10 relief appearances. One wonders where the Rockies might be without Freeland.

Jacob deGrom should win the Cy Young Award in the National League. He probably will. For whatever it’s worth, however, Freeland is worthy of consideration for second-, third-, and fourth-place votes along with Max Scherzer, Aaron Nola, and Mike Foltynewicz. And, in general, his season is worthy of a lot more respect and attention than he’s currently getting.

Report: Orioles expected to replace Buck Showalter

Buck Showalter
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Orioles manager Buck Showalter is not expected to retain his position with the club beyond the 2018 season, according to multiple reports from Jon Heyman of Fancred and Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. Nothing appears to be finalized just yet, however, and the Orioles have yet to address rumors of Showalter’s impending departure or news of a possible contract extension for general manager Dan Duquette.

Even so, it’s been a year of near-unprecedented disaster for the 62-year-old skipper, who helped lead the team to a 44-108 record prior to the outcome of Friday’s series opener against the Yankees. With the Orioles’ 108th loss — a 4-6 heartbreaker against the Blue Jays on Tuesday — they tied the 1937 St. Louis Browns for the second-most losses in a single season, eclipsed only by the 43-111 record of the 1939 Browns. As they have just 10 games remaining in the regular season, this year’s team has no chance of climbing out of last place in the AL East and may well finish with the worst record in the AL to boot.

While the Orioles’ missteps don’t bode well for Showalter’s future in Baltimore, he’s brought far more good than harm to the organization over the last eight and a half years. He assumed the managerial position from interim manager Juan Samuel in the middle of the team’s 2010 season and guided the club to five winning seasons and three postseason appearances in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Entering the 2018 season, his record sits at 666 wins and 677 losses, the winningest mark by any of the team’s skippers since Earl Weaver wrapped his 17-season run with the team in 1986. Whether the Orioles believe Showalter is capable of recovering from two consecutive losing seasons and returning the team to their former days of glory (and the occasional division title) remains to be seen, of course, though there’s plenty to recommend him as they prepare to advance a full-scale rebuild over the offseason.