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.