Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate DNVR Sports Community!

Lyons Share: José Ureña troublesome start, Colorado's vanishing stolen bases and the annual Arenado return

Patrick Lyons Avatar
April 16, 2023

When José Ureña lowered his earned run average from 15.43 to 14.40 in his second start, the pyrrhic victory had many looking for alternative options for the starting rotation as only seven other times had a Rockies starter ever performed worse to begin their season. 

Colorado’s no. 3 starter was much more solid against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, leaving the game after five innings in a 3-2 ballgame. The Rockies eventually tied the game in the seventh, but lost the rubber match to the Redbirds.

A much improved third start from the 31-year-old resembled the pitcher Colorado had experienced through much of 2022. Not dominant, but far from incompetent. In 17 starts last season, only twice had he been as bad as those first two outings against the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals.

Apr 12, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jose Urena (51) spits water as he takes the mound in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Of the seven starting pitchers who were worse than Ureña’s 14.40 ERA to open their season, not many were able to rebound.

Marvin Freeman (20.77 ERA) was finally moved to the bullpen after 17 starts in 1995. John Thomson (16.88 ERA) finished 1999 in the rotation before learning he had been pitching with a torn labrum. Denny Stark (16.20 ERA) made only six starts before being shipped south to Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2004. 

Livan Hernandez (15.58 ERA) was selected off waivers in 2008 to make the final eight starts of a disappointing season; he “rebounded” with a 5.97 ERA over his last six outings. Brian Bohanon (15.12 ERA) made his 19th start of 2001 on Aug. 17 and finished with a 7.14 ERA, never to make another appearance in MLB ever again. 

Jamey Wright (15.26 ERA) wasn’t too bad during the pre-humidor era, finishing with a 5.30 ERA in his next 32 starts to complete the 1998 season. But Shawn Chacon (17.55) is the one man who can provide some hope for Ureña and Colorado. Chacon debuted in 2001 at age-23 and was knocked around in both starts, ballooning his earned run average to 17.55, second-worst on this list of infamy. 

Manager Buddy Bell stuck with his rookie who proceeded to post a 4.52 ERA over his final 25 starts. Even when including those first two starts, Chacon produced a 1.8 bWAR, or nearly three times as much value as Cardinals’ starter Bud Smith, who received a third-place vote for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. (His teammate Albert Pujols ran away with the award with a unanimous win to commence a Hall of Fame career.)

Apr 7, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Jose Urena (51) pitches in the first inning against the Washington Nationals at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Historically speaking, the odds seem to be against Ureña bouncing back to finish with a 5.17 ERA as he did with the Rockies last season. If he can manage to be close to that for the remainder of his starts, he’ll more than likely get the chance to take the ball every five days unless some of the young guns in Albuquerque really apply pressure to the front office for a promotion in the second half.

With Germán Márquez out for the foreseeable future with forearm tightness and the unproven Noah Davis serving as the no. 5 starter, Ureña will look to build off his previous start on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Where Have The All Stolen Bases Gone?

They’re up around MLB, but down for the Rockies. So what’s the rationale for Colorado not stealing bases?

The club swiped 45 bases in 2022, fewest in the NL and second-fewest in a full season for the franchise behind 44 stolen bases in 2004. Ryan McMahon led the regulars with seven steals last year despite being in the 17th percentile in sprint speed, according to Baseball Savant. 

Mar 3, 2023; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon (24) steals second base on San Francisco Giants second baseman Brett Auerbach (89) in the fourth inning during a Spring Training game at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to speed merchant and utility man Garrett Hampson and his 12 steals, Colorado avoided being shutout of having a player with at least 10 stolen bases. Only two other full-seasons feature only one player with 10 or more stolen bases: Preston Wilson (12 in 2003) and Juan Pierre (47 in 2002). By comparison, the franchise had at least four players with 10 or more bags in each season from 1993-97, including seven players in 1996.

Only the Minnesota Twins have less than Colorado’s two stolen bases in 2023. Considering the Twins are 10-5 and atop the AL Central, a lack of stolen bases doesn’t exactly equate to losing ballgames. It doesn’t even align with winning ballgames either: the last league leader in stolen bases to reach the World Series was Rajai Davis (43 SB) with Cleveland in 2016.

When stolen base totals were down for the Rockies last year, I asked around for reasons and rationale. The team didn’t have a lot of traditional base stealers was a common reply. Several quick players were on the roster, but none that could truly steal a base when it was needed other than Hampson. Some players suggested the disadvantages of stealing a base — such as the impact on the body of sliding and the potential for injury to a hand, not to mention killing a rally if caught stealing — did not outweigh the benefits.

The 2004 Rockies stole the fewest amount of bases, but actually attempted more stolen bases than the 2022 Rockies, 77 to 65. They also ran more when they had the opportunity. Through the first three months of 2022 season, Colorado attempted to steal a base once every 40 or so opportunities. At the time, the NL average was nearly once every 20 opportunities with a Padres being second-lowest on the ladder with a stolen base attempt every 30 opportunities. 

Sep 9, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Alan Trejo (13) is tagged out attempting to steal second base against Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Geraldo Perdomo (2) in the second inning at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Wheels, they will turn, especially inside the head of a baseball writer. Do the Rockies attempt to steal less bases at home than on the road? Do other teams avoid stealing bases when visiting Denver?

Answers to the home vs. away question are easy to track down. During Bud Black’s six completed seasons as the club’s manager, he has yet to have more stolen base attempts at home than on the road. The closest was the 2019 season when the team attempted 51 stolen bases in both locations. Of the 23 seasons before Black was hired, 13 times Colorado had more stolen base attempts at home than on the road, probably because of more opportunities granted  because of Coors Field’s offensive environment. 

Do teams attempt to steal less bases at Coors Field? Unfortunately, I couldn’t pull up those numbers exactly. I did learn that the Baltimore Orioles have only stolen one base during their six games in Colorado: Hanser Alberto on May 24, 2019. Oddly enough, they’ve been caught stealing three times: Jerry Hairston in 2004 and Stevie Wilkerson (twice) in 2019. So, there’s something.

Nolan Arenado’s Big Week 

The greatest third baseman in franchise history returned to Coors Field last week for the third time since that fateful day in January 2021 when Ken Rosenthal first tweeted of the trade with St. Louis. 

Since then, he received a standing ovation from Rockies fans, discussed his legacy left behind in Colorado, reunited with Kyle Freeland on Team USA for the 2023 World Baseball Classic and continued to make the case to become the next Rockie after Todd Helton to reach the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Apr 12, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Nolan Arenado (28) watches his ball on a two run home run in the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It was a milestone week for Arenado. He entered the season needing one home run to reach 300 for his career and managed to get one shortly before the return to LoDo. In doing so, he joined a special club with seven other players with 300 homers and 10 Gold Glove Awards: Al Kaline, Willie Mays, Johnny Bench, Mike Schmidt, Ken Griffey Jr., Ivan Rodríguez and Andrew Jones.  

“In my eyes, I don’t think I deserve to be a group of player with Mays, Andruw Jones, Griffey and those guys, but the fact that I am there is a pretty humbling,” Arenado said in the visitor’s clubhouse on Monday. 

The memories of DJ and CarGo and Tulo and Helton, as he described it, came rushing back to him when he entered the ballpark at 20th and Blake. It’s been a similar feeling each time he returns to Denver.

Arenado eventually homered on Wednesday to force a tie with Carlos González for third-most home runs (139) hit at Coors Field.

As Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out, Arenado went to bed Friday night with 10 Gold Glove Awards for each of his 10 big league seasons. And yet, he had not actually reached 10 years of service time, an impressive mark of longevity for any ballplayer that comes with a full pension for a player (about $70,000 per year when collecting at 45 and over $200,000 per year when waiting until age 62.)

Of current Rockies on the 40-man roster, only Charlie Blackmon and Mike Moustakas have reached 10 years of service time. Brad Hand should reach that mark later this summer as he entered 2023 with nine years and 92 days of service time. (One year of service time is marked by 172 days on a big league roster.)

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?