Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke — bonafide, certified aces, one and all. If not at the present time, then certainly for much of their star-spangled careers.
So what about Rockies right-hander German Márquez, who is well on his way to being the best starting pitcher in franchise history? Is he the first legitimate ace in Rockies’ history?
First, the evidence.
Friday night, the first-time all-star threw six scoreless innings and struck out seven. In his 23 starts, Márquez has surrendered two or fewer runs 15 times. Over his last nine starts, he’s posted a 1.94 ERA with 61 strikeouts and only 13 walks. Hitters have looked helpless against him, as their .164 batting average illustrates.
And remember, Márquez’s home ballpark is Coors Field. This is a place that prompted legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully to say, “You don’t need an official scorer at Coors Field. You need a certified public accountant.”
But at Coors this season, Márquez is 7-2 with a 3.01 ERA in 14 starts, 10 of them quality starts. He’s limited opponents to a .198 average with just four home runs allowed.
On June 29, he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Pirates. He didn’t get it, but he threw the first one-hit, complete-game shutout by a Rockies pitcher in Coors Field history.
While contemporary baseball folks will tell you that the number of wins on a pitcher’s baseball card has become irrelevant, W’s still matter — a lot — for someone who calls Coors Field home, where survival is often the name of the game.
Friday night, Márquez won his 10th game of the season, joining Jon Gray (2016-19) and Jorge De La Rosa (2008-09, 2013-14) as the only pitchers in franchise history to have four 10-win seasons.
After the game, I asked Márquez if he thinks of himself as an ace.
“I don’t think too much on that,” he said. “I just think of going out and helping my team and the numbers are going to show (it).”
I also asked manager Bud Black if Márquez is a true ace.
“I’m a tough judge on that,” Black said. “First of all, you have to pass the test of time, to get in that category. I think he’s heading toward that, based on his performances and what he’s done statistically.”
Black noted that every team has five starters, making for 150 starters in the majors at a given time, but Black knows that not every team has a true ace.
But then he said: “I think you can start thinking about German in those terms. I don’t want to anoint that yet, just because I’m a tough judge. I’m very tough on that. But he’s showing, through performance, what type of pitcher he is.”
Márquez, just 26, is under the Rockies’ control through 2023. He’s entering the prime of his career. In my mind, he’s already the best pitcher in Rockies history and he has a chance to get better, as long as he stays healthy.
Black is coaxing Márquez to develop a better changeup, a pitch Márquez can utilize to put away left-handed hitters. Knowing Márquez’s drive, intense will to win and intelligence, he will master that pitch.
And keep in mind that Márquez began this season with mechanical problems in his delivery. In the middle of May, his ERA was 5.56. But he figured it out and he’s a better pitcher having gone through that slump.
So here’s my prediction: When all is said and done, Márquez will own that no-hitter he craves, and Black will anoint him as a true ace.
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