Back in February, the Baltimore Orioles agreed to trade Jeremy Guthrie to the Colorado Rockies in exchange for Jason Hammel and Matt Lindstrom, and after a strong spring the Rockies officially named Guthrie their opening day starter on April 6 against the Houston Astros. Manager Jim Tracy said the Rockies haven't set their rotation beyond Guthrie on Friday, but the move is one that the right-handed pitcher should be comfortable with, considering he started on opening day with the Orioles in 2009 and 2011.
Guthrie's stats are nothing to write home about. He hasn't posted a winning record since 2007, his career Ks/9 is a middling 5.52, he has a 4.19 career ERA and 4.68 FIP. His highest fWAR for a single season came in 2007 and 2008, when he produced 2.6 wins above replacement, according to fangraphs.com.
Despite his underwhelming statistical resume, Marc Normandin of SB Nation's Baseball Nation thinks there is more than meets the eye with Guthrie:
What makes Guthrie a strange case is that he doesn't fit the bill of many of the other pitchers who have beat out their FIP. Saunders, Buehrle and Lannan are all among the game's most extreme double-play inducers, picking up a half-dozen or more per season, shaving tenths of a run off of their ERA each year. Guthrie induces more than expected, but less than extra double play per year. He doesn't generate a ton of pop ups, à la (healthy) Chris Young. He's no better with runners on or in scoring position than he is with the bases empty. But there's clearly something going on here.
What Guthrie does is generate grounders that his defense, for all their limitations, has been able to field effectively. He's not an extreme groundball pitcher, as his ground-to-fly ratios tend to be even, but the grounders he does generate have helped him. Nearly 18 percent of the batters he faced in 2011 ended their plate appearance with a ground out, a huge boost to his production considering just 14 percent of them struck out. His career batting average on balls in play for grounders is .214, whereas the league has been between .234 and .245 for his career.
Perhaps he can anchor the Rockies' rotation in 2012. He certainly has a golden opportunity to prove Tracy made the right decision by starting him on Opening Day.
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