What in the world is wrong with Rockies pitcher German Marquez?
Despite the fact that he didn’t get the Opening Day start, Germán Márquez is unquestionably the Colorado Rockies’ best starting pitcher. A deserving All-Star last season, Márquez owns an array of pitches delivered in a confident, aggressive style that made him one of baseball’s most underrated starters.
This season, he’s tried to add another weapon — the four-seam fastball. And the returns have been disastrous.
Things started out well enough for Márquez in his first start, even if it was delayed. Spurred by sentimentality and a desire to jumpstart Colorado native Kyle Freeland’s 2022 campaign, skipper Bud Black curiously gave Freeland, who went 12-22 over the last three seasons, the prestigious Opening Day start at Coors Field against the Los Angeles Dodgers over Márquez, who sported a far more impressive 28-22 record over that same span. Freeland was unceremoniously chased from the mound after surrendering five runs in only 3 2/3 innings in what became a 5-3 loss.
Márquez took the hill in game two and then took it to the Dodgers, allowing only one run on three hits while striking out five in seven innings. Neither the Rockies offense nor their bullpen could back Márquez up in the eventual 3-2 loss. It took Márquez only 74 pitches to throttle L.A. in the wasted effort.
Since then, however, it’s all been downhill. Márquez has gone 0-2, surrendering 35 hits and 19 runs in only 19 innings pitched over his next three starts for an all-too-easy to calculate 9.00 earned-run average. His “stuff” is still there; measurements show that his velocity hasn’t dipped on any of his pitches, and he’s put together a respectable 14-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio over that span, so it’s evident that Márquez can still miss bats. The problem is that he’s also missing spots.
Not that he hasn’t noticed. Márquez explained why he added the four-seamer to his arsenal over baseball’s long winter.
“A four-seamer could help me out with the two-seam,” Márquez told MLB.com. “When I’m going inside for righties, it’s a lot of two-seamers. But I want to throw fastballs; four-seam, right on the belt. I feel like I can control it on both sides. I’m working on it. But I’m missing my spot.”
The early returns have been stunning. And not in the Ciara Wilson-at-the-Met-Gala type of way.
Márquez currently sports a nightmarish hard-hit rate of 50.5 percent, and batters are barreling him up to the alarming tune of a 41.1 percent sweet-spot rate. Both numbers are far above Márquez’s career averages, and indicative of a pitcher that’s hanging far too many over the plate.
“It’s partly mechanics. It’s partly probably some concentration. It’s probably not being overly aggressive as he needs to be,” Black suggested.
Márquez isn’t convinced.
“My concentration and focus are still the same,” the pitcher said. “Things are not working.”
They certainly didn’t get any better on Tuesday. In a 10-2 beatdown by the visiting Washington Nationals, Márquez was battered for 10 hits and seven earned runs — including home runs by Josh Bell and Juan Soto — to earn the loss and raise his ERA to an ugly 6.92 on the season. The Rockies are off to a solid, if not, spectacular 14-10 start, but it’s clearly bothering the Rockies’ would-be ace that he’s had little to do with it.
“I’ve been working so hard to fix the little things,” an exasperated Márquez said after Tuesday’s loss. “But things aren’t working right now. I have to keep my chin up and keep going.”
His next chance is scheduled to come on Sunday in Arizona against the last-place Diamondbacks. Márquez is more than ready to start turning things around.
“I’m going out there to give it my best to win the ballgame.”