And we'll end this piece with something lighter, and something else about the Rockies, since they seem to be all the rage right now. Think about the Rockies. Put them in your head. And now try to name some players. Ubaldo Jimenez. Carlos Gonzalez. Troy Tulowitzki. Todd Helton. Maybe Huston Street. These are the names that come to mind when most people sit down and think about Colorado for a little while.
For a greater challenge, now try to think of players in the Rockies bullpen. If you already got Street, then that's one. But who else?
Maybe that isn't fair. Middle relievers and setup men can be difficult to remember even when they play in major markets that get a ton of coverage. To be honest, I was just going the long way of saying, hey, nobody remembers Rafael Betancourt, and, hey, Rafael Betancourt is amazing.
You might kind of recall that Betancourt had some dominant days in the Indians bullpen back in 2007, but he's doing it all over again in 2010. Nevermind the 4+ ERA. Over 65 appearances and 55.2 innings, Betancourt's racked up 82 strikeouts to just six unintentional walks. Everybody's familiar with K/BB, but if you look at K/uBB - the same ratio, but excluding intentional free passes - Betancourt comes out at 13.7, which is the top mark in the league.
And that isn't the only thing that stands out about Betancourt's season. See, batters have swung at 59.1% of the pitches he's thrown, and that's a rate that's also tops in baseball, well ahead of Matt Thornton's 54.8% and Scott Baker's 53.1%.
Betancourt is no stranger to the top of the Swing% leaderboard. He's just kicked it up a bit this season. Batters have swung at his pitches more than they've swung at anyone else's pitches because Betancourt is always around the zone and attacking. 54.3% of Betancourt's pitches have been in the strike zone, fourth-highest in the bigs. And he's thrown strikes with 69.2% of his first pitches, fifth-highest in the bigs. Betancourt comes right after hitters. He doesn't dick around. So batters have little choice but to swing.
And when they swing, they don't do so well. That Betancourt has the league's highest swing rate, but also one of the lowest contact rates, is nothing short of remarkable, and a true testament to the quality of his stuff. He primarily just works off his fastball and slider, but they're such good pitches that hitters still have trouble putting wood on the ball.
You have to figure this is a byproduct of batters being kept on the defensive. Betancourt seldom falls behind, and is frequently working from ahead in the count. And when a pitcher's ahead in the count, the pitcher's in control. Batters have to expand their zones and kick up their aggressiveness, and Betancourt has most certainly been able to take advantage.
For a team that might not make the playoffs, the Rockies have an astounding number of interesting players.