Colorado Rockies: Jason Jennings undone by rarefied air

Many a pitcher has fallen victim to having exaggerated numbers while pitching in the thin are in Denver. Jason Jennings was not immune.

Jason Jennings was a first-round pick in baseball’s draft for a reason. While pitching at Baylor University he was a two-time All-American as well as National Player of the Year in 1999. The world was his oyster, and unfortunately, he was drafted by the Colorado Rockies.

Jennings made his debut with the Rockies as a late-season call up in 2001. In his first game at the big league level, he pitched a complete-game shutout at Shea Stadium. The last start he made was in San Diego where he pitched six innings of no-run baseball. In between his road starts he made a few forgettable starts at home, and so the psyche of pitching in the Mile High City had another live arm in its crosshairs.

On the road that first year Jennings was 4-0 with a 2.51 earned run average. While pitching at home he was 0-1 with a 14.14 earned run average. At one of the best baseball schools in one of the best baseball conferences in college baseball, Jennings dominated. Now on baseball’s highest professional level, he was showing what type of pitcher he could be.

The following season Jason Jennings pitched well enough to earn the Rookie of the Year Award. Mike Hampton, Pedro Astacio, Denny Neagle, all of which were great pitchers lured to Colorado which big bucks and none of them pitched as well as Jennings did in his rookie year. Again, Jennings splits told two different stories.

On the road, Jennings had an ERA of 3.35 and at home, it skyrocketed to 5.65. Batters were hitting almost one hundred points better against him in Colorado. This is nothing new, most pitchers fall subject to this phenomenon. Veteran pitchers may be able to handle it better than young pitchers. Did it break Jennings?

Jennings was a ten-game winner twice more in his career in Colorado. Four out of the five full years he pitched for the Rockies he made every start. He was a constant and solid pitcher, though his numbers at Coors Field didn’t match his numbers on the road. Would Jason Jennings have been better off pitching in another market?

After he started getting shelled at home and on the road, his time with Colorado was over and he moved to Houston. The damage was already done mentally. He was not the pitcher he once was and suffered through a 2-9 year with the Astros. A stay with the Texas Rangers couldn’t cure what ailed him and after nine years he was out of the league, with an overall record of 62-74.

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Hindsight is 20/20, though I’m saying if Jason Jennings was drafted by someone else and pitches somewhere other than the Mile High City, he wins 150 games and pitches ten plus years in the bigs. Another pitcher who fell victim to the thin air.

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