Like many fans, I'm more interested in the offseason now. And specifically what the Rockies can do to fix our pitching. I've also had a bug in my ear for a few years about what sort of pitching works at Coors and how a staff can be assembled that can best match our schedule of 50% of games at Coors. The front office completely overhauled our pitching last season - and it clearly didn't work. This analysis is going to try to find out why and what can be done now
Coors affects pitching. Fastballs go faster. Breaking balls don't break as much. Any velocity differences between pitches get accentuated here. Pitches tend to have less movement. Deception pitches are unaffected except to the degree they work in combo with pitches that are affected. And regardless of the truthity of these specific assertions, if the front office does think pitching is different here; then it should be visible in the overall pitching repertoire - every pitch pitched by every pitcher over the entire season. We play 50% of our games here and 50% on the road. No other team plays more than 5% of their games here and 95% "on the road". This makes us a clear outlier.
If we are aligning our entire staff to what works at Coors, the pitches that work here should be thrown more frequently than other teams throw those pitches. If the front office knows what works here, then the year over year results should have moved noticeably toward what works because of the total overhaul of the roster. If the failure was talent assessment or player performance; then we should have moved in the right direction re pitch frequency but come up short on specific pitch "effectiveness". So what happened from 2011 to 2012 (stats are from the PitchFx data at fangraphs):
2011 -- 42.3% of all pitches. T-5 in MLB. MLB range 17-47%. "Value" -.72 #29 in MLB
2012 -- 47.3% of all pitches. #1 in MLB. MLB range 23-47%. "Value" -.93 #30 in MLB
Interpretation: This pitch can work here. Not just for high heat pitchers but for all others as their core "pace" pitch. For those others though, this pitch only works in combo with other pitches - to set batters up for a pitch that messes with timing. For low-heat pitchers who have control issues, it also requires another pitch to be their safety pitch. Otherwise, batters can key in on it too easily. Problem is our pitchers are very poor with this most basic pitch - and they rely on it too much. Talk about a bad combination. And the trend is not good.
2Seam Fastball (excl hard sinker)
2011 -- 9.7% of all pitches. #20 in MLB. MLB range 3-21%. "Value" -.19 #15 in MLB
2012 -- 4.4% of all pitches. #29 in MLB. MLB range 3-22%. "Value" -.10 #18 in MLB
Interpretation: This pitch also can work here. For most pitchers, this is the safety pitch they can mix in when they get behind in the count. All that differs is the grip but it provides just enough of a velocity and movement difference from the 4Seam to keep batters timing a bit off. If pitchers mix it in. Our pitchers who throw this are average with it but we don't have many pitchers who even mix it in. This trend is definitely moving in the wrong direction. The frequency should have risen from 2011 to 2012 if we wanted to reduce BB's and/or reduce the "falling apart" of pitchers that results in big innings.
2011 -- 1.1% of all pitches. #26 in MLB. MLB range 1-13%. "Value" .38 #13 in MLB
2012 -- 5.7% of all pitches. T-13 in MLB. MLB range 1-15%. "Value" .36 #13 in MLB
Interpretation: This pitch can work here because it is mostly a deception pitch. The trend is going in the right direction but it is only our relievers who throw it.
Split Finger FB
2011 -- 2.6% of all pitches. T-3 in MLB. MLB range 0-4%. "Value" -.70 #17 in MLB
2012 -- 2.3% of all pitches. T-9 in MLB. MLB range 0-4%. "Value -.75 #19 in MLB
Interpretation: This pitch can work well here but there just aren't many pitchers who can pitch it
2011 -- 7.2% of all pitches. T-15 in MLB. MLB range 1-29%. "Value" -.33 #19 in MLB
2012 -- 5.1% of all pitches. #25 in MLB. MLB range 1-25%. "Value" -1.14 #27 in MLB
Interpretation: This and the changeup are probably the ideal out pitches at Coors for any non-heat power pitcher. Hard to fault the trend since Moyer and Guthrie threw the effectiveness of this pitch out of whack. But now only Francis and White throw the pitch. Not a good sign when not many pitchers even throw one of the best out pitches for your home park.
2011 -- 19.7% of all pitches. #5 in MLB. MLB range 9-26%. "Value" .44 #17 in MLB
2012 -- 17.9% of all pitches. #9 in MLB. MLB range 8-25%. "Value .24 #21 in MLB
Interpretation: This does not work well at Coors especially after batters get a chance to key in on the velocity after a few at-bats. Our frequency should be at the low end of MLB not the high end. Obviously it's still a good road pitch and its the most common out pitch for pitchers. Overall our pitchers throw it OK but I suspect its effectiveness would go up a lot if the pitchers who pitch it pitched most of their innings on the road where it works.
2011 -- 6.7% of all pitches. #23 in MLB. MLB range 5-16%. "Value" -.09 #15 in MLB
2012 -- 7.9% of all pitches. T-23 in MLB. MLB range 4-18% "Value" -1.63 #30 in MLB
Interpretation: This pitch doesn't work well at Coors and our pitchers don't throw it well either. Fortunately, they don't try to cover that loss with volume. But this is another case where less is better.
2011 -- 10.0% of all pitches. T-16 in MLB. MLB range 6-15%. "Value" .26 #11 in MLB
2012 -- 8.6% of all pitches. #22 in MLB. MLB range 6-17%. "Value" -1.57 #29 in MLB
Interpretation: Yet another example where a pitch that can be very effective here is being thrown less often. Probably for the right reasons though since everyone seemed to throw it poorly this year. This is the best example of what we lost in pitching this year - Ubaldo and delaRosa best pitches- with nothing in return re this pitch.
I've focused on analyzing the pitching staff by pitch type rather than by individual pitcher because it seems to be a way to isolate management decisions. The team assembles a pitching staff knowing what pitches they throw and how effective those pitches are. The 4Seam sends up a big red flag about talent assessment. We were bad last year. We were overhauled. We're even worse now. On the pitch that every pitcher learns in Little League. If the team can't assess talent there, there is no reason to believe they can fix anything.
Of the three pitches that declined the most in effectiveness, two are IMO the core "out" pitches that our staff needs to pitch well at Coors. Maybe I'm wrong about those pitches but the decline there does help explain why our home pitching fell apart this year. And if I am wrong, then someone needs to come up with an alternative explanation. Our pitching at Coors is an indisputable failure. Why?
The frequency of different pitches really didn't change very much given how much staff overhaul there was. It tells me that the front office itself doesn't believe that Coors affects the effectiveness of different pitches. If they had a direction in which they wanted to move the pitching staff, they didn't actually move it much. So I have to assume they thought something else was more important - and if it is, they didn't succeed in achieving that either. To the degree that they did move those pitch frequencies, they moved them in the opposite direction from the way I would have.
2013 Potential Starters
I'm assuming that the pitching overhaul is over. This is not something that managers do more than once. If they fail, they usually get fired and a new manager does the next overhaul. So what we have is what we will likely have next year too. I want to look at whether our starters are "suitable" for Coors or not. Obviously I have to make assumptions here and my assumptions are that a)high heat FB's work here and b)sinkers/cutters/splitfinger/changeups work here and c)a mix of fastballs is more necessary here than elsewhere because of the high cost of runners on base and falling behind in the count. Suitability requires that the pitcher throw the pitches often enough to matter and effectively enough to stay in the game. I've aggregated 3 years of PitchFx data (same source as above).
High heat FB's -- No one is a pure power pitcher. Chatwood and Nicasio are the closest and it's not a surprise that they also are the most effective with their 4Seam.
Fastball mix -- Only Chacin, Chatwood, Moscoso, Friedrich, Cabrera, and White have a second fastball to throw into the mix when needed. And only Chatwood is effective with it.
Sinker/cutter/split/change -- Given our lack of high heat pitchers, we have to rely on these out pitches more. These pitches dominate Francis' repertoire and he has average effectiveness. de la Rosa and White throw them often - de la Rosa very well and White not well. Moscoso, Outman, and Cabrera throw them barely often enough and of average effectiveness. That's it.
Slider/curve -- These pitches are far more suitable for everywhere but Coors. Chatwood, Chacin, Friedrich, Pomeranz, and Nicasio rely on these more than they do on the Coors pitches above. Chacin is very effective with them. Chatwood, Friedrich, Nicasio are average effectiveness. Pomeranz is poor.
de la Rosa is IMO our only "pitch everywhere" pitcher. Francis is an average pitcher and is very suitable for Coors. He's also a free agent. Every other pitcher is either more suited for the road or needs to do quite a bit to be suitable for Coors. For a team that calls Coors home, we don't seem to be well suited to pitch here. More than half of the teams have a more "suited for Coors" pitching staff. And the Phillies, Cardinals, Indians, Twins, Braves, and Mariners are significantly more. In our division, Dodgers (Capuano, Lilly, Blanton) and Diamondbacks (Cahill, Collmenter, Kennedy) seem to be more so.
This also confirms that splitting or half-splitting the rotation into home pitchers and road pitchers may help quite a bit. Our shortage is in home pitchers. Forcing road pitchers to pitch here is counter-productive. Let them eat up the road innings where they are effective. If we have too many road pitchers who will never really work well at Coors, then trade them. Focusing home pitcher's innings here will help focus them on improving their existing repertoire. Road pitchers can use their time on home stands to develop a Coors repertoire.
Anyway, this is already too long. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.