clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Colorado Rockies settle on Adam Ottavino as new closer

New, 21 comments

Ottavino looked terrific in his first ninth-inning save opportunity for the Rockies this season. We should expect more of that going forward.

Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

Adam Ottavino is the Colorado Rockies' new closer effective immediately, manager Walt Weiss told reporters following the team's 4-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday.

Entering the game, Weiss and the Rockies were reportedly planning on going with a committee of closers following LaTroy Hawkins' demotion from the ninth-inning role, but Ottavino apparently locked down the job by striking out the side on 15 pitches. Ottavino is the best fit for the role; the 29-year-old right-hander has punched out 10 batters in his first 5⅓ innings in 2015 after whiffing nearly 10 batters per nine a year ago.

Having a pitcher with an ability to miss bats is something the Rockies have missed in the ninth inning in recent years. For as good as Hawkins was overall in 2014, the veteran righty often worked through plenty of traffic on the bases due to the large amount of contact he allows. Hawkins struck out just 5.3 batters per nine innings but was the benefactor of a .275 BABIP against, a figure well below his career average.

Of course, Hawkins isn't going to allow opposing hitters a .462 BABIP for the rest of this season, so his results should get a lot better than they've been in the early going. But the Rockies could use a lot less drama in high-pressure situations, and Ottavino's ability to get a strikeout when he needs to will go a long way toward accomplishing that.

"I think every pitcher is different, but I go for strikeouts," Ottavino said after a game last August. "If they want to hit it along the way, that's fine, but I'm trying to get ahead in the count and put guys away -- especially [at Coors Field], where any ball in play could spell trouble."

What a novel concept. It's clear that Ottavino has the right mentality to be a closer considering he has no interest in nibbling and takes pride in blowing people away. Through last season, his stuff always allowed him to do that against right-handed batters, who managed a paltry .645 OPS in 190 plate appearances. However, left-handers torched Ottavino for a .943 OPS, forcing him to make adjustments.

Ottavino has done just that, writes MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby, who notes the new closer has added a cutter to his arsenal specifically to neutralize lefties. So far, it has worked; though he's used the pitch only 1.6 percent of the time, per Fangraphs, Ottavino has allowed just one left-handed baserunner in the early going. Things won't stay that way all season, but there are other reasons to believe Ottavino has turned a corner.

Last season, Ottavino averaged 94.3 mph on his fastball. For the third consecutive year, that has increased, now sitting at an even 96. That, coupled with an 85 mph slider that is routinely among the best in the game, according to Fangraphs' pitch values, has been a death kneel for hitters thus far in 2015.

Whatever the reason for Ottavino's success, the Rockies haven't had a closer as successful at picking up strikeouts as he is since Huston Street whiffed 10.2 batters per nine innings in 2009. Ottavino's penchant for doing that, combined with his immense knowledge of pitching and lack of stubbornness when it comes to using the plethora of tools at his disposal, will likely make him one of the most interesting and potentially electrifying closers in club history.

I'm excited to watch it all unfold.