Scottsdale, Ariz. -- Statistically speaking, Scott Oberg's rookie season was far from dominant—really, far from proficient—but when one is thrown into the big league bullpen fire after just 107 minor league appearances without so much as spending even a month at Triple-A, that tends to happen.
But if the player trusts the process, a year taking it on the chin to the tune of a 5.09 ERA and a 1.526 WHIP in 64 big league games can pay pretty quick dividends. After all, there's a reason the 15th round draft pick in 2012 has moved so quickly through the system—and that sudden movement is bound to bring adversity that can lead to growth.
"The lessons are really endless, and the lessons will continue for however long my career is," Oberg told Purple Row in the Rockies' Arizona clubhouse while discussing his takeaways from 2015. "Honestly, it's just going out and really learning the importance of getting ahead and throwing a lot of quality strikes to help the team."
Oberg has a refreshingly one-noted and simple outlook on his job, and it's a character trait not typically associated with pitchers who have such little big league experience. But, again, there's a reason the low-round draft pick moved fast to the big leagues, and there's a reason he's firmly in the mix fighting for a job there next month. In doing it, he's using all the help available to him.
"I've been leaning on the older guys like Adam Ottavino and Boone Logan, and this year with [Chad] Qualls, [Jason] Motte, and [Jake] McGee, like how last year it was [LaTroy] Hawkins and [John] Axford," Oberg said. "We’ve had a really good core group of veteran bullpen guys for a guy like myself to really learn a lot of things from."
As we've explored, much of that learning is relatively informal and experiential, which would seem to make Oberg's no-nonsense approach to the sport a good fit for the Rockies' clubhouse. He's not just learning under other bullpen arms, though, as he develops what he knows a reliever needs in their arsenal at Coors Field.
"I've been working with [bullpen coach Darren] Holmes and with [pitching coach Steve] Foster, and really, it’s just going out, making quality strikes, and getting ahead of hitters," Oberg admitted. "And then, it's giving our team the best chance to win the ballgame that night."
Catcher Jackson Williams, sitting across the clubhouse from Oberg's locker, is impressed with what the righty has been able to do this spring, and he loves the work ethic the 26-year-old Massachusetts native has thus far brought to his career.
"Scotty is constantly working, he’s out there early doing his stuff on the mound, trying to get his delivery right, get his mechanics right to where it’s going to bring the most out of him," Williams noted. "The thing about him, he’s a cool customer, man. He gets out on the mound, and he’s calm, collected, and doesn’t lose his cool."
"Now," Williams added, visibly impressed by what Oberg's calm demeanor could mean for his future, "it’s just a matter of him ironing things out, and getting his delivery to where he wants it to be. He’s a guy you could see a lot of this year."
Oberg's calm demeanor extends to his goals for the summer season ("Continue to throw the ball well, just play for the guys and kind of go from there," Oberg said of his expectations for the year), but there is one noteworthy addendum on Oberg's young career: he's somewhat of a stathead.
Many players discuss being comfortable with their feel for the game, or the approach to their work—and Oberg is no different—but the young righty is somewhat unique in that he admits to actively checking his stats and thinking about the quantifiable results in a broader sense.
"I took a couple of weeks in the offseason to look at some of the numbers and compare them with other guys, to try and figure out what worked, what didn’t, and how I can improve," Oberg admitted. "From a numerical standpoint, I want to have a higher strike percentage. I look at it to a point, but I don’t try to over analyze it at the same time."
"But," he quickly added, "I want to control the things I can control, and do what I can to help the team."