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Rockies starter Jon Gray showing an improved curveball

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Rockies news, notes, and links for Sunday, March 5, 2017.

In line to pitch Opening Day, Gray turns to curveball | MLB.com

With thirty days until the regular season starts, if Jon Gray continues to take his regular turns on schedule, he’s in line to be the Colorado Rockies 2017 Opening Day starter. Meanwhile, he’s been playing more with his curveball which, he spent a good chunk of the spring of 2016 working on and saw regular usage during that regular season.

We know that when Gray’s slider is on, he’s practically untouchable, but even he isn’t sure why he loses it on occasion. In outings where he had to rely solely on his fastball, it seemed he’d often get knocked around. They say the difference between a minor leaguer and a major leaguer is the ability to adapt. That Gray, while already successful, continues to make changes to further hone his craft suggests he could be the ace we all had envisioned. His next outing will be against the World Baseball Classic’s Team Puerto Rico on Thursday.

Jon Gray sharp, Ian Desmond homers, but Rockies lose to Mariners | Denver Post

Speaking of games where Gray doesn’t have his slider, he didn’t have his slider yesterday. His curveball was on, however. Gray allowed a home run to Mike Zunino, but he was excellent otherwise. Patrick Saunders notes that Gray expects to up his workload to three innings or 45 pitches in his next outing. Ian Desmond also hit his first home run of the spring in the 4-3 loss.

China, where baseball is on the rise, hopes to show progress in WBC | ESPN

While we’re on the subject of the World Baseball Classic, Jim Caple wrote about the state of baseball in China now and how it has changed since the WBC first started in 2006. In China, most pitchers throw in the mid 80s and their regular season lasts only thirty games, which limits their experience. Ex-Rockies farmhand Joey Wong is another example of the difference in talent level, where he’s one of the stars of China’s WBC team. But at age 28, he has yet to make his major league debut. Nonetheless, Major League Baseball has made inroads in terms of creating academies and providing scholarships in the hopes of growing the game in China.

Statcast wants to change how we’re consuming baseball games | Yahoo Sports

Statcast is going to be great, really great. We’ll get amazed at how far an elite defender like the hopefully soon-to-be-healthy David Dahl runs to grab a flyball. We’ll have a better idea on what makes someone a good defender and why, able to break it down to the component level. Furthermore, the metrics being designed at MLB Advanced Media based on the data are supposed to be simple to understand and easily consumable for readers, broadcasters, and watchers alike.

Tom Tango—inventor of metrics like FIP and wOBA—is heading up the Statcast research for MLBAM (he also believes in the existence of a Coors Field hangover effect). Tango is presenting this week at the SABR Analytics conference in Arizona, which I’m looking forward to attending and finally meeting him in person. I’ve read his work for over a decade and he was someone who got me inspired to try this writing thing out. Last week, I bounced a question off him: We know fly balls travel farther at altitude, but can Statcast tell us if and by how much infielders need quicker reaction times at altitude to react to line drives? His response? “Great question! I’ll take a look in the coming weeks for that.”

I also have a question for you: Do you have questions that could be answered by the SABR Analytics hive mind? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to find some answers.