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Rockies creating a pitcher-friendly(!) environment in Colorado

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Rockies news and links for March 3, 2018

Jeff Bridich is making Colorado a player-friendly environment, especially for pitchers | Mile High Sports
Ah yes. The pitcher-friendly confines of Coors Field. While it may not be fair to label Denver’s baseball stadium as pitcher-friendly, the stigma surrounding pitching at Coors seems to be waning away little by little. And a lot of this is due to the pitchers themselves who have experienced Coors Field. Jake McGee had a rough first year with the Rockies in 2016, but turned things around in 2017, lowering not only his ERA, but also improving his strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate. In turn, McGee played a role in enticing former teammate Wade Davis to join the Rockies as their new closer.

Rockies General Manager Jeff Bridich expressed his satisfaction with being allowed by ownership to spend more aggressively over the 2017-2018 offseason. The Rockies took advantage of a slow free agent market that wasn’t as slow for relief pitchers. Signing Davis, McGee, and Bryan Shaw to healthy multi-year deals early in the offseason solidified the Rockies ‘pen as one of the best in baseball.

It’s not just the relievers that are making Colorado look like a more desirable place to play. Young starters Jon Gray, German Marquez, and Kyle Freeland all showed in 2017 the ability of young players developed in the Rockies organization to have success upon reaching the big leagues.

Iannetta delivers first spring home runs | Rockies.com
MLB.com’s Owen Perkins provides highlights from Friday’s Spring Training action. A couple Rockies found their power stroke, as Catcher Chris Iannetta hit two home runs, and David Dahl broke out of an 0-for-15 start to the Spring to hit a two-run home run, which he later followed up with an RBI single. Also, Shawn O’Malley, a non-roster invitee vying for a utility role on the MLB roster, suffered a hand injury during a diving play at second base in Friday’s game. Rockies Manager Bud Black did not offer encouraging words about the injury, hinting at the possibility of a broken hand.

Colorado Rockies PSA: It’s still only spring training | Rox Pile
Dahl is off to a slow start this Spring, and youngsters Ryan McMahon, Raimel Tapia, Jordan Patterson, and Mike Tauchman are beginning the Cactus League on high notes, but it’s important to remember that Spring Training numbers don’t mean a whole lot. After a 15-6 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday, the Rockies improved to 3-4 in Cactus League play. While some may be discouraged by the Rockies’ record, recall that the four best teams in the Cactus League in 2017 were the Los Angeles Angels, the Seattle Mariners, the San Francisco Giants, and the Kansas City Royals. These teams all finished the regular season with records below .500.

Key Rockies relievers to make spring debuts | Rockies.com
The “big three” relief core of Davis, Shaw, and McGee have yet to appear in Spring Training box scores, but that will change today. Davis and McGee are set to appear in today’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, with Shaw expected to see action against the Chicago Cubs on Monday. MLB.com’s Owen Perkins runs through Black’s plans of when to begin utilizing the veteran relievers.

Colorado Rockies: Don’t sleep on Raimel Tapia and his potential impact | Rox Pile
Rox Pile’s Olivia Greene writes about the potential impact of Raimel Tapia on the Rockies in 2018. Tapia appeared on MLB.com’s Top 10 Rockies prospect rankings every year from 2014-2017, placing higher than Trevor Story in 2014, and ranking higher than Freeland and McMahon just last year. There is clearly a lot of potential from Tapia, who has been getting a tryout at the leadoff spot in the lineup during Spring Training.

Dr. Seuss Day: Thing 1 & Thing 2 for the Rockies | Mile High Sports
In the latest Blake Street Irregulars podcast, Casey Light and David Johnson suggest that the Rockies address two needs- a starting pitcher and a bench bat. With two quality starters in Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb remarkably still on the free agent market in March, they receive mentions as possibilities. As for the bench bat, Light and Johnson suggest that the job is “Patterson’s to lose.” There was also a mention of O’Malley “pushing hard for the job,” but that was before news of his hand injury came about.

Colorado Rockies: 3 interesting statistics that make you think | Rox Pile
Brendan Rodgers hit a baseball with an exit velocity of 110.6 mph on Wednesday. In 2017, every MLB shortstop combined had 17 batted balls at that velocity or greater. It may only be Spring Training, but we’re talking about rarefied air here.

Also, Arenado has increased his slugging percentage on inside pitches each year from 2014-2017, from .639 to .683 to .895 to .930. Can this number get even higher in 2018? Be still my beating heart.

The final statistic is related to the ongoing Arenado vs. Kris Bryant debate, but I’ll let you check out Kevin Henry’s article at Rox Pile for yourself.

Spring Training recap
In addition to Iannetta and Dahl’s displays of power on Friday, we got to see Tapia lead off and play left field once again. He went 1-for-3 with a two-run single. Ian Desmond batted second and played first base, picking up a hit in 2 at-bats, and was thrown out attempting to steal second base. The Rockies offense collected 20 hits altogether, and every member of the starting lineup got at least one of them. 8 of the 11 reserves also recorded one or more hits- as catcher Chris Rabago came into the game as a defensive replacement and Steven Linkous pinch-ran, both did not receive any at-bats. The only player to collect at least one plate appearance in the game and not record a hit was Josh Fuentes.

On the pitching side of things, Chad Bettis pitched 2 1/3 innings, giving up six hits and four earned runs, thanks to a grand slam by D-Backs third baseman Jake Lamb. Antonio Senzatela pitched 3 innings, and allowed one run on three hits, with two walks and a strikeout.

Around Baseball

We X-Rayed Some MLB Baseballs. Here’s What We Found. | FiveThirtyEight
Even if there’s not intentional “juicing” of baseballs occurring, there clearly are fundamental differences in the physicality of baseballs used since August 2016. In a fascinating study, Rob Arthur and Tim Dix of FiveThirtyEight looked at CT scans to view the differences in baseballs. Justin Verlander doesn’t like being lied to, and I’m sure he’s not alone. Arthur and Dix suggest that even if the baseballs are still within the range what MLB deems acceptable, the differences should be addressed by Commissioner Rod Manfred.