Elliot Smith of MLB.com gives a rundown on the good news and bad news from Saturday’s match-up against the Nationals. The bad news — besides the Rockies striking out 14 times and getting one-hit by Max Scherzer en route to a big fat “L” — is Nolan Arenado dropped his appeal and began serving his 5-game suspension. Nolan, who was absent from the lineup on Saturday, will miss the finale against Washington and the upcoming 3-game series against the Bucks in Pittsburgh, as well.
The good news is Nolan will be back in the lineup for a crucial home-stand against the Cubs and — you betcha — the Padres. The only reason I can imagine Nolan would drop his appeal so quickly is to waste no time and be sure he would face San Diego. I can’t wait to see the kind of damage he will unleash against the Padres in their first rematch since The Brawl...
Speaking of damage, the other good news from Saturday is Chuck Nazty returned to the lineup and did this to the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner:
Blackmon will be the critical backbone of the Rockies batting order during Nolan’s suspension. Following his own extended absence while battling a quad strain, it’s good to see Chuck back to his old self, crushing baseballs at Coors F— oh, wait, well either way, he’s back.
Before Saturday’s game against the Nationals, Bud Black shared his thoughts with Rockies media members about the difficulty of facing not only an opposing team’s ace, but also a pitcher with a pedigree like Scherzer. Max began the day with a FIP of 1.45, K/9 of 12.15, and incredible ERA- of 24 — a difficult opponent to say the least, but Bud was confident.
When asked if facing an opponent’s ace, like Scherzer, leads to more adrenaline and pressure on Rockies pitchers, and Jon Gray in this instance, Bud said, “I don’t think you can play that way. You can’t get more fired up for one game over another. You can’t ride that roller coaster, up and down.”
Sound advice, to be sure, but it’s beginning to seem like that may have been a prophetic quote, and not in a positive way. Jon Gray has struggled this year to the tune of a 6.23 ERA and and 3.55 FIP in four starts and 21.2 innings. This is on the coat tails still of probably the worst start of his career — the Wild Card loss in Arizona to end the Rockies’ 2017 season — and I have to ask: are the big moments getting to be too big for Jon Gray?
On a more positive note, how about that Adam Ottavino? In this article from Mile High Sports, Ronnie Kohrt talks to Adam about his resurgence and strong start to 2018, his return to form, how he developed his devastating slider, and more.
Ottavino has been a force to be reckoned with this year, compiling a FIP of -0.42 (I didn’t even know you could go negative on that stat), an ERA of 0.00, a K/9 of 18.69, and a BB/9 of only 1.04. He has his command back, incredible swing-and-miss stuff, and has only given up one hit in 8.2 innings. As Ronnie points out, the Rockies spent over $100M on pitchers like Wade Davis, Bryan Shaw, and Jake McGee this offseason, but Ottavino is giving them a run for their money as the best bullpen arm on the team — and maybe even in baseball.
Jon Gray has been a very good pitcher at times this season. His FIP- (adjusted for park and league where 100 is average and below is better) sits at a solid 85, he has a 4.25 K/BB ratio, 9.55 K/9, and a BABIP of .385 suggests lady luck has not been on his side.
Yes, Jon Gray has been good at times, but when he hasn’t been good, he’s also been very bad. Jon himself even says, “I can be good 95 percent of the time, but if you’re not good 5 percent of the time, it doesn’t matter.” What has been consistent about this 5 percent of the time? As Kevin Henry of Rox Pile points out, Jon has struggled when facing batters in the opponent’s lineup for the third time.
Going into yesterday’s game against the Nationals, batters who are facing Jon for the third time have slashed .429/.529/714. Yikes! On Saturday, Washington’s lineup followed suit and went 5-for-6 when hitting against Jon for the third time, and the Rockies’ 2-1 lead quickly became a 5-2 deficit. I truly believe Jon Gray is an ace and the best pitcher in our rotation, but he has a lot of work to do in order to overcome his demons and right the ship in 2018.