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Nine years and nine closers for the Rockies?

Rockies news and links for Tuesday, October 15, 2019

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Wade Davis’ meltdown forcing Rockies into major bullpen decisions | Denver Post

Paying your third highest salary to a pitcher with an 8.65 ERA leaves a huge void in the bullpen, and just as big of a hole in the Rockies’ pockets. Wade Davis seemed to be the answer when the ink was drying on his contract; instead, it has amounted to an inconsistency in the closer role that seemingly hasn’t gone away in years.

The ‘most common closer’ table according to Baseball Reference says the Rockies handed the closer reigns to eight different players in eight years this past decade—Huston Street, Rafael Betancourt, Rex Brothers, LaTroy Hawkins, John Axford, Jake McGee, Greg Holland, and Wade Davis. If we consider Davis as ‘not’ the closer this year, that streak would continue at a ninth consecutive year with a different closer. The position itself isn’t an overly ‘consistent’ one (not everyone is Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman), but if this is a trend for the Rockies, it is hard to expect a perennially strong bullpen if the closer changes by the year.

Colorado has seen difficulties retaining their best relievers, whether it be the player either leaving or underperforming, and when bullpens are more important than ever, this poses a huge issue that can make or break a contender. The New York Yankees’ low-scoring affairs have shown it well this year, after having kept Minnesota and Houston bats alarmingly quiet.

Postseason baseball is revealing that dominant relief pitching efforts (or Washington Nationals no-hit bids) are what helps teams make a run in this era post-2014 World Series Game 7 reliever Madison Bumgarner. Step one for acquiring a postseason-ready bullpen has to be piecing it together (probably 2019 New York Yankees style, if we’re looking for a Taylor-made ‘piece your bullpen’ operation). Step two has to be retaining your best pitching, or at the very least keeping it from digressing. A pitcher can leave Denver because of its’ reputation as a hitter launching pad, which only furthers the problem of the Rockies establishing a postseason contender of a bullpen (as if it weren’t hard enough as a smaller-market team).

For the 2017 Wild Card game, the Rockies used eight pitchers, went to the bullpen in the second inning, and gave up 11 runs that night at Chase Field. For the 2018 Wild Card, Kyle Freeland saved the day working into the seventh inning, and despite Adam Ottavino still blowing a save, Colorado only gave up a single run in 13 innings. The 2018 NLDS with Milwaukee also featured a Rockies bullpen with an ERA over seven, so the Wild Card productivity was widely short lived. There haven’t been great successes from Colorado’s bullpen in a new age of postseason baseball, let alone the 2019 regular season where non-playoff games were hard enough.

It deserves to be recognized, however, that the Rockies actually ‘tried’ to sign a big reliever. It certainly hasn’t worked as hoped, but a small silver lining exists in that something honestly was pursued to address the pre-Wade Davis inadequacies for years.

Major League Baseball has lost public trust over the construction of its baseballs | The Athletic ($)

The baseball itself is one of the greatest sport conspiracies in existence today. Whether Major League Baseball has been blatantly juicing balls in the past to increase offensive production, statistical analysis presents that the baseball may be “de-juiced” after lower-scoring affairs have overtaken postseason baseball this year.

Colorado started storing their baseballs in the Coors Field humidor in 2002 and has ever since. It was implemented to address why the ball carried so much further in Denver, theorizing that the leather on baseballs become more dry in higher elevation. Harder leather has less cushion than soft leather, so it can be hit farther; the humidor counteracts it. Sixteen years later and it became the standard in 2018; all parks now store their baseballs in humidity-controlled storage. Those 16 years in between had some odd tolerance for an issue that certainly was enough to address in Colorado; while Arizona plays at a relatively high altitude in Chase Field, their baseballs didn’t receive such treatment.

Evan Drellich of The Athletic writes on how Major League Baseball insists the baseballs come from the same batch, regardless if they are used for regular season or postseason games. Batted ball statistics have caused players like Justin Verlander to reason otherwise.

Variance has finally been addressed in terms of the whole league being humidor-equipped, and not just one team. There aren’t many sources of variance between location in that sense, but there definitely is high variance over time. One year they are juiced, the next they’re deadened. The reasoning is mere speculation to the public, but unless a breakthrough in consistency can be discovered and tested, the actual big league games are left with the same recipe the Rawlings factory can make, hoping that one batch can be like the next.