It was the scandal that gripped the nation (or at least Rockies fans): Kyle Freeland, 2018 Cy Young candidate, was bad.
Why was he so bad? How did he suddenly become bad? How could we make the bad go away? Rockies fans and coaches everywhere were glued to their screens, searching for clues that might solve the mystery that was Kyle Freeland 2019.
Those clues never materialized. There were no major mechanical issues to fix. Kyle Freeland was just bad.
To be clear, I’m a Kyle Freeland guy.
There are a lot of good reasons to be a Kyle Freeland guy, but what solidified it for me was a game in Milwaukee earlier this year. Freeland pitched well for an inning or two, and then he got hit hard. The inning after he gave up a bunch of runs, he led off by bunting for a base hit. How can you not love that kind of player?
Freeland will be spending this offseason working with new bullpen coach Darryl Scott (who has worked with Freeland in the past) to try to figure out what went wrong in 2019. They’re going to start by eliminating his leg pause, which is a controversial move, in my opinion. Some pitchers have a lot of success varying the timing of their pauses (see: Marcus Stroman, Kyle Freeland 2018). But Darryl Scott says this is to “get him working down his line (to the plate) a little better,” and if there’s any mechanical issue I’ve noticed with Freeland, it’s that his front side sometimes flies open a bit, which would theoretically take him off his line. I’m not certain that accounts for all those pitches down the middle, though.
We also know the balls this year were slicker ($), with smoother leather (27.6% smoother) and significantly lower seams (roughly half the height of 2010-2018 baseballs and actually “nestled down” into the baseball to the point that the ball was completely round, without “bulging” seams). This caused some pitchers to have issues gripping the baseball — notably, grip and seams are crucial for sliders and changeups, both of which Freeland struggled with in 2019.
So it’s possible 2019 was just a down year for Freeland. It’s also possible 2018 was just an up year. And it’s also possible outside sources contributed to the situation.
To date, this mystery remains unsolved.
So a catcher like Travis d’Arnaud? Or a catcher who is literally Travis d’Arnaud?
These three free-agent catchers are all projected to be in the 2 year/$10 million range (although Chirinos may end up costing more):
Travis d’Arnaud (31): Career .246/.307/.412, with 391 PA in 2019. Projected .248/.308/.443 over 397 PA in 2020. Had Tommy John in 2018.
Jason Castro (32): Career .232/.332/.435 with 275 PA in 2019. Projected .233/.321/.402 over 345 PA in 2010. Defensive catcher, missed all of 2018 with a knee injury,
Robinson Chirinos (35): Career .238/.337/.443 with 437 PA in 2019. Projected .234/.336/.443 over 461 PA in 2020. Not a good defensive catcher.
OK, I’m just going to say it. These are not good options. The article admits that Chirinos is not a good defensive catcher, but his offensive numbers don’t look that great either. Sure, he was Verlander’s catcher this year, but I’m not convinced.
Castro is respected by his former teammates, but his offensive numbers aren’t good, and a veteran catcher with a recent knee injury may be a suboptimal solution.
So I guess that leaves the catcher who is literally Travis d’Arnaud.
You will hear lots of trade rumors this offseason. Recent ones revolve around Jon Gray, Scott Oberg and Trevor Story.
These are just rumors. The Rockies are not trading Jon Gray, Scott Oberg or Trevor Story.
The Rockies signed 2B Eric Stamets to a minor league deal on Tuesday. Stamets is a 28-year-old with limited Major League experience.
Surprise! It’s pitching.
Yordan Alvarez was a unanimous choice, and Pete Alonso got 29 of 30 first place votes. Then Andrew Baggarly wrote an article for The Athletic about why he didn’t vote for Pete Alonso ($).
While I suppose a case could be made for any of the AL finalists, Rocco Baldelli seemed like a pretty sure thing to me. He narrowly beat out Aaron Boone in the AL.
In the NL, Craig Counsell actually got more first-place votes (13) than Mike Shildt (10), but Shildt had the most points overall and thus is the 2019 Manager of the Year.
These are exciting times we’re living in.
I know you don’t all subscribe to The Athletic, so here’s a quick summary of this one:
The Astros stole signs electronically in 2017. This is part of a much broader issue for Major League Baseball.