Barring any unexpected surprises, albeit in a year defined by surprises, it’s just two weeks until Major League Baseball’s Opening Day (and 15 days until the Rockies open their season in the brand new ballpark of the Texas Rangers, Globe Life Field). Finally!
Bud Black suggested on Tuesday that it will be Germán Márquez taking the mound that evening, with the expectation that Jon Gray will start the following day.
While Gray was solid last year, he believes he has the ability to take it a step further in 2020 and boy would that be a blessing for the Rockies. If you haven’t heard it a thousand times already, a hot start is essential to every club this year. Having Gray in top form right off the bat as the Rockies number two starter could drive them towards a return to the playoffs.
Now that’s a headline that will get any Rockies fan (even more?) excited for the season.
According to Gray, his “practices got a lot better” while he spent the last few months waiting to hear baseball’s fate for 2020. With a multitude of Rockies including Kyle Freeland, Tony Wolters and bullpen coach Darryl Scott all in the Scottsdale area, it was easy for Gray to see a lot of time on the mound and the results showed.
“It’s really exciting. It’s been a lot of hard work, too...I got the right mechanics going. It makes everything work really well.”
But Jon Gray isn’t the only Rockie looking to improve on the 2019 campaign.
Daniel Murphy was doomed from the first series of the season last year when he broke his finger (although he would never use that as an excuse for his offensive struggles).
Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan spoke with Daniel Murphy at the end of 2019, when Daniel self-diagnosed an inability to get to pitches on the inside part of the plate. This strength-turned-weakness was one that Magadan highlighted as one of the key factors that made Murphy one of the best hitters in baseball between 2015-2018 (unfortunately, years he wasn’t wearing Rockies purple).
Since it’s 2020 and baseball continues its evolution as an analytics sport, the way forward for this pair was to dive into the data. They found a variety of reasons why Daniel wasn’t as successful hitting these pitches, and more importantly, they found solutions.
Murphy and Magadan believe sorting this out will bring back the high launch angle and power that made Murphy so successful in Washington and New York, giving the Rockies another slugger in the middle of their lineup.
Do we dare start counting the hours until we get to see this all in action? I vote yes.
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