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Reviewing the Rockies pitchers’ sticky reliance

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Colorado Rockies news and link for Monday, October 11, 2021

Earlier this summer Major League Baseball announced that it would be tightening up and enforcing its ban on foreign substances for pitchers, in an effort to stimulate offense. The official MLB memo announcing the crackdown came out June 15th, but it was rumored to have been delivered to teams earlier. Regardless of when teams received the memo, umpires began to check pitchers and enforcing the ban on June 21st.

Purple Row’s Justin Wick previously examined the Rockies starters and their spin rates in the games leading up to the ban, but prior to enforcement. League-wide, spin rates began to drop around mid-May, allegedly around the time that the memo was received by teams. The Rockies’ pitchers did not experience that same drop off. Today, we’ll take a look at each of the starters and how their pitches were affected after June 20th, comparing pre- and post-ban enforcement numbers.

A couple of notes — typically, spin rate changes will most affect pitches like fastballs and breaking balls. All pitches that each Rockies pitcher throws have been included in the charts below, both for completeness sake and to give a sense of scale of what these changes (if any) amount to. Spin rates vary from start to start, much like velocity, and a 50 RPM change in spin rate from before to after the ban isn’t anything that should raise eyebrows.

Germán Márquez

Germán Márquez Pitch Types, 2021

Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin SK % SK velo SK spin
Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin SK % SK velo SK spin
4-1-2021 to 6-20-2021 46.7 94.9 2084 25.3 86.2 2433 20.5 85 2667 2 86.1 1697 5.5 94.3 2057
6-21-2021 to 10-3-2021 43.9 94.8 2073 28.2 86.3 2410 16.2 85.4 2700 2.1 86 1649 9.5 93.9 2055
Difference -2.8 -0.1 -11 2.9 0.1 -23 -4.3 0.4 33 0.1 -0.1 -48 4 -0.4 -2
Baseball Savant

Márquez looks unaffected across the board. Minimal changes in usage, velocity, and spin before and after the ban. Ho hum, nothing to see here.

Jon Gray, Antonio Senzatela

Jon Gray Pitch Types, 2021

Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin
Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin
4-1-2021 to 6-20-2021 47 94.2 2138 36.9 86.1 2396 4.4 75.4 2538 11.6 86.9 1428
6-21-2021 to 10-3-2021 48 95.3 2160 38.9 87.1 2417 7.6 76.3 2604 5.5 88.5 1492
Difference 1 1.1 22 2 1 21 3.2 0.9 66 -6.1 1.6 64
Baseball Savant

Antonio Senzatela Pitch Types, 2021

Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin SK % SK velo SK spin
Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin SK % SK velo SK spin
4-1-2021 to 6-20-2021 51.4 94.2 2100 33.7 85.7 2104 4.9 77.2 2194 8.8 85.8 2006 1.2 93.5 2085
6-21-2021 to 10-3-2021 57 94.9 2092 30 86.4 2060 6.7 78.3 2132 3.6 86.3 2040 2.7 95 2139
Difference 5.6 0.7 -8 -3.7 0.7 -44 1.8 1.1 -62 -5.2 0.5 34 1.5 1.5 54
Baseball Savant

A similar story for the recently extended Antonio Senzatela and pending unrestricted free agent Jon Gray. Slight changes across the board, but nothing that seems out of the ordinary.

Austin Gomber

Austin Gomber Pitch Types, 2021

Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin SK % SK velo SK spin
Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin SK % SK velo SK spin
4-1-2021 to 6-20-2021 39.8 91.8 1984 24.3 85.2 2269 17.8 75.5 2513 18.1 83.1 1634
6-21-2021 to 10-3-2021 42.4 91.3 2107 24.3 85.4 2356 11.3 76.3 2503 22 83.1 1687
Difference 2.6 -0.5 123 0 0.2 87 -6.5 0.8 -10 3.9 0 53
Baseball Savant

Gomber’s numbers went in the opposite direction of what you’d expect, going up in somewhat significant amounts after enforcement of the ban. In an interesting coincidence, Gomber was forced on the IL on June 19th, right before the ban went into effect and did not return until late July. While it would seem that the ban did not change his ability to get spin on his pitches, he was also likely able to lean on the experience of his fellow pitchers who were experiencing the new enforcement first hand.

Kyle Freeland

Kyle Freeland Pitch Types, 2021

Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin SK % SK velo SK spin
Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin SK % SK velo SK spin
4-1-2021 to 6-20-2021 27.7 91.6 2466 23.8 85.2 2434 10 78.5 2427 25.9 86.2 1467 12.6 91.7 2434
6-21-2021 to 10-3-2021 24.2 91.4 2377 22.5 86.2 2287 22.5 80.4 2438 14.9 85.6 1577 16 91.3 2344
Difference -3.5 -0.2 -89 -1.3 1 -147 12.5 1.9 11 -11 -0.6 110 3.4 -0.4 -90
Baseball Savant

Freeland is where the numbers begin to get a little interesting. While game to game variations likely make up the bulk of the changes, the overall trend for his spin on the fastball and slider are down. The greater of the two, the slider spin, could be explained though due to his slight increase in velocity - sacrificing throwing it with more spin to instead get more velo.

Chi Chi González

Chi Chi González Pitch Types, 2021

Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin CUT % CUT velo CUT spin SK % SK velo SK spin
Date Range FB% FB velo FB spin SL% SL velo SL spin CB% CB velo CB spin CH % CH velo CH spin CUT % CUT velo CUT spin SK % SK velo SK spin
4-1-2021 to 6-20-2021 46.5 92 2377 23.1 85.7 2580 4.6 81.3 2638 11.2 84.6 1626 10.4 87.8 2601 4.3 90.6 2282
6-21-2021 to 10-3-2021 46.2 91.8 2273 23.9 85.6 2419 5.9 81 2486 7.6 83.7 1701 8.4 87.9 2361 8.1 90.7 2185
Difference -0.3 -0.2 -104 0.8 -0.1 -161 1.3 -0.3 -152 -3.6 -0.9 75 -2 0.1 -240 3.8 0.1 -97
Baseball Savant

Finally, that brings us to Chi Chi González. He appears to be the starter who experienced the highest drop in spin, going down in the hundreds across nearly all of his pitches. While Chi Chi recently elected free agency, and will not be returning to the Rockies next year, it will be interesting to see whether he makes any changes during the offseason to combat the loss of the sticky stuff.

Overall, the pitchers who (hopefully) will be returning to the Rockies seem to not have been affected too much by the foreign substance crackdown. Perhaps this is due to pitching at elevation, perhaps due to the lack of usage to begin with. Regardless, a positive sign moving into the next season.

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