Narratives can really suck sometimes. All Rockies fans can relate to that immediate sigh we all make when we hear “Coors” mentioned to dismiss a hitter’s exploits, or the rolling of our eyes when some random national writer claims, “the Rockies will always hit, but will never pitch well.” Those tend to stick with people, for better or for worse. Just ask Austin Gomber.
Unless Gomber turns into an inner-circle Hall of Famer, I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that no matter how well he performs, he’ll forever be known in Colorado as the guy who got traded for Nolan Arenado. Gomber was phenomenal in spring training before getting blasted by the Dodgers in his first ever Coors Field start (he lasted only three innings, gave up three runs and walked seven batters) and as soon as he allowed a single earned run, the sentiment was all over social media: “This is the guy we traded Nolan for? LOL”.
Of course, Gomber then proceeded to have a very good start against the Giants (6 1⁄3 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 K), but narratives don’t die off quickly. He’ll be tested again the next time he takes the bump, as he’ll face Julio Urías and the Dodgers again, this time at Dodger Stadium on April 15th. But through two starts — one bad one and one good one — what can we take away from Gomber’s performance so far and how is it different from what he did previously in St. Louis?
Well, the surface level stats (ERA, WHIP, xwOBA, etc) are all a bit wonky still because he’s only pitched 9 1⁄3 innings, so let’s overlook those for a second because despite all the walks (over 10 per 9) Gomber is running a 0.091 BABIP and he hasn’t given up a homer yet, so the 2.89 ERA looks really shiny. It’s also a bit early to say Austin Gomber is one of the greatest contact managers in the game right now (his Hard Hit % against is in the 90th percentile), so let’s take a look at pitch mix and location instead, because they say more about a guy’s plan regardless of results. Here’s his pitch mix and how it’s changed compared to 2020:
After being primarily a fastball-curveball pitcher in St. Louis, Gomber’s curveball usage has predictably declined, and more so at home: he threw his curveball only six times (out of 73 pitches) in his Coors debut and then threw 25 curveballs (out of 104 pitches) in San Francisco. As a result, he’s ended up throwing his slider and changeup more than he used to, and I think this is a trend that will continue. He’s actually gained quite a bit of vertical movement on the cambio as well. And crucially, here’s his fastball location so far:
Hooray! Bud Black hasn’t convinced Gomber to throw his fastball down yet! Gomber has said before he wasn’t going to change who he is as a pitcher just because he now pitches at Coors, and it appears it’s holding up so far. I would encourage him to keep doing it because it allows his fastball and curve to tunnel much better off each other. And while the curve may never be his out pitch at Coors Field, I’d bet on him using it a ton on the road and even at home once he gets a good feel for how it moves at altitude. I mean, this is a gorgeous pitch:
Has it all been perfect? You know it hasn’t. He’s walked a ton of hitters so far and even if you want to attribute his disastrous first start to nerves, he also ended up walking four Giants in 6 1⁄3 IP in his good outing. The changeup is not getting swings and misses like it was before and he hasn’t exactly been efficient in general. However, I think it’s clear this is a major league pitcher we’re looking at — one who will likely be really good on the road and could be good at altitude as well if he gets comfortable with his slider and changeup.
More than anything, I don’t think it’s fair for people to be judging a guy with exactly 113 1⁄3 IP of MLB experience who is now dealing with the toughest conditions a pitcher has to deal with. We’ll see how he keeps evolving, but I’m interested to watch it happen and I’m a believer in the guy. Are you?
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Everyone knows that when your mother gives you some eager advice, you should at the very least listen carefully and think about what she’s saying, and that’s what Garrett Hampson did. On the bullpen front, lefty Ben Bowden has allowed seven earned runs across three innings of work, and the ‘pen is lacking in options. That and more from Nick Groke.
Germán Márquez looked like all his command issues came back to him at the same time in the first inning against the Giants, but from there on was efficient, precise, and all around nails. Márquez and Bud Black both believe it’s the sign of things to come (I was personally very encouraged by Germán last time out; he looked like the real ace Germán Márquez we all know he is for the majority of the outing).
The Rockies signed two veteran hurlers recently: Ivan Nova and former Rockie Chris Rusin. They both profile as bullpen help, with Nova likely providing rotation depth as well. Bud Black says they’ll both start at the alternate site and have to play their way onto the roster.
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