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Can we please elevate the fastball?

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Folks, I regret saying this, but it’s happening again.

This is not a new topic. In fact, it’s been mentioned over and over again in recent years on this page and on many other forums: the Rockies love keeping the fastball down. Bud Black, I’m convinced, prays to the almighty Low Fastball to deliver him and his hurlers weakly hit grounders every night before going to sleep. The Rockies love low fastballs so much, in fact, that nobody throws them more often than them. Here’s where the Rockies rank in 4-seam-fastball height since 2017. Ready?

  • 2017: 2.54 ft (26th)
  • 2018: 2.53 ft (30th)
  • 2019: 2.52 ft (30th)
  • 2020: 2.52 ft (30th)
  • 2021: 2.57 ft (30th)

In most of these cases the gap between the Rockies and the next-lowest team is significant. And I’m almost 100% sure that the 0.05 ft jump this year can be entirely attributed to newcomer Austin Gomber, who’s locating his 4-seamer high in the zone, where it tunnels best with his curve. So anyway, that consistently low location creates this fine graphic:

That ain’t pretty. As MLB teams have shifted their four seamers towards the upper half of the zone, the Rockies have kept them down, which I’m sure has something to do with this:

Now, it would be dishonest to claim that there aren’t some Coors shenanigans going on here, of course. Coors Field sees less K’s by default because of the reduced movement pitches have compared to sea level. However, that doesn’t fully explain that gigantic gap in K% developing over these last few seasons. We all know there’s an active attempt to pitch contact going on, but watching the data that confirms it is jarring to me. I mean, just look at these heatmaps for fastball location (Rockies on the left, Yankees on the right):

It’s blatant, and it’s no surprise that the Rockies are currently the only pitching staff in the Majors striking out less than 20% of batters faced (as of the time I wrote this). I’d hoped that they were finally ready to move past this and start using the upper third of the zone after some comments from pitchers and Bud Black himself during the offseason, but it seems they aren’t. And that makes me sad.

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The base knock celebration and what it means | Rox Pile

This team may be bad, but at least they look like they’re enjoying themselves. Not only do they have their own MVP chain, they know have a celebration for base hits as well (remember the Cucarachas?). You’ll see it every time a guy gets a hit; one knock for a single, two knocks for a double... and something they haven’t defined yet for a triple. Some good insight on the atmosphere within the dugout.

Rockies’ Scott Oberg rejoins team, but he’s a long way from pitching | Denver Post ($)

Losing Scott Oberg again was a gut punch for Rockies fans, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was hoping Scott would let it go and make sure his health was his number one priority, because blood clots are nothing to mess around with. He’s obviously still holding out to see if he can pitch again, but who knows at this point. Also some Josh Fuentes stuff, and some injury updates.

Colorado counting on Veen to be impact player | MiLB.com

Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich are some pretty good MLB comps for an 18-year-old outfielder. That’s what Zac Veen got entering the Draft, and they remain true today. The 19-year-old is striking out a lot at Low-A (32%), but he’s also walking a lot (18%) and his overall line entering Tuesday play is .216/.380/.324, which comes out to a 108 wRC+. That’s nothing to sneeze at for a guy who’s more than two years younger than the average player in his league. He’s also stolen 10 bags in 11 games, too. Veen gets a scouting report in the piece, receiving a 60 grade for his hit tool and 55 grades everywhere else except for the run tool, which gets a 50. Count me in as part of the hype machine folks.

In The Farm

All four affiliates took the field yesterday:

The Isotopes got just their second win of the season in the final duel of their 6-game set against El Paso, and despite roughing up a consensus top 10 prospect in baseball in Mackenzie Gore, they needed a big, 4-run 7th inning to do it, achieving the comeback win. Brendan Rodgers went 2-for-4 with a double, a walk, and a run scored, and is currently hitting .467 on his rehab assignment.

Couldn’t quite bring it home. The Yard Goats held a 1-0 lead into the top of 9th inning of their first contest of the season versus Somerset, but Nº 20 PurP Tommy Doyle surrendered a two-run homer to give up the lead and Hartford couldn’t come up with a run in the bottom of the frame. Nº 50 PurP Will Gaddis saw his phenomenal outing wasted, as he went six scoreless innings allowing just three hits and a walk, with six strikeouts for good measure.

26-year-old Indians righty David Hill had the strikeout stuff working, whiffing seven in just 3.2 IP. It was a solid, all-around performance from Spokane, which featured homers from Niko Decolati (Nº 31 PurP) and Willie MacIver (Nº 32 PurP) and some good pitching from the bullpen, with only one of the two runs allowed being earned. The Spokane Indians improved to 3-10 on the young season. Of note: Nº 4 PurP Michael Toglia went 1-for-2 and walked twice on Tuesday, which puts his season slash at High-A at a very entertaining .200/.393/.600. That’s a .933 OPS despite a miserable .130 BABIP, folks, which is not something you see every day. Toglia is currently seeing 4.46 pitches per PA.

A day of offensive misery for the Grizzlies, at they could only come up with two hits and two walks in the series opener against Giants pitching. Nº 27 PurP Mitchell Kilkenny took a tough loss, as he pitched well (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K), but not enough to beat Giants righty Ryan Murphy (6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K). The San Jose bullpen did the rest, and Fresno saw its streak of six straight wins snapped, dropping them out of a two-way tie for first place in the Low-A West. The Grizzlies put a baserunner on second base or further just once in the entire game.

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