After the league issued a memo back in March stating they’d be tougher on pitchers using “foreign substances” on the baseball, the early months of the season saw no change in approach from the league. With hitting down across the league, and a slew of evidence implicating pitchers brought to last week’s owners meetings, MLB is poised to start laying down the hammer. For the Rockies, the question then becomes: will the stricter rule enforcement hurt pitchers or help hitters more?
It’s no secret that pitchers have long looked to get a better grip on the baseball in the hopes of increasing spin rate and in turn, pitch deception. In 2020, Trevor Bauer published an op-ed in The Players Tribune in which he estimated that 70% of pitchers were using some sort of “technically illegal substance” when pitching.
Hitters are well aware of this fact too - Colorado’s very own charlie Blackmon spoke to Sports Illustrated about how difficult hitting has become.
“There’s some [pitchers] where, if you swing where your eyes tell you, you won’t hit the ball, even if you’re on time,” he said.
In the last week alone, Bauer (a bit ironic, yes) and Gerrit Cole, two of the league’s best hurlers, have seen drastic drop-offs in spin rate, following MLB’s announcement of firmer implementation of the rules. It’s important not to draw conclusions from a sample size of one game, but Cole gave up five runs in five innings in that start - it’s something to keep an eye on.
Assuming MLB is serious about punishing pitchers going forward, how does this impact the Rockies? I haven’t seen any specific examples of Rockies pitchers partaking in the act, but if Bauer’s 70% figure is remotely accurate, it’s safe to assume that some of the team’s hurlers are getting a little extra pitching help.
Preventing runs is always a tall task for Rockies pitchers, but for the most part, the team has to be pleased with the product on the mound this year. Conversely, the hitting has left everybody wanting more. Raimel Tapia, the team’s average leader is hitting just .280, and the team has already been shut out ten times this season.
The most simple evaluation of how this might impact the Rockies is that it won’t actually change much. Pitching gets worse, hitting gets better, and you’re more or less right where you started, albeit with different results each game.
A deeper analysis suggests this could end up being a positive change for the club. The hitting has at times been so bad, that it’s not unreasonable to say the offensive performances have been worse than the pitching performances have been good.
One statistic to highlight just how underwhelming the offense has been in 2021. Ryan McMahon’s team leading thirteen home runs (vote him into the All-Star game here), are more than double the next best on the team. Six, yes six, Rockies have gone yard five times this season. There’s an absolute mess of players jockeying for that coveted second spot.
The Rockies pitching staff has by no means been dominant this season, they’ve given up the fifth most runs in the league. But that’s par for the course at Coors Field. Being 28th in home runs and 16th in runs league-wide as the Rockies are, is unacceptable.
Pitchers won’t be happy with the league’s new enforcement, but it’s no secret the offensive for this Colorado club could use a little something to help them get going in the right direction.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t doom the pitchers so much, especially with Germán Márquez rounding into form after his early season struggles.
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With Larry Walker set to be inducted into the Hall of Fame on September 8, after last year’s ceremony was postponed, his Colorado Rockies jersey retirement will now come after his arrival in Cooperstown. Celebrations of Walker and the number 33 he wore for the team will now occur on September 25, before the team takes on the San Francisco Giants, about six weeks after the originally scheduled August 21 date.
I’m generally not a supporter of the idea that robot umpires should make decisions on balls and strikes, but this abomination from Sunday night is the kind of call that sometimes makes me think twice.
With the game tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Rougned Odor saw that pitch with a 3-2 count and runners at second and third. Rather than having the bases loaded with two outs, the Yankees were done for the inning and headed to extras. They ended up losing in the tenth.
This one blown call isn’t the reason the Yankees lost and one ball or strike missed usually doesn’t decide the outcome of the game. But maybe there’s room for an in-between solution. Why not let teams have one or two challenges per game that are strictly dedicated to questioning whether a pitch was called correctly.
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On the farm
The Yard Goats rallied to put up four runs in the final three innings but couldn’t do enough to come away with a victory on Wednesday night. The Reading Fightin Phils got an insurance run in the eighth inning that was enough to keep them ahead and defeat the Yard Goats 6-5 in a tightly contested game.
Two bad innings were all that was needed to sink the Indians last night as Vancouver put up five runs in the opening frame and another four in the sixth. Indians second baseman Isaac Collins hit a solo HR in the first inning but that was the lone offensive bright spot for the team who fell to 13-19 on the season.
Things Fall Apart - such was the way of the game for the Fresno Grizzlies who entered the ninth inning with a two-run lead over the Modesto Nuts. Unfortunately, Grizzlies reliever Juan Mejia struggled when he took the mound giving up three runs in the bottom of the ninth. Despite the tough outing, the Grizzlies still hold a sterling 21-11 record on the year.
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