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Please give Austin Gomber a break

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Colorado Rockies news and links for Thursday, September 2, 2021

Rockies left-handed starter Austin Gomber didn’t have a good month of August, and that’s no secret. Unfortunately that has caused some backlash on social media and the resurrection of the “Nolan Arenado trade discourse” I had hoped we had finally moved past when there’s only 29 games left in the regular season.

Austin Gomber - August 2021

GS IP ERA BAA OBP SLG HR SO BB
GS IP ERA BAA OBP SLG HR SO BB
6 25 7.56 .306 .400 .574 7 27 15

Yes, Austin Gomber has had a rough August. But he’s not alone. The majority of the Rockies’ starting rotation has been struggling over the last month.

Rockies Rotation - August 2021

Pitcher GS IP ERA BAA OBP SLG HR SO BB
Pitcher GS IP ERA BAA OBP SLG HR SO BB
Germán Márquez 5 25.1 6.75 .277 .318 .564 7 22 6
Jon Gray 5 22 6.55 .315 .394 .424 1 30 10
Antonio Senzatela 5 30.2 2.93 .250 .290 .302 0 22 6
Kyle Freeland 5 29 3.41 .239 .265 .394 4 34 4
Austin Gomber 6 25 7.56 .306 .400 .574 7 27 15

Only Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela were safe from the rotation’s August swoon, as the Rockies’ two best rotation pitchers throughout the month. Gomber undoubtedly had the worst month of the bunch. To me, there are two major factors that are causing Gomber’s slump, with one in particular affecting the rotation as a whole.

Injury

Gomber is only a month removed from a stint on the injured list with tightness in his pitching arm. He was placed on the 10-day IL on June 20th and was activated on July 21st. Since returning from the injured list, Gomber hasn’t really looked the same compared with his excellent and consistent pitching. Compare his statistics from before and after his injury.

Austin Gomber - Before and After IL

Time Period GS IP ERA BAA OBP SLG HR SO BB
Time Period GS IP ERA BAA OBP SLG HR SO BB
April 4 - June 19 15 78.1 3.68 .211 .270 .353 9 76 23
July 21 - August 31 8 37 6.32 .272 .257 .550 11 37 18

That’s a pretty drastic change, especially when it comes to his opponent's slugging percentage, and the amount of walks he’s giving up. It suggests that he’s having command issues following his injury and perhaps isn’t quite as recovered as one would hope.

Jon Gray was on the IL for most of June, and came back looking pretty solid. However, in his last four starts he had a pretty serious slide where he couldn’t get to six innings, was giving up a lot of contact, and walked a lot of batters despite having strong strikeout numbers. On is final start of August, Gray left the game after just two innings and would not return. He was later placed on the 10-day IL with tightness in his pitching arm.

Jon Gray - Last Four Starts

GS IP ERA BAA OBP SLG HR SO BB
GS IP ERA BAA OBP SLG HR SO BB
4 16 7.31 .313 .410 .448 1 24 9

Workload

Perhaps the major factor affecting pitching performance in my opinion is workload. Every pitcher in the Rockies’ rotation has already gone surging past their total innings pitched during the COVID-shortened 2020 season and are approaching their inning totals from previous seasons. Being a starting pitcher is incredibly taxing both physically and mentally, and a severely shortened season can throw a real wrench into the gears of your physical and mental endurance. Every pitcher in the rotation has reached over 100 innings of work this season, when only one of them had over 80 innings in 2020.

Rockies Rotation Innings Pitched (2018-2021)

Pitcher 2018 2019 2020* 2021
Pitcher 2018 2019 2020* 2021
Germán Márquez 196 174 81.2 156
Antonio Senzatela 90.1 124.2 73.1 125
Jon Gray 172.1 150 39 126.1
Kyle Freeland 202.1 104.1 70.2 91.2
Austin Gomber 75 DNP 29 115.1
* = COVID shortened season

Germán Márquez and Jon Gray are already well past their 2020 inning count and within 20 innings of their totals for 2019. Who really sticks out here however, is Austin Gomber. Gomber is in his first full season as a major league starter. In 2021, he’s pitched more innings than all of his previous MLB seasons combined. In addition to not having pitched at all at the MLB level in 2019 and there absolutely has got to be a wall he’s hitting. In 2019 he bounced around between various minor league levels and pitched just 49 23 innings total.

So Austin Gomber needs a break: both from pitching (probably for one scheduled start) and from the fans holding him to unreasonable expectations and drudging up bitter feelings from a trade that wasn’t his fault. For the majority of the season he’s been an excellent pitcher for the Rockies, and his recent slide comes from a place of injury and exhaustion. He’s also only 27 years old—just the second oldest in a very young rotation—in his very first year of the kind of workloads starting pitchers go through. Give the man a break.

★ ★ ★

Rodgers’ bat eases sting of Freeland’s injury | MLB.com

Kyle Freeland threw just 21 pitches before exiting Wednesday’s series finale against the Texas Rangers with what is being called a “left hip impingement.” After a solid first inning, he walked the leadoff batter in the second and was visited by Bud Black and Rockies’ athletic trainer Keith Duggar. His injury lead to an early five-run deficit from the bullpen that the Rockies would have to battle out of thanks to Brendan Rodgers. Freeland leaving the game with an injury is bad news when the Rockies placed Jon Gray on the 10-day IL (right forearm tightness) the same day.

Colton Welker and Ryan Vilade on the way? Can the Rockies wait for Michael Toglia? A forward-looking mailbag | The Athletic ($)

In Nick Groke’s latest mailbag on the Athletic, he addresses several very interesting questions, including one from our own Skyler Timmins. Groke discusses where Ryan Vilade and Colton Welker fit within the future of the organization, specifically their positional confusion. Vilade was drafted as a shortstop, was moved to third base, and now plays left field, but doesn’t have the slugging traditional for the position. Welker was drafted as a third baseman, but was moved to first base because Nolan Arenado blocked him. Now he’s not truly either, and was robbed of a big chunk of his season due to a 80-game suspension. Groke also discusses Michael Toglia, what happened to David Dahl, and perhaps most interestingly: does Dick Monfort want to win?

★ ★ ★

On the Farm:

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats vs Reading Fightin’ Phils

Game 2 of the Yard Goats’ penultimate home series was postponed due to weather. It will be made up as game one of a doubleheader on September 2nd.

High-A: Spokane Indians 7, Tri-City Dust Devils 5

The Spokane Indians won game two of their final home series for the season 7-5 against the Tri-City Dust Devils. Spokane struck first and struck hard with a four run first inning featuring a Hunter Stovall triple and RBI singles from Niko Decolati and Aaron Schunk. Stovall would hit a solo home run in the eighth inning, while Ezequiel Tovar and Isaac Collins would both hit solo shots as well. Starting pitcher Mitchell Kilkenny kept the Dust Devils shut out through the first three innings, but would give up three earned runs via a solo home run in the fourth and a two run home run in the fifth. A fielding error by Stovall in the seventh would lead to two unearned runs scoring. The Indians bullpen kept the Dust Devils in check with solid outings from Stephen Jones (1 13 shutout innings) and Dugan Darnell, who earned his 11th save of the season with a shutout ninth inning.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 4, Stockton Ports 3

Anderson Amarista had the start for the Grizzlies and pitched five solid innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He struck out seven batters and walked just one. Amarista ceded the mound to Blair Calvo in the sixth inning, who went on to pitch three complete innings of one run baseball. He allowed that one run on four hits, but also struck out five in a lengthy relief appearance. Robinson Hernandez pitched the bottom of the ninth for the save. After two quick outs, he gave up a double and a four pitch walk, with a passed ball by Drew Romo putting runners on the corners. He pitched the count full to the final batter, but luckily induced a pop out in foul territory to cement the victory and earn his 13th save. On offense, outfielder Joe Aeilts stood out with his 2-for-3 day at the plate, including two RBIs. Outfielder Robby Martin Jr. was also 2-for-3.

★ ★ ★

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