In 2021, Tyler Kinley held a 6.20 ERA into the second week of August. After struggling during the abbreviated 2020 season, Kinley’s tough stretches during the 2021 season raised the question on how long his tenure in Colorado may last. But, after a disastrous outing against Miami on August 7th, Kinley turned a corner and finished the season with a 2.13 ERA and .176 BAA in his final 25 ⅓ innings.
This late-season improvement seemed good enough to merit tendering Kinley in 2022. The Rockies chose to tender everybody for 2022, so that point was moot. But the fact remained that Kinley was significantly improved at the end of the season, which bred hope that he could be a positive contributor for an uncertain 2022 Colorado Rockies bullpen.
To say he’s met those expectations would be an understatement.
Tyler Kinley 2022
Simply put, Tyler Kinley’s performance in 2022 has been superb. He has easily been not only the best reliever for the Rockies, but one of the best relievers in baseball. His 0.75 ERA is the sixth best for relievers who have thrown 20 or more innings while his FIP of 1.77 sits seventh. When you lump in his strong finish to the 2021 season, his totals come out to an impressive 1.46 ERA, 87.8% LOB% and .201 BAA in his last 49 ⅓ innings.
The improvement in Kinley’s numbers speaks for itself, but it begs the question; what changed? How did Kinley convert from a non-tender candidate to utterly dominant?
In short, it appears he learned to do more with less on his slider.
Opponents have mustered a line of just .196 AVG and .216 SLG against Kinley’s slider in 2022. It has clearly been his most dominant pitch, which is good news considering it has a time-share with his fastball in terms of total usage. His average spin rate is down nearly 200 RPM from his 2021 figures to a career-low mark of 2426 RPM.
This is a continuing trend for Kinley, as the average slider on his spin dropped 70 RPM from August to the end of the season in 2021. This adjustment has seemingly been the backbone for Kinley’s success, and it has shown in his slider’s effectiveness versus hitters in 2022.
Tyler Kinley’s Slider
Kinley’s lower-spin slider has resulted in more missed swings, more softer contact and more ground balls in 2022. Opponents have swung at his slider outside of the zone nearly 20% more this season while his called strikes/whiffs has jumped 7%. The hard contact is down nearly five percent while the frequency of ground balls off his slider has shot up to nearly 60%.
The last stat regarding hard contact and ground ball frequency is especially important when examining Kinley’s improvement. Before August last season, Kinley had a GB% of 36.3% and a HR/FB of 13.3%. Since then, his overall GB% has jumped to a tick under 42% while his HR/FB is a much more palatable 8.5%.
All of this is in credit of his slider simply becoming more effective. It’s becoming more and more apparent that there is success to be found as a Colorado pitcher when working counterculture to the high-spin philosophy of pitching. Tyler Kinley and his lower-spin slider is another item of proof in that discussion.
Like any reliever, he’ll experience a meltdown inning in the future, because that’s the nature of the job. But less than a year after legitimately questioning the viability of keeping him on the roster, Kinley has successfully turned into the reliever you most want to see coming out of the ‘pen for the Rockies.
★ ★ ★
After landing back on the IL quickly after returning from lower-back pain, Kris Bryant is attempting to ease back into action to avoid any further missed games. Bryant has now missed 17 days since landing back on the IL, but is up to running and tee work. Because his level of activity is increasing gradually, there is still no timeline for his return.
★ ★ ★
On The Farm
The Isotopes fell in a walk-off victory for El Paso. Zach Neal got the start for Albuquerque, spreading out six hits over four innings for only two runs allowed. Kyle Holder homered to give Albuquerque the first lead in the third inning, but that was quickly answer by a solo shot off Neal in the bottom of the inning. The Isotopes posted another run the next inning on a Bret Boswell double, but that lead was also short lived as El Paso responded with one of their own in the bottom-half. The game would remain locked at 2 until the bottom of the ninth when a one-out double came around to score off reliever Zach Lee.
The Yard Goats pulled out a win in a shootout on the road against Portland. Karl Kauffmann was unable to escape the first inning, surrendering four runs on five hits before being pulled with only two outs recorded. But Hartford would put up five in the second inning thanks to RBI singles by Jimmy Herron and Ezequiel Tovar and RBI doubles by Hunter Stovall and Isaac Collins. After a Daniel Montano home run in the third, Hartford entered the fourth with the score tied at six. Home runs by Aaron Schunk and Michael Toglia highlighted a seven run outburst, putting Hartford ahead for good. Collins and Montano each had three hits in the game while Willie MacIver went 4-for-5 with two RBI and three runs scored.
It was a heart-breaking loss for Spokane on Friday. Colin Simpson went deep in the second inning, so did Bladimir Restituyo in the fifth and after six innings the Indians led 6-4. Restituyo would hit his second shot of the game in the ninth to give Spokane an insurance run entering the bottom of the ninth. Unfortunately, Eugene would rally against reliever Austin Kitchen, loading the bases with one out thanks to an error by Simpson. After a sacrifice fly to plate a run, Jairo Pomares hit a walk-off three run homer to end the ballgame. Will Ethridge had eight strikeouts in five innings and Restituyo finished the game with three hits and four runs driven in.
Fresno never tailed in their victory against Visalia. Warming Bernabel drove in the first three runs of the game, singling one home in the first inning before doubling two more home in the fifth. Following RBIs from Juan Guerrero and Aiverson Rodriguez, Yanquiel Fernadez brought home one more with a double in the bottom of the sixth to swell the lead to 6-0. This was more than enough for starter Brayan Castillo, who picked up his first win of the season in a fantastic start. Castillo tossed six innings of one-hit ball, holding the Rawhide scoreless while striking out six and walking just one. Bernabel finished the game with three hits and three RBI.
★ ★ ★
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