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Kyle Freeland on the rediscovery of his sinker

Colorado Rockies news and links for Sunday, September 11, 2022

Last month, Justin Wick did a phenomenal deep-dive into Kyle Freeland’s recent sinker usage. Freeland’s newfound reliance on this offering has produced mixed results so far this season. Many of his best starts have heavily featured his sinker, with Justin highlighting his July 25th road start against the Milwaukee Brewers where he tossed seven scoreless innings while recording seven strikeouts without issuing a walk, limiting the Brew Crew to just four hits along the way.

His sinker usage eclipsed the 30% mark in that start and he followed that outing with an even higher sinker output, topping 40% in a start for the first time in five years during his August 10th home contest with the St. Louis Cardinals. But the results were less optimal, as Freeland allowed six runs and ten hits over 4 ⅓ innings in that outing.

Since that article, Freeland has posted a strong performance in four of his last five outings, with the one flop coming at home against the San Francisco Giants on August 21st. But there is nuance to that start, as Freeland rolled through the first six innings before getting bitten by an Evan Longoria grand slam in the seventh.

In those five starts, Freeland has continued to ride his sinker at least 20% of the time, peaking at 37% on August 27th against the New York Mets. This shows a growing confidence in the pitch, a development that has taken some time for the Rockies left-handed starter.

“My rookie year, I was very heavy two-seam. Then, 2018 after talking with Chris Iannetta, and run that we had, he came to me and like, ‘Hey, we’re gonna start throwing the four-seam.’” Freeland said. “But after that, and the rough 2019 I had, I kind of had to take a step back, look at my entire arsenal and, not relearn how to pitch with it, but learn how to use it to my advantage.”

This adjustment has been years in the making, as Freeland’s sinker usage is back up to 22% this season after cratering to under 10% in 2019. The metrics of the pitch have not undergone a dramatic change, as his spin-rate, whiff percentage and average movement with the pitch are consistent with previous seasons. What has changed is when Freeland elects to utilize the offering, not how.

“I rely (on the sinker) a little more on the road just because it’s gonna be able to grab that air a little bit better than it will at home, although I have been throwing it more at home lately.” said Freeland. “When I can locate it down in the zone, I can get quick outs…it’s a pitch that I’ve learned to use in a lot of different ways. You know, front hip on righties. That’s one of my favorite pitches to use, with that two-seam. It’s a great setup pitch to get to and then, at the same time, you go down and away to righties where they see fastball spin and then it just darts away at the last second for a weak ground ball.”

The proof is in the numbers for Freeland. He is using his sinker 31% of the time to start an at-bat this year, a 16% increase from last season. He has shown a similar spike in usage to get to two strikes in at-bat, especially in 0-1 counts where his jump in pitch usage has been almost identical as the beginning of at-bats. This is resulting in more weak contact on batted balls where he is ahead and more two strike counts, which leads into his put-away breaking balls.

This is the latest evolution for Kyle Freeland, a pitcher that has had to transform numerous times over the course of his career. Whether it be mechanical changes to his delivery, adjustments to the grip of his slider, or an alteration to the sequencing of his two fastballs, Freeland knows pitching is always a work in progress. He is not the pitcher he was in 2018, and will likely never be on that level again. But the same applies to the pitcher he was in 2019. The adaptability Freeland has shown is what helped him find stability between those two extremes, and the progress he has shown in his sinker during the 2022 is the latest example of that.

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MLB, MLBPA finalize card-check agreement as minor leagues move closer to unionization, sources say | ESPN

MLB and the Players Association finalized a final step in the unionization of minor league players on Saturday. In the agreement, the MLBPA will present union-authorization cards next Wednesday to be counted by a neutral arbiter. These cards will recognize the Players Association as the bargaining representative of over 5,000 minor league players. This is a formal step in the league’s voluntary recognition of minor league players desires to unionize with the MLBPA, paving the way for collective-bargaining negotiations this off-season for minor league players.

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On The Farm

Triple-A: El Paso Chihuahuas 10, Albuquerque Isotopes 9

The Chihuahuas took an early lead on a solo home run off starter Logan Allen in the second inning, but Albuquerque responded quickly with three off their own thanks to RBI singles from Ryan Vilade and Jimmy Herron and a run-scoring double off the bat of Coco Montes. That solo homer is all El Paso would get off Allen, who threw five innings without allowing additional runs or hits. D.J. Peterson tacked on one run to the lead with single in fifth, followed by a run crossing home on a wild pitch in the sixth. Things fell apart in the eighth, though. Julian Fernández was the initial culprit, walking three and giving up two hits on his way to surrendering five runs without recording an out. Ashton Goudeau took his place but didn’t fare much better, getting just one out while allowing four more runs to cross. The Isotopes added two runs in the ninth, but the comeback fell one run short.

Double-A: Somerset Patriots 8, Hartford Yard Goats 6

Starter Noah Gotsis came down with an unfortunate case of the long-balls against Somerset, surrendering a two-run home run in the third inning before coughing up a solo shot in the fifth. All told the Patriots put up five runs in four innings against Gotsis before getting two more off reliever Michael Baird in the fifth. The Yard Goats rallied, however, posting three runs in fourth on RBI singles from Daniel Montano, Julio Carreras and Hunter Stovall. They added two more in the fifth, highlighted by Aaron Schunk’s 13th homer of the season, and one more in the sixth, but it wasn’t enough as they were shut out the rest of the way. Grant Lavigne had three hits in the loss.

High-A: Spokane Indians 7, Tri-City Dust Devils 4

RBI singles from Colin Simpson and Mateo Gil along with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Trevor Boone got Spokane out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning. For a while, that looked like it may be enough as starter Case Williams cruised through the first three innings. But he ran into trouble in the fourth, coughing up a walk and four hits which resulted in a tie game entering the fifth inning. The Indians used the two singles and a double formula from the first to plate another three runs in the top of the fifth. That proved to be enough, as they held the two teams traded runs in the final four innings to bring the game its eventual 7-4 final.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 4, San Jose Giants 3

The big news in the system was the Fresno debut of 2022 first round selection Gabriel Hughes. It was an impressive debut for the Gonzaga product, allowing just one hit while registering one strikeout over three scoreless innings. Left fielder Juan Guerrero got Fresno on the board first with a sole home run in the fourth inning. That lead wouldn’t last long, however, as the Giants plated two runs off reliever Gabriel Barbosa in the bottom half of the inning to put Fresno behind by a run. The score would stay that way until the eighth when newly drafted Sterlin Thompson drove in the game-tying run, setting the table for a bases-loaded walk by A.J. Lewis to put the Grizzlies ahead by one. They’d tack on one more off a wild pitch, the eventual winning run of the ballgame.

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