Most baseball fans probably hadn’t heard of Colorado Rockies reliever Jake Bird before he had a run-in with Bryce Harper back in May.
Harper was going at it with Rockies pitcher Jake Bird after Bird clapped his glove at him pic.twitter.com/ZU7bpJU8kn— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) May 14, 2023
Benches cleared. Players were ejected. Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!
For Rockies fans, however, Bird has been a familiar and reliable member of the bullpen since being called up in 2022.
Last year, Bird pitched 47 2⁄3 innings in 38 games (4.91 ERA; 96 ERA+), and this year, he is on track to surpass that total, having already thrown 38 2⁄3 innings in 28 games (2.79 ERA; 181 ERA+).
In other words, last year, Bird was fine; this year, he’s very good.
Isn’t that a lot of innings at this point in the season?
In fact, Kenneth Weber has expressed concern that the Rockies are overusing Bird and other members of the bullpen. His unease seems well placed given that no reliever has thrown more innings this season that Bird has. (Tampa Bay’s Josh Flemming is next with 35.2 innings.)
Bird, however, is not overly concerned. For him, it’s about building on familiar routines and training.
“I think it’s it’s just kind of the same stuff I’ve been doing since college where I really got to learn about what it takes take care of your body,” Bird said, adding, “just doing the arm care, the shoulder-strengthening stuff, learning how to take it easy.”
He continued, “If I’m throwing two days in a row, learning how to dial it back and go light that next day in catch play, and just just being lucky, I guess.”
Currently, Bird has a K/9 of 9.31 (6th best in the Rockies bullpen), a BB/9 of 3.03, and an HR/9 of 0.47. He has an LOB% of 71.8% and a GB% of 51.1% (the best of all Rockies relievers with more than 10 innings thrown). His 0.7 fWAR makes him the Rockies’ third-most-valuable pitcher.
Bird also has a 71.8% LOB%, which is exactly the kind of pitcher the Rockies like and leads all Rockies relievers with more than 20.0 IP.
Bird seems like he’s playing with more emotion this season. Has he always been that way?
Although Bird’s dust up with Bryce Harper was the first time a large audience had seen Bird play with passion, he sees it as always having been part of his game. He just hasn’t always allowed it to show.
“I don’t really know, [why it’s emerging now]” Bird said. “But I know that competition has always been my release where I just get to be kind of a different guy. It feels good when you throw well, and you get out of a big spot. Sometimes it’s fun to just kind of let it go.”
Given his numbers so far, Bird has every right to celebrate his successes.
Then there’s the matter of a new nickname: “The Dirty Bird,” a gift from Ryan Spilborghs, which Bird appreciates.
“I’m good with that,” he said, adding, “I think my mom likes that one a lot, too — she’s the one that told me about it in the first place, watching the games.”
The Dirty Bird it is, then.
Didn’t I read that this guy taught himself to play the piano?
You probably did, and the music has a connection to his pitching.
Jack Etkin wrote a terrific piece about Bird’s evolution as a self-taught pianist that is absolutely worth your time.
But Bird also sees a link between his music and his other art — pitching.
“The mental connection there [between playing the piano and pitching] was when you’re pitching, if you’re really trying to force it, things for some reason don’t seem into fall in place,” Bird explained. “But as soon as you get that breath, you relax and you let that muscle memory and the work you’ve done before takeover. Then it, just for some reason, seems to work.”
Music is, in other words, another way in which a reliever throwing a lot of innings takes care of himself.
As for musical influences, Bird says he’s been “bouncing all over the map,” and then revealed that his favorite band is Coldplay.
“They are so damn good,” he said.
Given the quality of Jake Bird’s pitching, why isn’t he featured on Pitching Ninja?
I don’t know because Bird’s curveball should absolutely be immortalized there.
Perhaps I’m missing something, but every search I ran did not find any Jake Bird pitches featured on any of Pitching Ninja’s sites.
For a future story, I’ve been asking Rockies pitchers about being highlighted by Pitching Ninja, and the short version is that they pay attention to Rob Friedman’s work, and they appreciate being featured there.
When it comes to Jake Bird, that omission needs to be addressed.
Ryan here has the right idea:
Post Jake bird or we riot— ryan (@dodgahsryan) June 22, 2022
In the meantime, Rockies fans know that in Jake Bird, the Rockies have a durable and exceptional reliever.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Rockies’ need for a home run celebration, which they still don’t have. (Many of you argued that they should not have such a ritual, so we’ll agree to disagree on that one.)
However, the Albuquerque Isotopes do.
We’ve got a new home run celly in ABQ!! pic.twitter.com/CP7niaT9Xd— Albuquerque Isotopes (@ABQTopes) May 25, 2023
Let’s cook, indeed.
And so do the Spokane Indians. Our friends at Black Street Banter spoke with Zach Kokoska about its evolution.
Rockies, it’s time to get catch up with the times.
Coors Field Attendance
Since the Rockies have been on the road, there’s no update to last week’s attendance numbers.
However, I wanted to like to this piece from Ben Clemens, “Attendance is up 7.4% for the first 840 games of the season compared to the first 840 contests of last season, according to Baseball Reference,” Clemens writes.
As reported by ESPN, the early numbers do not indicate that trend of increased attendance is occurring at Coors Field as well (though those numbers will surely change as the weather gets warmer).
With the trade deadline approaching, Mark Feinsand recites a list of players who might benefit from finishing the season with a different team. The list includes some familiar names: Jo Adell, Dominic Canzone, Keaton Hiura — and Elehuris Montero. “[W]hile he was recalled last week, do the Rockies believe in his ability to handle the Majors?,” Feinsand asks. It’s the question Rockies fans will look to have answered in the coming weeks.
Coors Field was recently the site of an experiment in delivering beer and peanuts. It was part of the Association for Uncrewed Vehicle Systems International’s annual conference, Yes, there’s video, and, yes, the Rooftop is featured. This didn’t take place on a game day or anything like that, but it’s an interesting (if flawed) concept because who wants the person next to you getting a drone delivery of Coors Lite while you’re trying to watch Pierce Johnson close a game?
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