clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pitching at Altitude, Part 6: The Perfect Rockies Pitcher

Welcome to “Pitching at Altitude”, a six-part series where we’ll take a data-based approach to solving the near 30 year old dilemma that is pitching at mile high elevation.

Welcome to the fifth entry of my new data-based pitching series about the Colorado Rockies. After evaluating almost every pitcher on the roster during the extended “Crafting a Gameplan” series (which you can find here), this time we’re tackling a more widespread, fundamental topic: pitching at altitude. It’s no secret that this is a difficult thing to do, one the Rockies themselves have been grappling with for many years.

Even now, after 30 years, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious answer to pitching at high elevation. What we’re going to attempt to do in this series is use data and physics to truly understand the dynamics that make throwing a baseball at mile high elevation radically and uniquely different from any other place.

Here are the series’ six parts:

  • Part 1: The General Effects of Elevation
  • Part 2: Mile High Fastballs
  • Part 3: Sinkers & Cutters
  • Part 4: Breaking Balls
  • Part 5: Changeups & Splitters
  • Part 6: The Perfect Rockies Pitcher

We’ve reached the final entry of the series, folks. Today’s piece will be a detailed one, acting as both a recap of the previous entries and an explanation that puts it all together. After all, at the start of the series we set out to solve the challenge that is pitching at altitude, and I mean to accomplish that. Let’s wrap this up!

There are so many variables to take into account when you pitch half of your games at altitude. We’ve seen how pitch types are affected, how we can judge and grade pitches, how the unique environment of Coors Field creates an offensive paradise unlike any other, and more. But now, it’s time to truly put it all together in order to create a detailed gameplan for pitching at altitude.

There are a lot of things to tackle here, from pitcher profiles and motor preferences to pitch usage and strategy. Let us start with an important philosophical question: what should we seek in pitchers in order to combat Coors Field?


As we went over in Pt. 1, there have been a wide variety of theories about how to have success pitching at Coors. Some would point to groundballs in general. Some would talk about sinkers or low-spin fastballs in particular. Some would say changing speeds, some would say striking out a million batters.

The truth is there is no one bullet-proof answer to this question, because there is no area of offense that Coors Field doesn’t boost. It’s both an extreme BABIP park and a high level HR park. It boosts contact ability and plate discipline. The infield is fast, flyballs carry, and the outfield is massive.

We can, however, point out something very obvious: if there’s anything Coors boosts in general, it’s making contact. A strikeout at altitude is the same as a strikeout at sea level. It’s when the batter puts the bat on the ball that you’ll start running into problems. Therefore, it seems easy to simply say we should look to strike out as many hitters as possible with little regard for anything else.

The problem here, though, is that while striking out a ton of batters is the best way to solve Coors Field, the one style of pitching that best lends itself to heavy bat-missing is also affected deeply by Coors Field.

If you think about most of baseball’s premier strikeout artists in the game right now, you will realize that the vast majority of them share a few common traits:

  • They’re power pitchers. There’s a reason velocity is so desired in the modern game —it’s a good predictor of missing bats, which in itself is a big factor in predicting future success.
  • They have wicked breaking/off-speed stuff. Even as fastball velo grows and grows, fastball usage keeps dipping as teams realize that breaking pitches are far more effective. “Throw gas but don’t throw it often” is a very real philosophy across the majors in 2023.
  • They pitch up in the zone with their fastball. This is the big one. The power four-seamer with carry up in the zone isn’t a new development in baseball history, but it’s a very popular pitch for a reason — it leads to swings and misses in a way that most fastballs don’t and sets up those breaking balls teams love to throw.

As we’ve seen in this series, four-seam fastballs are among the most affected pitches by the thin air, losing a few inches of movement and becoming flatter. This means that living by exclusively pumping four-seamers upstairs is a dangerous predicament at altitude. The loss of movement and the flyball contact that tends to happen on high fastballs both discourage this strategy.

This is the true dilemma the Rockies face: there is no ballpark where missing bats is more vital than Coors Field, but there is also no ballpark that punishes flyball contact and makes makes bat-missing difficult more than Coors Field.

What gives, then? Do we simply give up on the top of the zone and focus on locating fastballs at the knees? Since striking batters out at altitude is more difficult, do we lean heavily into pitching to contact and looking for groundballs?

My answer to those questions, obviously, is a big “no”. How do you thrive here, then? That’s what we’re going to answer next.


Humor me for a bit, please. I’d like you to watch a few individual pitches thrown at Coors Field. First off, here’s a Germán Márquez curveball from the glory days of late 2018:

That’s a hammer, ain’t it? Márquez’s always been exceptional at spinning a breaking ball at high velocity — that kind of movement from a 82 MPH breaking ball is out of the ordinary, and the quality of the swing tells you that much. We’ve talked a lot about how curveballs and sliders are the best pitches for Coors Field, and a breaking ball like that only reinforces the point.

Now, a Daniel Bard sinker from last year:

Even in today’s era of insane velocity, 100 MPH is 100 MPH, and 100 MPH with sink and run like that is enough to overwhelm batters more than often. We know fastballs get hit hard at Coors, but an outlier sinker like that is bound to have success anyway.

How about a Justin Lawrence slider?

Like Márquez, Lawrence’s always been outlandishly good at spinning a breaker, averaging close to 3000 RPM at times and channeling that raw spin into crazy movement at high velocity, averaging close to 14 inches of horizontal movement in the mid 80’s from a funky sidearm slot. Lawrence’s general velocity from that arm slot paired with his beast of a slider makes him a big outlier.

And speaking of outlier velocity from unconventional arm slots:

Edwin Díaz is one of the biggest outliers in all of baseball, averaging 99 MPH from an extremely low release point. Remember how we said that the best kind of four-seamer at Coors would be one that is elite in terms of VAA and velocity? Díaz fits that description beautifully. That pitch above is about as close as you’ll get to what a perfect Coors four-seamer looks like.

And finally, one of my favorite pitch types in baseball, the power changeup:

All those pitches were merely examples of my larger point: regardless of Coors fit, outlier talent is likely to succeed at altitude. This doesn’t mean you can’t favor certain pitch types, strategies, or certain athlete profiles, because every org has preferences... but you can’t let the presence of Coors dictate 100% of how you think about pitching.

This is not only because the Rockies also play half their games on the road, but also because by narrowing the kinds of athletes you go after, you create a pitching staff filled with guys who all pitch the same, which makes you predictable and easier to bat against.

By only going after a small group of pitchers, whether that be sinkerballers or other profiles, you’re also reducing the chances of finding outlier talent and, as such, drastically lowering the ceiling of your organization’s pitching staff. The Rockies should be all in on the concept of finding high quality “clay”, if you will, to mold that athlete into the best version of himself.

With all that being said, it’s absolutely fair to have preferences for certain profiles, and there are some that adapt to Coors better than others. Let’s take a look at motor preferences and see if there are some the Rockies could favor.


It goes without saying that no two human bodies are exactly the same. When it comes to high level athletes, however, the importance of this fact of life increases exponentially. This is, for example, why every pitcher’s mechanics are unique to them. Not everyone is working with the same tools, but all the high-level athletes are able to use their tools to reach MLB-caliber pitchability.

So when we talk about motor preferences here, we’re not talking about mechanics as a whole. There are good pitchers with short levers and long levers, great hip flexibility and average hip flexibility, late arms and early arms. We’re specifically talking about how a pitcher applies force to the ball at release — pronation, supination and the entire spectrum.

Not every pitcher applies force to the baseball the same way. Some tend to be more on the outside of the ball at release (supination), some on the inside (pronation), and some stay behind it (backspin/true spin).

Obviously, as previously mentioned, there’s a whole spectrum to take into account here. Most pitchers will fall somewhere close to the middle, whether they lean towards pronation or supination, but some will lean one way or another to a pretty extreme degree.

There are a lot of things that go into motor preference, of course — anatomical makeup, mechanics, and so on. The crucial thing here is to identify what every athlete favors, and then make development decisions with that preference in mind.

One clue I’ll give you before this section is that the way a pitcher’s fastball moves and spins will tell you a lot about what he favors. Let’s see what each motor preference means in more detail.


What we’re calling “true spin” here is the tendency to stay directly behind the ball at release. Watch Justin Verlander down below:

See how Verlander seems to push directly through the baseball? Pitchers with a tendency to stay behind the ball at release will naturally favor fastballs with “hop” or “carry”, as they excel at creating efficient backspin on their fastball.

Therefore, in order to identify this profile you’re looking at pitchers with high spin efficiency on their fastballs, above 95% being a good threshold. The pitcher’s arm slot will also play its part in creating fastball movement, of course, but you can expect pitchers who stay behind the ball to share that ability to create vertical movement on a four-seamer.

At the same time, pitchers who tend to stay behind the ball are usually not ideal fits for a sinker, especially from higher slots, because they will induce too much vertical break (IVB) on a sinker and won’t get the depth that pitch needs to get away from a barrel.

Backspin-dominant athletes, in general, tend to create movement based on spin and the Magnus Effect, and it’s not uncommon to see them struggle to create changeup movement at times until they find a comfortable grip or cue, especially for pitchers who throw from high slots.

This is because they’re so naturally strong at backspinning the ball that their changeup might retain too much backspin, causing it to “stay up” and not drop as it should. It’s also why splitters and their low spin, low spin efficiency nature can often be good fits for athletes of this kind, as seen with hurlers like Kevin Gausman, Félix Bautista, Logan Gilbert and others and explained in Pt. 5.

Obviously, I don’t have detailed data, but I would bet that an example of a Rockies pitcher with this preference is Austin Gomber. Gomber excels at creating IVB on his four-seam despite its low-ish spin and low velo, a clear sign for this profile. His ability to create solid breaking ball movement to his glove side also helps me define this.

And speaking of breaking ball movement:


As far as pitching goes, supination is the tendency (or act) of applying force to the outer part of the baseball at release. You can see it down below from Marcus Stroman:

As we saw in Pt. 3, supination bias can create great seam-shifted wake (SSW) sinkers, and it tends to create cut on four-seam fastballs. There are diverse degrees of cut, from Kenley Jansen or Corbin Burnes to far more slight cut, but it tends to be a consistent data point.

Supinators are very common among high level pitchers. If you look at some of the better pitchers in baseball today, many share this kind of motor preference. The aforementioned Jansen and Burnes, Emmanuel Clasé, Framber Valdez, Max Fried, Clayton Kershaw, Joe Musgrove, and many others. But why is that?

Here’s a clue as to why:

Most breaking balls require the pitcher to apply force on the outside of the baseball in order to create the desired movement. You’ve likely heard of the term “get around the ball”, and that’s what this is referring to. Every breaking ball is its own thing, but you can see from Fried’s releases how two very different breakers (a hard slider and a huge, loopy curveball) both have him on the outside part of the ball at release.

Because supinators favor being on the outside of the ball at release, they usually have an easier time manipulating breaking balls than other athletes. Breaking balls are the best and most effective pitch type in baseball, so a pitcher who excels at throwing them can be at an advantage.

Teams seek out pitchers like this from young ages — it’s why seeing a teenager who can spin a breaking ball at near 3000 RPM makes him an incredibly attractive target right off the bat. With breaking ball usage spiking in recent years, extreme supinators, who thrive at creating glove-side movement at high velocity, have never been more valued.

While they do favor breaking balls, pitchers with a tendency to apply force to the outside of the ball can also struggle to throw traditional changeups that require them to pronate at release. It’s normal to see a gifted young pitcher with supination bias with power breaking stuff and velo who can’t quite figure out his changeup — young Germán Márquez might ring a bell here.

In these cases, as we talked about in Pt. 5, leaning into the cut and helping these athletes throw a seam-effects changeup with lower spin efficiency is frequently the right solution for armside movement, rather than insisting on pronation, which is a movement pattern the athlete might not favor.

Because of that lower spin efficiency, supinators are often very strong sinker candidates and can sometimes have flatter four-seamers than one might think given raw spin rates. In general, if you see a pitcher who can throw power breaking stuff with glove side movement and a four-seam that cuts or seems flat (or a heavy, vertical sinker with low spin efficiency), you’re looking at a supination-biased athlete.

There are many examples, but I would bet that a Rockies pitcher with this profile would be someone like Jake Bird. The righty reliever has a devastating 81-82 MPH curveball with spin rates nearing 3000 RPM and incredible horizontal movement, a cutter with tons of glove side movement, and a heavy SSW sinker to pair with them.

What’s the opposite of a supinator? Glad you asked!


Pronation is, well, the other side of the coin: staying on the inside of the ball at release. I think most of us, when thinking of pronation, might think more about a changeup, such as this one from Devin Williams:

However, pronation bias applies to fastballs as well. You know those pitchers that seem to create enormous arm-side run on their four-seam fastballs (think Sandy Alcántara, Max Scherzer, Nathan Eovaldi, etc)? Part of the reason they do it is what they favor at release.

If you noticed, most pitchers with that kind of run on their fastball also tend to have good changeups, because pronation at release is a natural thing for them. Pronation-biased athletes dominate arm-side movement: fastballs and sinkers with run (high spin efficiency) and good changeups.

Where they can struggle at times is with glove side stuff. Because they don’t favor being on the outside of the ball, they can have issues creating movement to that side, and especially creating movement at good velocity.

As a result, athletes like these are natural fits for hard, short, gyro-heavy sliders, as seen with Scherzer and Alcántara, giving them a natural three-pitch mix with weapons for both hands. Most pronation-dominant pitchers who have a curveball have either a very short but hard curveball or a slow, loopy curve they use to steal a strike.

There are other ways to create glove-side movement, of course. Seam-shifted wake on sweeping sliders is becoming quite popular now, with lots of pitchers going to two-seam slider grips to create that break, which requires less supination at release and could theoretically be thrown by more pitchers.

Here’s an explanation from Lance Brozdowski back in spring training about what it is and why it’s popular:

We’re still exploring this, of course. The general idea with pronation-biased pitchers is what we’ve talked about: the running fastball, the natural changeup feel, the issues creating movement and velo to the glove side at the same time.

Connor Seabold is a Rockies pitcher I’d call pronation-biased from the data I have available. His four-seam has a ton of run for his arm slot, he’s always been excellent at creating changeup movement, and his slider is a tight, short breaking ball. He fits the description about as perfectly as any pitcher in the organization I have data on.


With the very obvious caveat that we seek outlier talent over everything, I think it’s fair to ask this question. We’ve talked numerous times throughout this series about what pitch profiles suit altitude and which don’t, after all.

In my opinion, if the Rockies were to favor a motor preference, they should be all in on supination. We’ve seen how fastballs retain most of their cut at altitude, how the Magnus Effect is severely harmed, and how well breaking balls perform. Therefore, favoring hurlers who are skilled at breaking ball manipulation seems like a great strategy to me.

The entire profile of a typical supinator seems to translate well: the seam-shifted sinker, the breaking-ball bias and velocity, and so on. True spin athletes are probably the least “clean” fit at altitude, but again, outlier talent reigns supreme.


With everything we know up to this point, we can craft a macro-oriented strategy for pitching at altitude. Our goals should be clear, of course: strike out as many batters as possible, create strikes on borderline and chase pitches, and keep the ball on the ground if possible. How do we do this?


Basic strategy (pitch sequencing, etc) aside, the first step I would suggest would be to truly embrace breaking ball usage. This would pair nicely with our hypothetical preference for supination biased athletes and put us right in the middle of the modern game’s decreased fastball usage.

We’ve explained why breaking balls are a must at Coors throughout this series. The average slider or curveball will perform better than even great fastballs — this is true at sea level, and even more true at altitude. Breakers draw swings and misses, get hit softly, and get chased out of the zone.

Heavy slider and curveball usage is, of course, not a groundbreaking development. MLB teams have been throwing less and less fastballs over the past 20 years or so. 2022 was the first year we have data of (and likely the first year ever) where less than half of all MLB pitches thrown were fastball, at 48.6%, and in 2023 that percentage is even lower.

This extends to all counts and situations. Fastball usage when a hitter is ahead has dropped from around 67% in 2010 all the way to 54% in 2023. Fastball usage on first pitches is now at around 51% (compared to 63% in 2010), virtually a coin toss as to whether you’ll get a fastball or not, and all these percentages should be expected to decrease even further in upcoming years.

The Rockies, however, seem to be going left when everyone else is going right:

The data for the chart was gathered in early August 2023.

That uptick for Colorado in recent years is quite puzzling, because there’s a reason teams have been drifting away from the concept of a “fastball count” —since 2008, MLB hitters have slashed .348/.446/.591 on 0-0, 2-0 and 3-1 fastballs. That’s a .442 wOBA and, for reference, Barry Bonds’ career wOBA is .435. The Run Value on those pitches has been +539.

For comparison, against breaking balls in the same situation the wOBA and Run Value have been .421 and -996.3 respectively. Modern pitching sees the fastball as just another pitch. The idea of “establish your fastball” has been all but eliminated, and instead replaced with “establish your best pitch”. And this is done because it works.

While altitude creates a very particular environment, it doesn’t mean you should go against all conventional wisdom. And as far as breaking balls go, I believe the Rockies should be firmly among league leaders in slider and curveball usage, in any count or situation.

Some general guidelines to follow with breaking balls:

  • Determining the role of a breaking ball is crucial. What do you want your breaking ball to do? Steal called strikes? Draw chases and whiffs? Handle righties? Handle lefties? These are all questions you must answer when figuring out what a pitch (or a future hypothetical pitch) will do for your arsenal.
  • Sliders dominate same-handed hitters (R-on-R and L-on-L). Sweeping sliders in particular are utterly devastating when holding the platoon advantage as a pitcher, but sliders of any kind will perform very well.
  • Curveballs frequently have neutral-ish platoon splits. If anything, curveballs can sometimes be more effective against the opposite hand, as they have the depth to dip beneath the barrel of the bat, whereas sliders often don’t. Hard curveballs can be especially good here.
  • Breaking ball velocity is massively important. We went over this in Pt. 4, but it’s worth repeating it here. Crossing the 80 MPH threshold for curveballs, hard sliders of all types, etc. You know how Justin Lawrence has improved so much over the past few years? His slider gaining 4-5 MPH, even at the cost of movement, has a lot to do with that.
  • A breaking ball’s movement can be predictive of platoon splits. The more horizontally-oriented a breaking ball is, the bigger its platoon splits will likely be — if you’re a righty with a big sweeping slider, chances are lefties will perform decently well against it. On the other hand, a hard vertical breaker will likely see smaller splits.

The only problem you might run into is that on average, sliders and curveballs are hit on the ground less often than any other pitch type al Coors Field, which clashes with our goal of getting groundballs. But of course, there are ways to fix this.


You want groundballs no matter where you play, but getting a groundball instead of a flyball is a bigger win at altitude than anywhere else. The Rockies have emphasized this for decades, and they’re right in seeking grounders.

How to do that, though? There are a few ideas you might have. Here are my theories on groundballs and bad contact in general:

  • Groundballs are great. Pop-ups and lazy flyballs are even better. Yes, this applies to Coors as well, especially if you place a significant focus on outfield defense. Brenton Doyle in center and the eventual arrival of Zac Veen in a corner, as well as other candidates (Nolan Jones amongst them), provides a good foundation to build off of.
  • You can’t allow grounders to become the only goal of your pitching strategy. The goal should always be to keep the ball from being put in play, period, via striking a batter out. No team should place a bigger focus on strikeouts than the Colorado Rockies.
  • The best way to create poor contact is to keep hitters off balance. If batters hit the ball on the ground, but are hitting it very hard, that doesn’t bode all that well for future success, because eventually that hard contact will start going over the fence. In other words, I’ll take a 45% groundball rate with softer contact against than a 55% groundball rate from a pitcher who gets crushed on a regular basis.

Basically, groundballs would be a byproduct of our good pitching instead of our main goal. And of course, not everyone will be a groundballer. All Rockies pitchers should pitch to their natural strengths, not follow a predetermined gameplan for everyone. If that means some Rockies hurlers aren’t great groundballers, so be it. Allow athletes to excel at what they do best, and you’ll be rewarded.

There are particular pitches and sequences you can use to induce grounders, of course. Sinkers are always a good idea, and so are hard changeups and splitters. But the general concept to follow here is the one we’ve talked about already —look for strikeouts and allow pitchers to play to their strengths first. The groundballs will come organically.


By this I don’t mean just changeups, but offspeed pitches are also an important weapon to keep batters off balance. Changeups and splitters are very particular pitches that require feel and deception, and so much of throwing a good one is about throwing the right one.

As we saw in Pt. 5, good changeups come in all shapes and sizes. Hard changeups are groundball machines, slow changeups create tons of chases and soft airborne contact. There is no one defined answer for the question “what does a good change look like?”, which is part of their magic.

We do know that splitters are a fantastic fit for altitude thanks to their low spin, low spin efficiency nature. But splitters are also not perfect fits for every pitcher, and come with a somewhat murky history of injuries that you may or may not buy into.

Arm speed, release point and overall mechanical consistency, unpredictable sequencing and throwing the right kind of changeup are all things that contribute to an offspeed pitch becoming a plus offering. It’s best to tackle this on an athlete-by-athlete basis, but deception is a deadly weapon no matter what elevation you’re playing at.


Another key part of our strategy is fastball utility. If you know me, you’ll be aware that I love pitchers who throw more than one fastball type, whether that be four-seams and sinkers, sinkers and cutters, or any combination of the three. I believe it opens up a lot of possibilities for attacking all kinds of hitters.

  • Four-seam fastballs allow you to hunt for swing-and-miss at the top of the zone, particularly against batters with steep, uphill swings. As we talked about in Pt. 2, there are certain four-seams that suit altitude better than others, particularly hard heaters that rely on Vertical Approach Angle (VAA) more than raw IVB.
  • Sinkers are generally fantastic pitches against same-handed hitters, and a premium groundball pitch against most batters with flatter, more level swings regardless of handedness. We know low spin, heavy SSW sinkers are a cleaner transition to altitude than the running two-seamers.
  • Cut fastballs are often good against both righties and lefties, and good cutters are particularly devastating when thrown up and in against opposite-handed hitters (R-on-L and L-on-R), creating tons of soft contact. They’re also natural bridges to bigger, slower breaking balls. Many pitchers in the Rockies org seem to throw different variations of the same slider, a tendency I like.

The way you determine which offerings you use to attack which batters is through detailed scouting of opposing lineups. Swing path (steep vs flat), pitch types a batter excels/struggles against, heatmaps, areas of the zone a hitter will be more/less aggressive in, and so on.

The new baseball world offers nearly endless amounts of data. Smart organizations maximize it across the board, and particularly so in the scouting area. Understanding what weaknesses you can attack is a huge part of successful pitching strategies.


The last point I’d like to make is that the more varied your pitching staff, the better off you’ll usually be. A wide variety of pitchers means a wide variety of approaches, which in turn means opposing hitters need to adjust to different gameplans throughout a series, and often in the same game.

This goes back to the idea that outlier talent reigns supreme. Teams like the Rays and Giants, two of the majors’ premium pitching development organizations, love putting together pitching staffs filled with athletes who deviate from the norm in any way possible, and much of their success in recent years is due to that.

There really isn’t a lot else to add as far as general strategy goes. It should go without saying that these are broad strokes, meant to paint a general picture. Pitch usage within a certain game can vary depending on what a pitcher has or doesn’t have feel for, or what the batters at the plate are doing. Pitching does not happen in a vacuum.


I won’t lie to you: the title of the piece was a bit of an exaggeration, because there is no such thing as a perfect pitcher. Every single hurler out there, even the truly elite ones, have something about their game that can be taken advantage of, even if it’s small and situational.

However, let’s try to do this for the piece’s sake. Let’s put together a realistic profile for a pitcher who would be as perfectly suited to defying the challenge of Coors Field as possible:

  • Above-average or better velocity. There’s a must right off the bat. Pitchers with the arm strength and athleticism to throw hard are something every team covets, and for good reason. Velo buys your fastball margin for error and makes your stuff better across the board.
  • Supination dominant. We want athletes who excel in supination, because we’re going to favor breaking balls, and supinators are great at that. High raw spin rates on breaking stuff are a big plus and indicator for natural talent for spin. Supination also makes our pitcher a natural sinker candidate and gives him the potential for the fastball utility we crave.
  • Elite extension and lower-than-average release point. These two things tend to be somewhat related. We want them to enable our four-seam fastball to live at the top of the zone with velo and VAA, since IVB takes a massive hit at Coors.

And... that’s it! No, really, it’s as simple as that. If a Rockies pitcher ticks all four of those boxes (or even three of the four), he is very well positioned to handle pitching at altitude. Not everyone needs to follow the same mold, of course, but that would be the kind pitcher I’d engineer in a lab.

In general, pitchers with excellent breaking stuff (even if they’re not supination dominant) are automatic candidates for success at altitude, especially if they have good command. You may have noticed I didn’t mention command at all in this piece, and that’s because I regard it as somewhat independent for what we’re talking about.

Elite command is not something I’d say you need to succeed at altitude, even though it’s obviously a great plus. The two best pitchers in franchise history, Ubaldo Jiménez and Germán Márquez, were both control-over-command types who succeeded thanks to overwhelming batters with stuff. But the (arguably) third-best, Kyle Freeland, is a soft-tossing lefty with unremarkable stuff but fantastic command and execution. Righty Aaron Cook applies here too.

I think this further reinforces my stance: outlier ability and stuff is what truly matters here.


One of the most important ideas I hope to have conveyed well enough throughout this series is that there’s no one bulletproof method to taming the wild beast that is Coors Field. The best answer, as simplistic as it looks, it to find and develop outlier pitching talent and profiles.

With that said, there are certain pitcher archetypes that fit better than others and provide a cleaner transition between sea level and altitude. We’ve talked a lot about motor preferences and how the ideal Rockies pitcher profiles, and every organization has their preferences.

The Brewers, for example, are known for really liking pitchers with flat VAA fastballs. The Dodgers love four-seams with carry. The Yankees adore the sweeping slider. The Guardians are famous for favoring command-over-stuff types whom they help throw harder. And so on. But all these organizations identify outlier talent, and will chase it and develop it.

Another extremely important aspect of being a Rockies pitcher is good communication. The organization needs to give pitchers all the modern tools they may need to understand who they are as pitchers and, just as importantly, how their pitches will be affected by altitude. Knowing what they’re going to face at Coors is key.

There’s also a physical component to this. The transition between altitude and sea level is not an easy one, and Rockies players have to make it numerous times during the season. The environment is so peculiar it all but requires the Rockies to have a top notch training staff, which is often overlooked in a team’s success.

Finally, the mental component is crucial as well. In many cases, just the name “Coors” seems to create a sort of mythological aura around the ballpark. It’s often assumed that anyone who pitches in purple will be automatically bad, and that’s not the kind of idea you want to allow to extend, especially among your own ranks.

Yes, pitching at Coors Field is not easy. But as I said in the series’ introduction, it could and should be looked at as an advantage. The mentality here isn’t “well, let’s hope we don’t ruin ourselves here”. It should be “nobody who comes to pitch in here is as ready and well prepared as we are. You’re not going to hang with us in here”.

More than anything, pitching at Coors requires risk-taking and aggressive strategy, from the highest levels of the organization down to the pitchers on the mound, going through the coaching staff and everyone else involved. Pitching scared and not using all the modern tools available to you will only result in low ceiling operations with no shot of propelling the Colorado Rockies to where they need to be.

When the idea for this series was coming together, my aim was to create something that would be both technical and easy to read, for baseball fans of all backgrounds and levels of investment. I hope to have achieved that.

There’s a lot of mystique around baseball at altitude, and rightfully so. Explaining the dynamics of it, how pitches behave, what works and what doesn’t work... all those points were crucial for me as I was writing this series.

As always, I try to be as educational as I possibly can with my writing. Ultimately, I’m a huge baseball fan, just like all of you, and teaching new things is a passion of mine. I certainly hope you’ve learned some things throughout these pieces, and that you’ve enjoyed them.

I welcome any and all criticism, constructive or not, and would really love to hear your thoughts about the series if you have them. In writer terms, I’m still a young pup with a lot of room to improve!

Thank you very much for following the series if you have, and for reading any piece of mine. You have no idea how much I appreciate it. Take care!


★ ★ ★

Please keep in mind our Purple Row Community Guidelines when you’re commenting. Thanks!