Why Do Rockies Pitchers Struggle To Throw Strikes

Listening to the Sunday game – Rox v Dodgers, I was as frustrated by the Lyles walkathon. Jordan was a pretty well thought of by the scouts. I think he was rated as high as #22 in one of the scouting lists. But, as we have seen since he arrived Jordan’s hard moving sinker often fails to hit the strike zone. Since he arrived (including this year up to today) he has had BB/9 of 3.3 or higher. Its why his WHIP is in the 1.40 range. I like Jordan. He has potential, but…you have to hit the strike zone. And not just because of walks but because getting behind in counts allow hitters to await a fastball and T-off on it.

Then this season, old reliable, Jorge De La Rosa, the man I think should be thought of as the greatest pitcher in Rockies history (granted, that is like being the best ballerina in Topeka. It’s nice to be #1 but, really…the competition stinks). Since coming back from his Tommy John surgery he has had BB/9 of 3.3 or higher…but his ability to get strikeouts (as high as 8.1/9 last year after being in the 6/9 range since his return). But in 2016…4.7/9. I mean, yikes! Though for his career April has been brutal for him, with 4.1BB/9 in that month. But this year it has hurt him bad, as his ERA is nearly 10 so far, in large part due to walks that have found their way home runs (4).

Thus far Tyler Chatwood has been really good with the walks (only 1.5/9) which for a guy coming back from Tommy John surgery, where control is the biggest issue as they come back, is a pleasant surprise. The only problem is that he has struggled at home (where he has a 4.22 BB/9, and that includes the year he played in Anaheim). His walks on the road for his career on the road, 3.47/9. And this year, with 2 starts at home and on the road .68/9 BB, and at home 2.7/9.

Chad Bettis has been great. Jon Grey in his first outing he had 2 walks while getting 10 strikeouts (3.6/9 BB against 18/9 K).

But we see it also in the bullpen, especially with they struggle in their outings.

Now, the obvious answer to why the Rockies pitchers walk too many batters is…they are not very good. Of course that might be the case. But we have seen Jorge De La Rosa 16, 16 and 14 games. Jon Gray was the number 3 overall pick. Lyles was a respected prospect (he likes Chatwood has walked more at home than the road throughout his career). Chatwood, Bettis and Lyles were all either supplementary first round picks or second round picks. The bullpen has some guys who have shown in their career they can be solid to very good relievers.

So why…why do the Rockies struggle with walks at Colorado? We know the story that the ball doesn’t move as much as it does elsewhere. A few Rox pitchers last year and this year at Spring Training have made the point that they have to make adjustments between the home and road, and in a profession where you need to have a consistent motion and release point, that is not good. But so far, that hasn’t been the issue this year. At home they have given up 3.12/9 BB while on the road, just 2.33/9 BB. So it doesn’t look that the team has seen their adjustments for the road to impact them much this year. Its why their road ERA so far of 4.07 is the 7th best in the league and their home ERA of 6.88 (and that is sure to rise after today) and is dead last. And is the added factor of falling behind hitters just as responsible for the horrendous ERA at Coors far more than the big outfield and the thin air?

We need some good news, right? One thing to see as home is that the new regime seems to be focused on fastballs and…fastball control. The team finally has figured out that while there will always be lots of doubles and homers at Coors, if you have no one on, those hits don’t become runs.

But…will it hold when they get to Coors? Once the Coors monster gets in their head, it is so difficult to get it out. So, are we always going to be destined to watch too many hitters turn and take that free pass to first? And if so, does that mean this team can never realistically be a playoff team, especially in the era of pitching we are in?

And if so, should we all start planning on getting tickets…for road games only.

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