One area that surprised me, however, was that the Rockies hit BY FAR the most home runs per nine innings against the precision pitchers. I know, the difference between 1.12 HR/9 and 1.77 HR/9 seems minuscule, but I assure you that over this large of a sample size and this small of numbers, it is pretty significant.
It surprises me because typically power hitters like to hunt that fastball, and we all know that the more power provided in the pitch, the faster a well-struck ball is going to come sizzling off the barrel. In this case, however, it seems the Rocks’ power bats struck down that notion and licked their chops a little more against the slower throwers.
Another of the more puzzling pieces for me is the middle group: our average velocity hurlers. As you can see, opposing pitchers’ ERA against the Rockies in Tiers 1 and 3 are very similar. The folks in the middle, however, managed an ERA roughly a half run lower. Along with that, the Rockies averaged the fewest home runs against this group. I haven’t brought up win percentage against the three tiers yet because factors play into wins and losses that I haven’t accounted for here, such as opposing bullpens as well as our own starting pitcher’s performance that day. That being said, the Rockies really struggled against Tier 2 in the win/loss column as well, going 24-33 in such games, by far the worst of the 3 tiers.
If I had to come up with a likely reason that the Rockies performance dipped against pitchers with average fastball velocity, I would say it lies in the idea that when you face a high velocity pitcher, you know what you are going to get. You’re going to see a little more fastball. Similarly, with guys who don’t light up the radar gun anymore, you know to expect a little more off-speed action. With this confidence, and a plan in place, perhaps the Rockies perform a little better.
With the guys in the middle, however, it’s possible that the Rockies find themselves in that dreaded “in-between” area: not quite geared up for the fastball, but out in front of the off-speed pitches. They can’t sit on the breaking ball and still catch the fastball, so they must respect the fastball and leave themselves vulnerable to the off-speed. This cat-and-mouse game may insert just enough doubt in the Rockies’ hitters minds that our numbers dip a bit.
Overall, we can see that the Rockies are most successful against Tier 3. The Rockies hit more, strike out less, hit more balls over the wall, and win more when they are not worrying quite so much about catching up to a bullet. That isn’t to say the numbers against Tiers 1 and 2 are bad (they’re not), but the cat and mouse game of average arms may be just one more thing to work on for our hitters going forward.
Being a member of the pitching-laden National League West, the Rockies are sure to always have a healthy dose of both rocket arms as well as guys who beat you with surgeon-like precision. Let’s just hope the Rockies bring their A-Game when Colorado runs into those guys who do a little bit of both. Baseball games have returned!