Colorado Rockies: How Kyle Freeland has changed on the mound
By Jake Shapiro
Notice where he’s starting from? He’s moved just about two feet on the rubber. He used to come from the extreme first base side (photo on the right). Now he is starting on the third base side (photo on the left of spring training 2018.)
This muddies the data from before. But thanks to BaseballSavant’s new fancy 3D pitch visualizer, you can see that, based off the left (2018), he’s created a better, more downward angle of attacking hitters.
This is pretty evident in his fastballs (red and orange.) Once again, ignore how extreme of a shift his foot has made and focus on the angle adjustment and vertical release point of his most recent start versus one from late last season.
Part of this was born last season when there was a question about his ability to hide the ball.
“I think I have enough deception where hiding the ball better isn’t an issue,” Freeland said. “The whole ‘hiding the ball’ thing came about when we recreated my curveball. I started using a spike. The scouts picked it up and we caught it on video so we had to tweak that so you couldn’t see it anymore and we got rid of the spike curveball. That was the only reason the hiding pitching came about. You have to have a sharp eye to figure out a pitch out of the hand anyway.”
Okay that also means something else. Besides the interesting anecdotes about what he was working through last season, he has a new curve.
“Last season, it was more of a shorter breaking curve that was too hard in the mid 80s and the slider is in the mid 80s to high 80s for me. We needed to create something with more separation,” Freeland described. “I’m still working on it and it’s going to take a lot of feel.”
So check this out (bigger dots are 2018, smaller are 2017)
He’s actually increased his velocity slightly which he credits to, “working with our guys in Arizona and the few mechanical tweaks that has kept my arm more consistent and maybe it has added a mile or two on the fastball.”
He also has a much better spin axis on his curveball and cutter. Something that would make sense in relation to what he was mentioning in his avoidance of being “directional.”
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The cutter is already generating more swings and misses and looks to be an improved pitched. Yet the numbers versus competition at this point are worthless in comparison due to the small sample size.
Another thing from that chart, his changeup — a pitch that haunted him in the minors and slowed his development — has gotten almost three miles per hour faster. That is not good.
“We’re trying to figure out ways to kill the velo,” Freeland told me after one of his recent starts. “I’m still getting the movement I want but we’re working on the velo.”
The overall result has been a more imposing looking Freeland.
“I think he’s great,” veteran catcher Chris Iannetta told Rox Pile. “He’s only had a few pitches get away from him. He dominates for 99 percent of the game but he makes a mistake and most times guys pop that one up, but they’re not missing right now. He’ll be fine.”
The verdict is that Freeland should be able to close in on 200 innings this season in just his second in the show (so long as heath remains on his side.) He looks stronger, his pitches seem to have more bite and may even be tougher to hit because of his better downward plane. He needs to fix his change-up, and improving his curve would be nice, yet his cutter is getting stronger by the start.
Next: Colorado's hitting coach talks with us on plate discipline, slow starts
Some of this stuff is extremely minor. However, in a sport where an eighth of an inch is the difference between a homer and a fly out, it all adds up … and it’s all important.