April was an odd month for Major League Baseball. For the first time in MLB history, there were more strikeouts than hits in a calendar month (it’s not just a Colorado Rockies problem). There was an absurd number of weather-related postponements — 25 in the first three weeks. Teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers struggled while the Atlanta Braves surged.
In the first month of the season, the Colorado Rockies posted some strange numbers of their own. I’ve looked at three that are bound to change, for better or for worse.
Adam Ottavino’s rate of 16.875 strikeouts per 9 innings
Adam Ottavino is must-see TV.
Ottavino’s stunning resurgence is the best story of the Rockies’ young season. After being left off the roster for the 2017 Wild Card game, he is suddenly one of the best relief pitchers in the game. The guy is throwing whiffle balls out there and stumping some of the best hitters in the game, from Kris Bryant to Bryce Harper.
More from Rox Pile
- A Colorado Rockies Thanksgiving
- Colorado Rockies: What if Todd Helton had played football instead?
- Colorado Rockies: Charlie Blackmon out for the season
- Colorado Rockies: Injuries shift look of roster ahead of Dodgers series
- Colorado Rockies: Has Sean Bouchard earned a second look in 2023?
An excellent recent article by Travis Sawchik from FanGraphs outlines Ottavino’s meticulous, science-based rebuilding process after a miserable 2017. His approach involved renting a vacant Brooklyn storefront and transforming it into a pitcher’s laboratory. His work has paid immediate dividends. In addition to the remarkable strikeout rate, Ottavino allowed just four walks by the end of April, while holding opponents to an insane .082 batting average.
His slider usage is unique and very effective. Last season, 41.9 percent of his sliders went for balls, while that number dropped to 25.2 percent this season. He is now throwing strikes on 60.0 percent of his pitches, after posting the second-worst rate in baseball last season (46.9 percent).
But as you might guess, some of these numbers are unsustainable.
The strikeouts will go down as teams make adjustments — it is unrealistic to expect anyone to maintain such a torrid pace. Meanwhile, his batting average for balls in play (BABIP) is .190. While he is generating ground balls at a rate of 52.4 percent, that is a remarkably low BABIP and is bound to regress.
And to be even more of a buzzkill, at some point, we’ll probably sit through a bad outing from Ottavino. Perhaps he’ll enter a game in the eighth inning inheriting two runners. He might give up a walk, or advance runners on a wild pitch. Then he could miss his location and place a slider in the middle of a zone, giving up a devastating home run.
In that instance, I’d expect some people to claim it’s the beginning of the end. But expecting perfection is insane. Contrary to popular opinion, Ottavino is human. And despite a little regression or a bad outing, he should remain a key cog of the bullpen for the rest of 2018.