Colorado Rockies: Kyle Freeland deserves to be an All-Star

DENVER, CO - JULY 2: Kyle Freeland #21 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of a game at Coors Field on July 2, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JULY 2: Kyle Freeland #21 of the Colorado Rockies pitches against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of a game at Coors Field on July 2, 2018 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

The 25-year-old Colorado Rockies left-hander is in only his second season. While there have been some growing pains, Kyle Freeland is proving his worth and is deserving of an All-Star selection.

Heading into this season, there were admirably high hopes for Freeland. After impressively working his way through the Colorado Rockies system over the past couple of years, Freeland finally arrived at the Show last season. As a rookie, pitching in Coors Field, he did not disappoint.

Freeland started 28 games for the Rockies in 2017, finishing with a more-than-respectable 4.10 ERA. Despite his 11-11 finish, Freeland also posted an exceptionally productive 2.0 WAR as he was more valuable as a rookie than many veterans.

A new season brought with it fresh and increased hopes for the sophomore starter. Thus far, it is safe to say that Freeland has more than stepped up in a huge way. It is also safe to say that Freeland is Colorado’s best pitcher to this point in the season … and it is not close.

Building on consistency

Ace Jon Gray has struggled mightily for the Rockies this season. It is an unfortunate reality. However, not all who wander are lost. For Freeland, this meant allowing himself to further increase his confidence and ability in developing into a frontline starting pitcher.

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According to Fangraphs, Freeland has posted a near top-30 finish in the first half of the season in terms of overall value. Freeland currently has a 1.6 WAR through his first 18 starts of the regular season.

Freeland’s strikeout percentage is up nearly four percent, from 15.6% last season to 19.4% this season. His walk percentage has also seen a decrease from 9.2% to 8.2%. Freeland is also allowing a lower batting average against him, as hitters are batting a lowly .232. His BABIP has also seen a decrease, down to an impressive .265.

One reason for Freeland’s more consistent approach this season is that he is allowing less pull on the ball, and making more pitches to cause hitters towards center field. While not a huge decrease, Freeland’s Pull% is down nearly 3% while his Cent% is up 6.5%. It could prove to be a cause for a dip in the number of home runs he has allowed. Freeland’s hard contact percentage is also down from last season. In 2017, he allowed hard% at over a 30 percent rate. Now, it is under the 30 percent threshold.

Freeland’s pitch repertoire could be playing a significant role as the difference-maker. He is relying on his fastball less while doubling his changeup usage and increasing the utilization of both his slider and cutter. Throwing his changeup more has allowed that hard contact percentage to go down, allowing Freeland to continue to build on his overall effectiveness.

Home is where the heart is

Maybe it is because Freeland was born and raised in Denver, growing up a Rockies fan, but he has figured out the difficulties of pitching in Coors at altitude. So far in 2018, Freeland is generating an insane 2.89 ERA at home. In his 43.2 innings pitched, Freeland has also given up just seven home runs.

In his career pitching in Coors, spanning 130.2 total innings, Freeland has a 3.44 ERA with an HR/9 of just 0.96 and a BABIP of just .282, which, all things considered, makes it a very successful first couple years pitching at the mile-high altitude.

His road splits are still impressive, however. Last season, Freeland struggled mightily on the road finishing with a 4.45 ERA. This season, in his 66.2 innings pitched on the road, Freeland has greatly decreased the road ERA to 3.38. He is allowing a .244 average on the road, and just six home runs. Freeland’s wOBA may be the most impressive as he has lowered it from .363 in 2017 to .291 in 2018. Kyle Freeland prefers the thin Rocky Mountain air in tackling his challenges.

Looking forward to the second half

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The Colorado Rockies currently sit only a handful of games behind the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks. While there have been moments of grandeur, the team continues to struggle in specific areas, mainly the bullpen.

For Freeland and the Rockies, it is incredibly important to continue building on his strong first half and come exploding out of the gates on his way to a strong finish. Freeland is just 25 years old, and, since Gray is currently focusing on things at Triple-A, it would be simple to claim that Freeland has undoubtedly been a consistent driven leader in the rotation.

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If Freeland can continue to develop his changeup and slider effectively and rely less on his fastball, this season will only become stronger for the young lefty. It certainly is shaping up to be a great sophomore season for the Denver native, and one that should have included an invitation to our nation’s capital for the All-Star Game. Nevertheless, Kyle Freeland is a fresh young talent and giving the Rockies something to be very excited about moving toward the future.