It’s been an unsightly pair of seasons for the Colorado Rockies, going 100-121 (.452 winning percentage) and seeing two franchise players leave the team in a disgruntled fashion. Not a lot has gone well on 20th and Blake.
The pitching side of things, however, has provided some hope as the club finally possesses a stable crop of starting pitchers.
It seems, as of late, that they have also figured out how to cost-effectively address the bullpen with recent additions like Daniel Bard, Robert Stephenson, Jordan Sheffield, Jhoulys Chacín, and Tyler Kinley.
These arms, paired with homegrown talents like Carlos Estévez and Lucas Gilbreath — the latter pitched to a 0.42 ERA in his final 21.2 IP as a rookie — give the Rockies a chance at having a quality bullpen in 2022.
Regardless of what anyone thinks of the quality of the Rockies’ pitching staff is beside the point of how they identify and develop these pitchers.
How have the Colorado Rockies developed their pitchers?
Spin, Movement, Arm-Slots, and the Vertical Approach Angle
First and foremost, the Colorado Rockies, of course, look for pitchers whose stuff generates ground balls via quality off-speed and breaking pitches. Fastballs induce, by far, the fewest ground balls of any pitch type, per FanGraphs. That’s where the Rockies’ pitching philosophy comes into play.
In order for a fastball to create more ground balls, it must play down in the zone. According to data from Baseball Savant, four-seam fastballs in the lower 3rd of the zone generated an average launch angle of 9°, whereas fastballs in the upper 3rd saw a 22° launch angle against.