Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, May 4, 2021
If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got—until one of your pitches changes itself?
Daniel Bard’s bWAR in 2020 was good for the seventh-best mark by a Rockies player (0.9; best among relievers). In 2021, he now ranks second-to-last among all players that have put on a Colorado uniform this year (-0.6). Bard has made 10 appearances in 2021—all one inning or less—and has allowed at least one run in five of them. His four earned runs allowed on Sunday led to his worst outing of the year.
Bard spoke after Sunday’s game, saying “I feel really good throwing the baseball. I can’t throw the ball much better than that, as far as just strictly looking at pitch execution.” His comments came immediately on the heels of a dismal outing, when it would have been far easier to just say it wasn’t working and dismiss the media altogether.
In 2021, the scouting report on Bard has thickened—and so has his pitch data. Metrics like spin rate, active spin and pitch axis weren’t readily available for public use when he first joined the league. They can now be readily accessed to pinpoint lapses between solid pitch execution and poor results.
Pinpointing the issue: Movement profiles
Bard’s fastball metrics have hardly changed. His spin rate is still immaculate (2700+), and he still works consistently in the upper 90’s.
If anything, his fastball should actually be better this year. His uptick in velocity has helped yield a greater spin rate, and in turn, greater movement. The axis and spin efficiency remain the same lethal combo of a year ago.
Is there anything that is actually different?
Bard has seen a 10 percent change in his slider spin efficiency, which suggests he is releasing the ball differently instead of pitching with similar ‘gyro’ action he had on his slider last year. The axis of rotation has subsequently changed, which further causes a change to the movement profile. (Note: High active spin isn’t always good—see below.)
Hitters seem to have liked it.
What we do know: Bard’s new slider looks more like his fastball than his old slider. Take a look at the horizontal movement below:
A two-inch difference in horizontal movement has now become a 0.4-inch difference.
In comparison: Clayton Kershaw has a 3.7-inch difference in horizontal movement this year on his fastball and slider. Jacob deGrom has a 4.3-inch difference. The diameter of a baseball is about three inches.
As a primary fastball/slider guy, it could be essential for Bard’s pitches to contradict rather than coincide. When the horizontal movement is almost identical, both pitches can land in the same bat path of opposing hitters. This might further explain how Bard has been hammered on some solid fastballs this year.
Re-shaping the slider
Sometimes it isn’t easy to re-shape a pitch during the season, especially as a reliever when every day can bring another appearance where competing means more than evaluating.
It’s a delicate process—and a hellacious one if consistency at release goes by the wayside.
For Bard to revert his slider from 47 percent spin efficiency (‘active’ spin) back to 37 percent, he will need to throw the pitch with more gyroscopic (or ‘gyro’) spin. Pure gyroscopic spin would have zero percent spin efficiency, meaning there is no topspin or sidespin on the ball. A gyroball, by definition, is quite the contrast to a standard fastball with high active spin. (The next closest thing to a gyroball is often a gyro-style slider.)
One of the most simple methods for re-shaping a pitch in such a way is to change the grip itself. It could mean a ‘turn’ of the ball in Bard’s hand or perhaps a different ‘feel’ on a seam to create more of the circular-style rotation of gyro spin. Further adjustments could call for a different hand position at pitch release, or a mechanical adjustment somewhere else along the kinetic chain. (These changes are far easier said than done.)
Such an adjustment can call for a lot of trial and error, but with slow-motion Edgertronic cameras and pitch tracking hardware throughout the professional ranks, the tools are there. There does remain a limiting factor, however: arm fatigue. Every one of Bard’s throws is valuable as the schedule jumps from 60 to 162 games.
Bard said on Sunday that his struggles have stemmed from “either sequencing, getting too predictable or tipping [pitches].” It could all be a matter of movement instead, and a matter of slider adjustments until we see the Daniel Bard of 2020.
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A fan’s guide to the 2021 Hartford Yard Goats minor league baseball season | Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
“The Hartford Yard Goats, who last played at Dunkin’ Donuts Park on Aug. 31, 2019, are returning at last.”
Hartford won’t host a game until next week as the Yard Goats open the season in Richmond, Virginia, but the Hartford Courant covers some of the finer details in the meantime—while their beloved Double-A affiliate takes the field for the first time in 19 months.
Featured info includes Double-A rule changes for 2021, an introduction on Yard Goats manager Chris Denorfia and a player preview for their current roster, among others. Hartford will open their ballpark to 50 percent seating capacity for at least the beginning of the season.
Spokane Indians 2021: Organization welcomes players, fans, workers back to the ballpark | The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)
High-A action will resume for the Rockies in Spokane, Washington this evening as the Spokane Indians host the Eugene Emeralds. Spokane’s team was previously a short-season affiliate of the Texas Rangers.
The Fresno Grizzlies have lost their Triple-A status but they will at least take the field again, this time as Colorado’s Low-A affiliate. Fresno opens their schedule on the road this evening in San Jose but will debut at home next Tuesday.
More minor league coverage: Colorado Rockies 2021 minor league rosters revealed | Purple Row
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