Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images
Colorado Rockies news and links for Tuesday, November 17, 2020
On Saturday, Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times published a piece outlining the future in Los Angeles for ex-Rockie Jake McGee: “A full season of Dodgers analytics might complete his career revival, at a low free-agent cost.”
It is time to be intimidated by these Dodger pitching analytics before they snatch up Wade Davis, too.
McGee was released by the Rockies just days before the 2020 season began. He still had one year remaining on a three-year, $27 million contract, and Colorado would soon pay him in that final year to pitch against them. McGee posted a career-worst ERA in 2018. He showed for a career-worst FIP in 2019. He showed for a World Series ring and a 2.66 ERA in 2020; perhaps his prior struggles weren’t entirely his fault.
A harsh reality exists in player development: it is easier to disregard a player than it is to develop them. The Rockies may have felt they signed a refined product when they handed eight-figures to McGee, but the Dodgers proved there was more refining to be done. It was Los Angeles that reaped the benefits; it is Colorado fans that are left scratching their heads, wondering how it all clicked.
At the age of 34, McGee’s average fastball velocity hit a three-year peak. Harris writes on how the Dodgers “helped [McGee] revamp his delivery to maximize the natural movement and speed on his four-seamer.” 97 percent of his pitches this year were fastballs—and his swinging strike percentage doubled from 2019 to 2020. (One more time for emphasis: it doubled, without a secondary pitch.) In contrast, his fastball percentage with the 2019 Rockies was the lowest of his career.
If 2020 is the most refined version of McGee, should someone take the blame for not making those adjustments sooner? Did the Rockies allow McGee free rein over his development as an eight-figure salary holder, or is the franchise itself to blame for not addressing his path to success?
McGee may have readily accepted anything the Dodgers told him, being that they took a chance on him and he needed to revive his career. It doesn’t negate what the Dodgers did to fix him, however, as they also seem to be using advanced development tactics on a full front line of young arms. 22-year-old Brusdar Graterol, 23-year-old Dustin May, and 24-year-old Julio Urías are the latest products in the Dodger Fountain of Youth. If the team also has the Midas touch on mid-30’s relievers, the discussion for team success turns less to the players themselves, and more on how organizations can get them to shine in the spotlight.
While McGee excelled in his new environment, not everybody reaped the benefits. Kenley Jansen’s fastball velocity hit a career low. The perennial closer was no longer perennial down the stretch in 2020, but the Dodgers were more than prepared. They couldn’t even fit Dylan Floro on their Wild Card roster (2.59 ERA, 24 1⁄3 IP), which reasons Jansen more of an outlier and less of an exception.
Pitcher development in Colorado is a necessity. It will always be difficult to lure premier arms into Coors Field, so the Rockies’ best alternative is to instead develop what they have. Colorado was able to retain a premier arm in McGee back in 2017, but it was development elsewhere that crowned him a World Series champion—on the Rockies’ dime.
For now, we are left to wonder if Wade Davis will get a similar chance outside of Colorado, or if Bryan Shaw will get one outside of Denver and Seattle. If they can further refine themselves elsewhere, the development prophecy will no longer be a mere case study.
★ ★ ★
Mike Clevinger will return to the San Diego Padres, but not before Tommy John surgery will sideline him for the entirety of the 2021 season. Clevinger was a key piece in San Diego’s series of 2020 trade deadline deals; if their August spending habits are any indicator, perhaps the Padres will look to bring in another starting pitcher this winter.
There is never a good time for UCL reconstruction, but a procedure in November is far more favorable than March. Clevinger will have the 2021-22 offseason to further his rehab, instead of feeling rushed to make it back for 2022 Opening Day.
Charlie Blackmon details scouting reports, his pregame routine, pitch recognition technology and more in this feature for SportTechie, an athletic technology company. Blackmon’s feature is the latest in their “Athlete’s Voice” column where athletes of all sports talk about their own advanced forms of development.
★ ★ ★
Please keep in mind our Purple Row Community Guidelines when you’re commenting. Thanks!