Kyle Freeland and Ubaldo Jimenez have had two of the best seasons in Rockies history, and there is a lot that other pitchers can learn from these seasons.
By: Ethan Hines
When people think of the Colorado Rockies, they usually think of the offensive stats of dreams and the pitching stats of nightmares. It’s no secret that the elevation of Coors Field, which sits at 5,200 Feet above sea level means that the stadium is in an environment with incredibly thin air. Less air resistance means that when the ball is travelling through the air there is a higher chance of hitting home runs. This fact had been proven true considering that Rockies pitchers were known for having ERA’s of 3.00 or higher regularly each season.
Ubaldo Jimenez Briefly Changed The Game For Rockies Pitching
This script for Rockies pitchers changed in the year 2010 when Ubaldo Jimenez posted a 2.88 ERA, went 19-8 and struck out 214 batters in the season. A sub 3.00 ERA in a Rockies uniform as a starter was almost unheard of until this point and both the Rockies organization and their fans thought they had finally found their ace. In 2011 though, both parties mentioned realized that this find turned out to be a fluke as Jimenez posted a 4.46 ERA, went 6-9 and struck out only 118 batters during his time with Colorado before he was traded to the Cleveland Indians later in the season.
Kyle Freeland Appears On The Scene
Kyle Freeland is no stranger to pitching at high altitudes as he was born and raised in Denver Colorado and was actually a few months old when the Rockies franchise began and a part of a family of die-hard Rockies fans. Kyle Freeland was drafted 8th overall in the first round of the 2014 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Colorado Rockies and he was ecstatic to be pitching in his home state for his favorite team growing up. Freeland first appeared in the big leagues in 2017 and had a promising first season with the Rockies. Freeland went 11-11, posted a 4.10 ERA and struck out 107 batters. Easily the most notable aspect of Freeland’s rookie season was his start against the Chicago White Sox at Coors Field when he took a No-Hitter into the 9th Inning.
Freeland’s Sizzling Sophomore Season
Kyle Freeland’s 2018 season have given the Rockies even more than what they could ask for as so far this year Kyle Freeland has gone 15-7, posted a 2.95 ERA and struck out 163 batters. Freeland has been an anchor in the rotation and a key piece in the playoff push as the Rockies are gearing towards another Rocktober push. His energy has been key in the Rockies clubhouse as the players have come forward publicly and stated that when Freeland pitches, they want to win for him because his energy and drive are simply incredible.
The key to the success of Jimenez and Freeland
There are multiple key similarities between Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010 and Kyle Freeland in 2018 that have allowed them to be successful. Both Jimenez and Freeland are strikeout pitchers and in both of their seasons they have done just that thanks to great pitch location. It also helps that both pitchers were confident with their pitches in both seasons and as a result, were able to overpower opposing batters. Freeland and Jimenez both became very comfortable at Coors Field and didn’t let the stadium’s elevation or the occasional home runs given up get to them either as they put these things in the back of their mind and remained confident during their seasons.
What Rockies Pitchers Should Take From This
Rockies pitchers need to practice as hard as they can to perfect their pitch location and possibly increase their velocity as they pitch throughout the season. Strikeouts are important, especially at Coors Field, and fly balls need to be limited as much as possible in order to earn some wins for the Rockies. The rest of the improvements that the Rockies can make are mostly mental. Rockies pitchers need to stop letting the fact that they’re pitching at Coors Field intimidate them and actually be confident in their abilities to overpower batters. All too often I see Rockies pitchers rattled at Coors Field when really they should be immensely confident, after all, they’re pitching at home in a stadium filled with fans cheering them on.