The Place That Makes a Riddle of Pitching

Veteran left-handed pitcher

(from New York Times, March 25, 2013) The Colorado Rockies were the joke of Major League Baseball (MLB) last year in terms of pitching.  As the 2013 season rolls around they look to make some major changes in the pitching rotation.  They also hope to adjust to the reality of pitching at a high altitude.

Last year the Rockies had a blistering 5.97 earned run average (ERA) at home versus a 4.41 ERA in road games.  Though neither numbers are good for a pitching staff, the difference between the two, of 1.56, brought many questions to the table.  The main question being, does playing a mile above sea level impact the Rockies pitching staff?  Many speculate that it was because of the humidor that was stored inside the stadium.  The humidor was supposed to prevent baseballs from drying out in the low humidity, but instead gave more juice to the balls.  Senior Vice President, Bill Geivett, said “People tell you the air was dry… Maybe that played into it; I don’t know.  I don’t have any idea.”

Others feel that the change from a 5-man rotation to a 4-man rotation was the biggest problem.  Although many teams have considered this idea for decades, no one had yet put it to use until the Rockies.  The 4-man rotation limited the pitchers to a pitch limit of 75 pitches.  Veteran, Jeff Francis, said “In some ways, it was cool being out there more often… But as starters you pride yourself on going deep in games and being a horse.  That was hard to adjust to.”  With a 75 pitch limit, pitching deep into games was a nearly an impossible feat.

This year the Rockies have a new plan.  They will go back to the traditional 5-man rotation, but will carry 3 long relievers, instead of the traditional one.  Front office management felt as if they have showed that they are willing to do whatever or try whatever to help the organization win, within reasonable and fair means.