The numbers for Kyle Freeland this year may appear to have taken a dip below his career norms, but he’s been arguably one of the most valuable players to the Colorado Rockies this season given all the injuries to the starting rotation.
One of more troubling dips for Freeland at the center of the downturn has been his fastball velocity. Last season brought the first sizable drop, from 91.9 mph on average to 90.2 mph on his four-seam fastball. This year, it’s averaged 88.8 mph.
Tuesday was no exception during Colorado’s 3-2 win. Freeland experienced an uptick in velocity during his last outing against Atlanta when he made better pitches, but faced a more formidable lineup than what the Arizona Diamondbacks ran out at Chase Field.
“A little bit more velo on the fastball definitely helps my other pitches play,” he said last week. “Having the velo up has helped me with confidence, pitch mix, and being able to have that 90-plus mile an hour fastball in the tank and not really having to reach for it, but knowing that it’s right there for me.”
Freeland began the night against Arizona with his average fastball. As he got deeper in the game, he had more to give. During the sixth inning, when he navigated a leadoff single from Christian Walker and one-out walk to Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Freeland threw four of his six fastest pitches of the contest, all above 90.4 mph. His final four-seamer, down and away to Corbin Carroll, was the tops at 91.2 mph.
Though the grind of this season has felt longer than most, it was imprecise mechanics that was taking away from his potency each time the catcher flashed his index finger.
“When I change my arm slot, bad things happen,” the 30-year-old shared. “Usually it’s I’m dropping my arm and that means everything’s flattening out. So it was a mechanical thing with me. I worked on it over the past month or so, getting my mechanics right to where I can really drive off my back leg and create that momentum going forward and then use my arm with that motion.”
Control was the issue against the Diamondbacks as Freeland walked three. He had walked that many in his last five starts combined. But he was able to make the pitches needed to get out of some jams.
Arizona bombarded him in the first with a leadoff triple from Ketel Marte before Emmanuel Rivera jumped on the first pitch to single. It took four pitches for the Rockies 1-0 lead to vanish.
For Freeland’s sake, Colorado responded with a run in the third thanks to a throwing error prompted by Ezequiel Tovar’s second stolen base of the inning. Then came another in the fourth courtesy of a Brenton Doyle triple and a Charlie Blackmon sacrifice fly RBI, the 745th of his career, tying the 37-year-old with Vinny Castilla for sixth-most in franchise history.
Doyle still rules and Charlie brings him home! pic.twitter.com/qItRo9aaEy
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) September 6, 2023
Three runs of support aren’t much, but Freeland happily accepted. He’s averaged 3.52 runs of support this season, the second-lowest mark among qualified pitchers. On the road, that number is a even lower. In his 12 starts away from Coors Field this season, Colorado had scored just 20 times, an average of 2.66 runs that is the lowest on the road in the Majors.
It’s a contributing reason to why Freeland is tied for the most losses in the National League with 14. His last win before Tuesday night came against the Chicago White Sox on Aug. 19 after the Rockies scored seven runs at home in the first four frames. Before that, his previous win came more than three months prior on May 14.
Freeland may not have his best fastball this season, but he doesn’t always need it to get results at this point in his career. Besides, he’s a left-hander in his 30’s now. If it could work for Jamie Moyer into his 40’s, it can’t be all that bad.
Before Tuesday’s games, Colorado made some roster changes.
IF/OF Cole Tucker had his contracted selected from Triple-A Albuquerque while 1B/OF Michael Toglia was optioned to Triple-A. To make room for Tucker on the 40-man roster, IF Coco Montes was designated for assignment.