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Greg Smith in Colorado is a Recipe for Disaster


You’re the GM of the Rockies. You play in a very difficult environment for pitchers. Even with the humidor, offense runs (and hits) wild in Coors Field. It’s relatively easy to hit homers, the outfield is quite spacious, and breaking pitches don’t break as well, thanks to the thin air.

So what type of pitcher may be more likely to succeed – or at least not fail miserably – in Colorado?

Well, according to recent history, we can see three distinct types of pitchers who have had some degree of success while pitching for the Rockies:


1)       Aaron Cook. Namely, a pitcher with a ton of sink on his fastball who pounds the strike zone. Sure, he doesn’t strike out too many hitters, but he keeps the ball on the ground and he’s stingy with free passes.

 2)      Ubaldo Jimenez. No one can argue with Jimenez’s raw stuff and velocity. He has little idea where his pitches are going, but he throws the ball hard, and has a lot of movement. As a result, he walks a lot of batters, but he also strikes many out by simply overpowering them.

 3)      Jeff Francis. Francis doesn’t do anything particularly well, but he survives        by doing everything decently well. He strikes out enough, he walks few enough, and he gets more grounders than fly balls. His strength was not having any pronounced weakness, aside perhaps from his velocity. Furthermore, he relied on a changeup as his main secondary pitch, rather than a breaking ball. 

As you might imagine, these three pitchers represent three different ways of succeeding in any environment. However, Coors Field is particularly unforgiving to pitchers who get a lot of fly balls or who walk too many (without coupling that with a high K rate as well).

So why on earth would the Rockies ever want Greg Smith? 

Smith’s track record – in both the majors and minors – suggests that he’s particularly ill-suited for working in Coors Field.

First of all, he’s a fly ball pitcher, having gotten over 10% more fly balls than ground balls in 2008. Secondly, he doesn’t get many strikeouts – even in the minors, he only struck out a batter an inning once, in rookie ball. Thirdly, he issues a lot of walks – over 4 per nine innings with the Athletics in 08, and 2.6 per nine in his minor league career. Finally, he doesn’t throw hard – his fastball averaged 87.6 MPH this year – and he threw a breaking ball over 21% of the time.

That sounds like a recipe for disaster.