Pitchers have long talked about how frustrating it is to pitch at Coors Field. Not only does the altitude play a factor in how far the ball travels, but pitches don’t break like they normally do at sea level. Pitchers who rely on big curveballs seem to be affected the most — Ben Sheets had a career ERA of 7.11 at Coors Field, with the Rockies hitting .346/.369/.514 against him in Denver.
Yovani Gallardo has begun his career in much the same way. Even before Thursday night’s debacle, Gallardo had an ERA of 9.19 at Coors, with the Rockies hitting .343/.413/.612 against him there. Like Sheets, much of Gallardo’s success is based on his curveball. FanGraphs has Gallardo’s curve as his second-best pitch this year, coming in at 1.5 runs above average.
Typically, Gallardo’s curve averages about 80 MPH with 5-6 inches of vertical break, according to pitch f/x data so far this year. Against the Rockies on Thursday, the velocity stayed consistent with the season average, but the lack of break is apparent:
Date / Game / V-Break / MPH
7/14 @ COL / -3.80 / 80.73 MPH
7/6 vs ARI /-5.63 / 81.37 MPH
7/1 @ MIN / -5.04 / 80.80 MPH
6/25 vs MIN / -5.83 / 81.12 MPH
6/19 @ BOS / -6.06 / 80.86 MPH
6/14 @ CHC / -5.53 / 80.49 MPH
6/9 vs NYM / -5.79 / 80.14 MPH
6/4 @ FLA / -4.86 / 80.66 MPH
5/29 vs SFG / -5.94 / 79.04 MPH
5/23 vs WSN / -6.53 / 80.42 MPH
5/18 @ SDP / -9.20 / 81.11 MPH
5/13 vs PIT / -7.11 / 79.76 MPH
5/7 @ STL / -5.02 / 81.78 MPH
5/2 @ ATL / -7.90 / 80.29 MPH
4/27 vs CIN / -4.65 / 80.44 MPH
4/22 vs HOU / -5.00 / 80.79 MPH
4/17 @ WSN / -5.44 / 80.34 MPH
4/10 vs CHC / -6.51 / 79.86 MPH
4/5 vs ATL / -6.38 / 79.88 MPH
3/31 @ CIN / -4.89 / 80.13 MPH
To Gallardo’s credit, he didn’t try to force the issue with the curveball — he only threw 14 of them, compared to 54 fastballs. His problem was that he caught way to much of the plate with his fastball, and he admitted to leaving the ball up in the zone after the game.
If the Brewers are going to avoid another ugly series in Colorado, though, they’re going to need to find a better way to adjust on the mound. It probably goes without saying that you don’t want to start the second half by giving up 20 hits, even if a few of those were on flukey flares and poor defense.