Bryan Shaw has become the high-profile poster boy for the Rockies’ June gloom.
When the veteran right-hander was removed from Colorado’s win over the Mets Tuesday night, many in the Coors Field crowd booed him. From the fans’ perspective, it was more of the same from a man whom the Rockies signed to a three-year, $27 million deal during the offseason.
In the seventh inning, Shaw committed a costly throwing error, gave up two runs (one earned) on a walk and two hits as Colorado’s lead shrunk from 10-4 to 10-6. Shaw’s ERA rose to 7.27, more than double his career ERA of 3.42. He got the hook after getting just one out.
The seven home runs he’s given up in 39 appearances are already nearing his career high for an entire season (he gave up eight in both 2015 and ’16). His seven wild pitches lead not only the Rockies, but the entire National League.
Yet Shaw, as well as manager Bud Black, insists that while he’s been malfunctioning, he is not a completely broken pitcher. Furthermore, they insist, he’s unquestionably fixable. Some in the organization make the comparison to Adam Ottavino, the right-hander who struggled terribly last season but who has been one of the best relievers in baseball this season.
Before Wednesday night’s game, Black talked at length about Shaw and rattled off a check list: “His velocity checks out. His health checks out. His mindset check outs. There might be – it’s human nature – so there might be a little lack of confidence based on results. But Bryan is working back to a good place.”
A visit to Fangraphs reveals nothing shocking about Shaw’s arsenal. His cut fastball, his bread-and-butter pitch, is averaging 94.8 mph, a tick above his career average of 93.9 mph. Yes, he’s using his slider a bit more this season — 18.5 percent of the time compared to a career average of 17.8 — but it’s not a huge departure.
After Tuesday’s game, Shaw was upbeat, even as he acknowledged that he’s never struggled like this before.
“The confidence is there, the pitches are there,” he said. “Everything is going fine, mechanically, the pitching and the action. All of that stuff is there.”
Well, not everything. If everything was OK, opposing batters would not be hitting .336 against him, his WHIP wouldn’t be 1.93 and he wouldn’t have allowed eight of 15 inherited runners to score — a 53.3 percentage that ranks as the second-highest in the NL.
So what’s wrong, and how is it fixed?
“We have poured over video and we have looked over his mechanics, and what we have seen is that the ball has elevated a lot this year, as opposed to previous seasons,” Black said. “We did our comparisons. And if you take last night, for instance, the double that (Kevin Plawecki) hit, that ball was up on a 3-2 count. It was up and over the middle.
“Overall, for me, it’s a pretty simple explanation. You can make it as complex as you want to, but Bryan’s been hit because the ball has been up. We have to get the ball down.”
Shaw is optimistic that things will click into place, sooner rather than later.
“It just takes that one little catalyst,” Shaw said. “If I field that ball cleanly, maybe we turn a double play, and maybe that starts an effective inning and an effective stretch. Hopefully we start that with my next outing.”
For the sake of the Rockies’ postseason aspirations, Shaw better be right.
Footnotes. Lefty reliever Mike Dunn threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Wednesday without pain in his upper back. If he checks out fine on Thursday, he will likely begin a minor-league rehab stint this weekend. … Right-hander Scott Oberg (lower-back strain) threw a bullpen session Tuesday and took fielding practice Wednesday. He’s not yet scheduled for live batting practice. … Right-hander Carlos Estevez (strained right elbow) is getting closer to returning after missing the entire season. He’s scheduled to pitch live batting practice on Friday.
Mets Steven Matz (3-4, 3.31) at Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland (6-6, 3.59), 1:10 p.m. Thursday; ATTRM, 850 AM
Kyle Freeland is fast gaining a reputation as a pitcher who can tame the beast that is Coors Field. In 24 career appearances at Coors (including 21 starts), the Denver native is 9-10 with a 3.52 ERA — the lowest home ERA among starters in franchise history (minimum 100 innings pitched). Freeland handled the Mets on May 6 at Citi Field in Colorado’s 3-2 victory, pitching seven innings and allowing two runs on four hits, with one walk and eight strikeouts. Matz allowed one earned run on six hits and one walk while striking out three over 6 ⅓ innings to collect a win on Saturday vs. Arizona. After giving up a lot of home runs in April, Matz has allowed only two long balls in his last 28 ⅔ innings. He’s worked at least six innings in each of his last three starts. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has feasted off Matz, hitting three homers and driving in seven runs in 11 at-bats against him.
Friday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen (2-3, 5.91) at Rockies RHP Jon Gray (6-7, 5.89), 6:40 p.m., ATTRM
Saturday: Marlins RHP Trevor Richards (1-4, 5.45) at Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson (4-2, 4.52), 1:10 p.m., ATTRM
Sunday: Marlins LHP Caleb Smith, (5-6, 4.03) at Rockies German Marquez (5-7, 5.20), 1:10 p.m.; ATTRM
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