DENVER — If there is anyone who can solve the conundrum that is pitching at altitude in Denver and the beast that is Coors Field, perhaps it’s Brent Strom.
Strom, after all, has made an impact on the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks, helping the Astros earn a World Series title in 2017 and the praise of pitchers who have called south Texas home, ranging from Justin Verlander to Gerrit Cole to Ryan Pressly. Now 74, Strom is in his second season overseeing the Diamondbacks pitchers, including one of the front-runners for the NL Cy Young this season, Zac Gallen.
During his time as a pitching coach, he’s not only seen plenty of pitchers try to conquer Coors Field, but also helped his own pitchers try to overcome pitching at a mile high. With his experience in building top-flight pitchers and seeing how Denver can change a pitcher’s approach, Strom thinks there is a way to make Coors Field, a place where plenty of MLB pitchers hate to throw, more pitcher-friendly.
How pitching guru Brent Strom would fix Colorado Rockies pitching
“I’ve been somewhat of the belief that the people here in Colorado have made the biggest mistake in the world in trying to find ground ball pitchers,” Strom said inside the visitor’s dugout at Coors Field.
“What they should have been working on, as you’re in the high altitude, so the ball is going to going to carry better. They’ve been trying to find ground ball pitchers, and I think they’ve done it a**-backwards to be honest with you. I think they should have been looking for high fastball pitchers that create hop and balls that aren’t going down as much. That’s how I would make the advantage here of pitching at Coors.”
Breaking that down even more, Strom added that a simple high fastball might be a big part of a pitcher’s attack.
“Miss bats and get pop-ups,” he summarized.
Strom has always been a proponent of pitching with fastballs high in the zone, and he believes that approach would work at altitude.
“If you look at the launch angles of guys, with the upper swings and everything, perhaps you’re just looking at the data incorrectly,” Strom said. “If you think about it, balls carry further here, so the ball doesn’t go down. Hitters, for the most part, they don’t hit what they see. They hit what they anticipate. They anticipate the ball being in a certain spot in a different time.”
This season, Colorado pitchers entered Tuesday’s play tied for 16th in ground ball percentage at 41.9. Last season, Colorado was sixth in MLB at 44.1 percent. In 2021, the Rockies placed in a tie for third at 44.8 percent.
It’s clear that the ground ball is a big part of Colorado’s pitching plan as is detailed in this article. The question, however, is is it the right approach? Would a diet of high fastballs resulting in misses and pop-ups work better? What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.