Coors Field, friend of hitters? Not much for Justin Steele (didn’t expect it to rhyme)
Was I a little worried about Justin Steele leaving last night against the Rockies at Coors Field? Yeah. More than a little, in fact. This park is a terrible place for pitchers, especially young ones with no pitching experience, the Rockies had hit left-handers well this year (and faced a lot of them), and Steele took an outsized role in the rotation in the absence. temporary Wade Miley, Adbert Alzolay and Alec Mills. I just didn’t want his confidence shaken after a strong regular season debut against the Brewers.
Darth Vader would have found my lack of faith disturbing.
Justin Steele was awesome last night, even better than his last line suggests. So we’re gonna give her some love today. Here’s a look at his debut via Cubs.com:
Final line: 4.1IP, 5H, 2ER, 2BB, 4Ks.
A few notes on his numbers there: the two walks came at the very end of his outing, when he was quite clearly tired (more on that in a second), and the two runs scored after leaving the game. And while we’re not going to put his runs on the doorstep of Ethan Roberts, Steele’s reliever, the first four batters after Steele left the game went single line, double line, walk, walk . Point there being his last line could have quite easily looked much better than it does.
And coming back to that fatigue – Steele had to throw 9 more pitches in the first when a Jonathan Villar error extended the inning and rounded another error in the fourth (the miscommunication between Seiya Suzuki and Nick Madrigal, this didn’t wasn’t really marked as an error, but probably should have been). Add to that the fact that he also could have pitched with an even bigger lead if the double run errors hadn’t cost the Cubs a run and, well, yeah, I can see that outing is even better than she doesn’t already.
It’s just standard baseball stuff that every pitcher deals with – so take it less as an excuse and more as important context that I didn’t want to leave out for those who missed the late game.
Now back to the numbers.
Whether by design or feel/fit, Steele relied almost exclusively on two locations last night, its four-seam and slider; Statcast only recorded one other pitch, the curveball, thrown exactly once the entire game (my memory seems to recall at least 3 curveballs, but the widest point remains). By contrast, in his first start of the year against the Brewers, Steele threw five pellets, four curveballs and a change in addition to his four seams and slider. Obviously, it’s still a heavy four-seam/slider approach, but still a huge difference. I haven’t seen any comments on Steele for the change, though I guess it’s due to broken balls not breaking quite normally in Denver.
Steele came out of the gate throwing his four-seam HARD, hitting a maximum of 95.4 MPH, while throwing another 10 over 94 MPH in the first two rounds alone. After that, his speed (and command) started to drop, although that’s to be expected:
But as nice as it was to see him fire up the radar gun so early in the year, Steele’s slider stole the show. He threw 26 in total, scoring five puffs, 3 called strikes and 6 fouls. A single slider brought it into play.
I mean, just look at this guy. Dirty.
Justin “Valyrian” Steele, White Castle Special with a side of Two Swords. ⚔️⚔️🤮🍔🍔🍔 pic.twitter.com/Pku8HKM5Pb
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 15, 2022
Steele also managed to catch more than his fair share of ground balls for the second game in a row and limited hard contact to just 35.7 percent with an average outing speed of 87.8 MPH. The MLB average for starters this season is 40% hard hit rate with an average speed out of 89.2 MPH.
So, to wrap up – Justin Steele walked into one of the most batter-friendly baseball fields in North America, against a team that had seen the 3rd most left-handed pitchers this season (and hit them extremely well so far). there), threw around some early errors and limited the Rockies to just 2 runs in 4.1 innings with 7 puffs, four strikeouts, plenty of weak contact and ground balls, while using just two of his five shots. And he looked good doing it.
Early season numbers: 1.93 ERA (2.15 xERA) over two starts. I love it.