MLB’s alleged baseball juice last year frustrated Rockies left-handed Kyle Freeland during his nightmare third season in the bigs. Nearly 22 percent of his allowed fly balls left the park, the fifth-highest percentage among first-time buyers.
Free country told The Denver Post that balls in his hand felt different from field to field in 2019, sometimes not as desired. He endured a horrifying campaign in which he plunged from Cy Young candidate to recipient of a mid-season relegation the previous season. He posted an ERA of 6.73 in 22 starts.
So, like pitchers around the sport, Freeland hopes baseballs will be kinder to his kind by 2020. Preventing opponents from hitting home runs on Coors Field has always been difficult and he doesn’t want to be put at a disadvantage again. Independent analysis showed the ball continued last year and record homeruns across the league endorsed that.
During his first start last week – a six-inning performance in which he gave up two runs – Freeland thought everything was back to normal.
“I remember there were times last year when I was going to get a baseball and it felt great in my hand and the seams were the right tension, they were tight and they were how I liked the baseball,” Freeland told the Post. “Then that ball would get contaminated and I would get another baseball from the referee and it would feel completely different. Not even close. So the only thing I noticed in my first start (so far this year) was the consistency of the baseballs and how it felt better in my hand. “
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Just a week after the 2020 season, it’s too early to say how home rates will compare to previous years. There are new variables in the mix, such as a shortened summer camp for the start of the 60 game campaign that could have shed the hitter timing.
Either way, the Rockies would love it if Freeland is back near its best shape. They’ve had very few seasons in franchise history to match what Freeland produced two years ago and are in dire need of hitchhiking from unexpected sources in the early stages of a season where they’re generally expected to collide.
Colorado will send Freeland up the hill against the Padres on Saturday for its second start.