Ah Coors Field. One of the few baseball stadiums I’ve actually been to, it’s a magical land where hitters come to dream and pitchers come to die. You see mountains, you see towers… sounds like some sort of Lord of the Rings babble…
However, some pitchers can overcome the treachery that is thin air, and who better than Alex Cobb yesterday afternoon? A guy I haven’t followed too closely and is unfortunately on none of my teams (but I did get to see him pitch once in AAA for the Durham Bulls), Cobb boasts a 2.79 ERA and 33:8 K:BB ratio after yesterday’s start. Drafted at the end of standard drafts and even undrafted in some leagues, Cobb has obviously had a great start, but I wanted a better gauge of where to place him. He was cruising his last start out, then with two outs in the sixth couldn’t get out of the inning and a shutout turned into a 5.2 IP 10 H 4 ER shellacking So I decided to break down a Cobb game for the first time and attempt to place where I think he is right now:
First Inning: Cobb is the benefactor of three runs in the top of the 1st and starts Dexter Fowler with a 90-MPH fastball Fowler laces foul, 0-1. Cobb misses high at 84 MPH, I’m guessing a change that hung, then another change well located gets Fowler out in front, 1-2. Cobb again is high at 90 MPH, and gets Fowler to swing-and-miss at an 89 MPH fastball on the fists, one down and a great way to start. Next is rookie Nolan Arenado who grounds a 90-MPH fastball to second, two down. Cobb misses high to Carlos Gonzalez, then is in there, 1-1, then an 84 MPH fastball is rocketed to Ryan Roberts at 2nd and it eats him up and gets into right center for a single. No shame in not making that play, but a gold glover might’ve gotten that one. The first pitch to Troy Tulowitzki is an 89-MPH fastball for strike one, then spikes a curveball with Gonzalez running, and luckily the ball bounces so hard off the backstop it goes right back to Lobaton keeping Gonzalez at second. That was his first curveball, and it went only about 56 feet. Cobb jams Tulo, 1-2, then a change-up drops low, 2-2. That was his best on the day with some incredible sink on it. One is fouled off, then another one of those biting, sinking change-ups gets Tulo to whiff at it and ends the inning.
Second Inning: The first pitch of the second is a strike taken by Michael Cuddyer via a curveball. Good to see Cobb has the feel for it back to get it in the zone. Cobb hits the outside corner with the heater, then is too far outside and then too low, and a 2-2 83-MPH change-up hangs at the bottom third of the zone and Cuddyer murders it for a homer. Cobb knew it too, just a mistake that got taken advantage of. Cobb gets ahead on Todd Helton taking a fastball, then Helton fouls two off and grounds out on an 0-2 change-up weakly to second, one down. Cobb starts Wilin Rosario with a 90 MPH fastball on the hands that Rosario fouls off, then bends a curveball in there, 0-2. Best curve Cobb has thrown, bending Rosario’s knees taking. Cobbs tries to paint the outside corner at 91 MPH but misses, then low, then the 2-2 Cobb starts his windup then stops. Good thing no one was on base, that would’ve been the world’s easiest balk call. The next pitch Rosario pops out to second, two down. Cobb at 1-1 to Josh Rutledge gets him to ground it sharply to Sean Rodriguez who sails the throw to first for an error and Rutledge gets to second. Tough error there because now Jhoulys Chacin doesn’t lead off the third. But on the 1-0, Chacin grounds out weakly to short.
Third Inning: Cobb begins the third with a nasty curveball Fowler misses, 0-1. Great pitch there. Cobb misses, then gets another swing-and-miss on a 84 MPH change, then paints the outside corner at 91 MPH and gets a strikeout swinging. A fantastic series right there. Cobb bends a curveball barely in the top of the zone for strike one to Arenado, then a fastball on the outside corner is grounded weakly to James Loney, two down. Cobb gets Gonzalez to foul one off then paints the inside corner, 0-2. Gonzalez works it back to 2-2 and a fastball on the outer edge is flied out to left.
Fourth Inning: The bottom of the 4th starts with a fastball low to Tulo, then in the dirt, 2-0. Cobb again is very low, 3-0. Tulo takes all the way, 3-1, and a 90 MPH fastball on the inner half gets pummeled, high and deep, for another solo shot off Cobb. Cobb started the third inning so strong, and that was by far his worst batter of the game. Cobb then spikes a curveball, again at about 56 feet, 1-0 to Cuddyer. Cobb’s been inconsistent with that pitch. The count works to 3-1 and Cobb gets Cuddyer to ground out to short, one down. Cobb gets ahead of Helton at 1-2, but Helton golfs a low change-up, maybe only 5-6 inches from the ground, into left center for a single. Incredible hitting there. 1-1 to Rosario and Wilin rockets one but it’s right to second, two down. Cobb misses to Rutledge, then gets a curveball to bend in the zone, 1-1. The curve looked good again there, hard to believe he’s spiked three of those so badly. The count works full, and Cobb loses a change-up too low, runners at first and second now. Luckily it’s opposing pitcher Chacin up, and on the 1-2 gets him to ground out weakly to short. Cobb gets out of the inning with the only damage on the leadoff homer.
Fifth Inning: Still protecting a 3-2 lead, Fowler on the 1-0 pitch ropes it to left center, but Desmond Jennings gets it on the run, one down. Cobb starts Arenado with a curveball that he grounds weakly but just in the right place between short and third for a single. Tough hit to give up there. Cobb quickly gets ahead of Gonzalez 0-2, then checks on Arenado twice, with Gonzalez spoiling the next pitch. Cobb, still at 0-2, goes with a fastball that stayed over the middle of the plate that Gonzalez bangs up the gap for a single. I think Cobb got a little too distracted by Arenado at first. Then on the first pitch to Tulo, a curveball is grounded to short for a double play, and Cobb is out of the inning.
Sixth Inning: After picking up three more huge runs of support, Cobb starts the sixth with a curveball for strike one to Cuddyer. The count works to 2-2 and Cuddyer pulls a single off a curveball to left field. Cobb goes right back to the curve, but spikes another one. That’s four or five now that have been horrible. Helton hits the next pitch sharply to third, the Rays try to turn the double play and the throw from Roberts to first sails way off and Helton moves to second on the error, one down. Cobb gets ahead of Rosario 1-2, then explodes a curveball that bites down and in, getting Rosario to swing-and-miss for Cobb’s 4th K. Cobb gets ahead of Rutledge 1-2 and misses low, then throws a tight 85 MPH change-up that broke just enough down that it gets Rutledge to miss, inning over, 5 Ks.
Seventh Inning: At 99 pitches, Cobb comes out for hopefully a final quick inning. Cobb misses barely wide, 1-0 to Eric Young Jr. who pinch hits for Chacin, then Cobb is in there, 1-1. Young fouls one off, 1-2, then blows Young away with a 91 MPH fastball on the hands for his 6th K. Cobb starts Fowler with a curveball, and gets Fowler to swing very awkwardly to get ahead 0-1, then the next pitch is grounded weakly to Loney, two down quickly. Cobb hangs a fastball that stays high to Arenado, then the 1-0 is again a curveball and it again hangs but stays in the zone and Arenado crushes it for the Rockies’ third homer. Another mistake with that curve, and Cobb leaves the game.
Final Line: W 6.2 IP (107 Pitches) 8 Hits 1 Walk 3 Earned Runs 6 Ks
Final Analysis: Considering the tough environment, giving up three solo shots and getting a win is a very strong outing at Coors. Featuring an average fastball that topped out at 91 MPH, a fantastic change-up, and inconsistent but very usable curveball, Cobb has the arsenal to be a fantasy middle-of-the-rotation guy in standard leagues. The key will be getting consistent with that curveball that looked fantastic at times, but about five were spiked way short and a few hung, especially his last pitch of the game that Arenado crushed.
Cobb is consistently in the zone and showed solid control and command (so many c-words… or “Seawards”?). I don’t think his strikeout rate will stay quite this high, but I do think a low 3.00s ERA and a 1.20 WHIP is very likely. My two minor concerns are he is slightly slow to the plate which may give up a few extra runs resulting from steals throughout the season (He’s given up 3 SBs on the season, and two have been on 0-0 counts. Also the Gonzalez at bat in the fifth didn’t seem to go as planned with multiple checks on Arenado) and just like Hyun-Jin Ryu, if he has to rely on his fastball, things may not go so well. But I see mainly optimism in Cobb and think he’ll end up a top 40-50 pitcher. Great park to pitch in and a consistent approach should keep him very valuable.
As always shoot your comments/suggestions/criticisms below along with ideas for who you’d like broken down next.