Sluggers, and hitting with RISP

This is in further comment to FlyAway's comment in the Thursday Rockpile:

In my opinion the Rockies faulure as a team with runner in scoring postion is what spelled their offensive doom in 2008. Ianetta did well with RISP and I think Barmes did OK. However, I have been unable to find that stat, if anyone can help me find that I would appreciate it.

For understanding the necessity and value of a slugger, htiting with RISP cannot be underestimated. And the best way to do measure whether someone is a slugger (without just counting HRs) would probably be to measure SLG with RISP. The best way to measure the necessity of a slugger would be OPS with RISP. A combined high OPS with RISP for middle of the order hitters lessens the necessity for a true "slugger." If one of the first or second hitters can get on base, and either a) gets to second by a hit or steal, or b) is advanced into scoring position by the third hitter (either by b1: an out, or b2: a hit or walk, a walk generally being as good as a single and better than a SAC), that brings up the 4th hitter with a man on 2nd or 3rd with one or two outs. Having 1 and 2 hitters with a good OBP, and hitters in the 3-5 spots with good OPS (and thus the ability to advance the 1 or 2 hitters with a walk or a hit) will eliminate the need for a Manny or Ortiz-esque slugger.

With that in mind, here are the 2007/2008 OPSs with RISP for the Rockies hitters with an established level of power (20+HRs):

Atkins: .869/.680 (PA: 219//215)
Hawpe: .989/.893 (PA: 194/165)
Helton:  .946/.825 (PA: 214/98)
Holliday: .947/.867 (PA: 226/173)
Tulowitzki: .778/.724 (PA:199/123)

There are caveats to this (high BABIP, etc, for some), but I don't think sample size really matters for this. There is no way of knowing how many opportunites there will be year to year, and there aren't going to be that many. Even if they do matter, everybody but Tulo and Helton in '08, had over 150, which is a healthy sample for this type of situational statistic.

This also accentuates what is obvious to Rockies fans: in 2008, the 1-2 hitters did a terrible job compared to Taveras/Matsui in 2007. Also, Helton had a .491 OBP (!) with RISP in 2007, pushing runners along and creating a lot of extra RBI opportunities for Atkins and Tulo. Given their high OPS in both years, Hawpe and Holliday combining for 82 fewer appearances with RISP is horrible for the team. Some of that is situational, and some of that is Hurdle's failure to manage the lineup. The players didn't help themselves with 54 to 189 point drops in OPS from '07 to '08.

For a glimpse of a team that was balanced and successful, the '08 3-5 hitters for the TB Rays:

Upton: .811 (179 PAs)
Pena: .940 (202 PAs)
Longoria: .783 (162 PAs)

The Rays scores 774 runs, the Rockies 747. Pena had the highest SLG with RISP at .524. Compare that to Holliday at .469, it can't account for 27 runs. One of the real differences was Atkins hitting 100 points worse than Longoria (comparing lowst OPSes) in 40 more PAs. Also, Upton got on base at a .400+ rate with RISP, giving the two top power guys another opportunity to drive in a runner.

This isn't to say that in a good lineup, one person couldn't be Hurclean and put the team on his back, as David Ortiz is percieved to do from time to time, and Manny appeared to do for the Dodgers after his trade. The 1-2 hitters matter a lot. Assuming they are equal, however, the trick is to have people who can hit or get on base with RISP over a season, not just hit 50 HRs.

Anyway, I don't know how this stacks up against the Dodgers post-Manny, or the Red Sox all year long, but for the Rockies, clearly the answer is having multiple hitters capable of getting on base at a good rate in the heart of the order. The team has tried the bomber mode (1993-1999) and the speed and small ball mode (2000-2006). Having one person crush HRs (and eat up payroll) doesn't matter that much for this team - kind of like the Reds with Dunn, or the Yankees with A-Rod. And speed and playing to win 1-run games doesn't help much either. People need to be able to get on base and hit, not necessarily hit HRs. So, if the Rockies have a repeat of 2007 it's going to have to happen with fewer HRs and higher OBPs, espcially from the 1-2 spot. And, with Holliday gone, Atkins is also going to have to hit a lot better with RISP.

Eat. Drink. Be Merry. But the above FanPost does not necessarily reflect the attitudes, opinions, or views of Purple Row's staff (unless, of course, it's written by the staff [and even then, it still might not]).

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