Players are striking out too much.
Tulowitzki, Iannetta, Spilborghs. All seem to be struggling with this. So I know, you're going, well duh, Rox Girl. It took you a long time to figure that one out, huh? Yeah, that's why you guys pay me the big bucks. Okay, actually you pay Troy Renck the big bucks for making observations like that. Anyway, it turns out the next question I want to bring up is also related.
Why isn't Todd Helton walking?
Helton's workload and health are up, but he's been able to draw only three walks thus far in 53 plate appearances. He's still near the top among Rockies in seeing pitches, but for some reason has been failing to draw ball four. You're talking about a guy who throughout his career has been able to draw walks in 14.5% of his PA's dipping to under 6%. Spilborghs is in this category as well, over 10% BB's per PA for his career, below 4% for 2009. The real question is whether there's more to this than what we've been seeing.
In order to figure this out I thought I'd take a step back and look at what happens before the players get to ball four. The league as a whole has drawn walks 45% of the time after reaching three ball counts in 2009, Helton's at 21% right now, the Rockies as a team are only at 39%.
It turns out that all those walks that other teams are getting for whatever reason are turning into K's for the Rockies. 15% of the time after three balls are called a typical NL batter winds up striking out, the Rockies are doing it over 20% of the time. The team has 9% of the NL's three ball K's in 6.5% of its PA's in that situation. Is this the players fault? Are umpires colluding against the Rockies? Is this just some other weird early season anomaly that will get corrected as the season progresses? My guess and hope is the latter, because if the men in blue are out to get us, it could be a long year.
Here's another weird one to chew on if you go even a step further back. The San Francisco Giants lead the league in swung at strikes, this includes those that they make contact with and those that no contact is made with, so it probably includes plenty of balls that the team couldn't lay off of. 75% of all pitches thrown to the Giants get swung at, including 33% of all first pitches, also the most in the NL. It should be no surprise therefore that the Giants trail the NL in percentage of 3-0 counts seen. What is a bit surprising is that the Rockies are tied with them in that last category at 4%.
The Giants also trail the NL in the percentage of 2-0 counts seen. Again not surprising, the Rockies are near the middle of the pack. Why the huge drop then from 2-0 to 3-0? The Rockies aren't swinging at an inordinate amount of 2-0 pitches, just 31 of the 78 times, meaning that they looked at 47 of those pitches. Of those, only 19 were called ball three. Compare that to the Mets, who have seen 84 two balls, no strike counts and swung at just 33 of them. Of the 51 pitches they took in that situation, 33 were called ball three. Almost a complete reversal from the Rockies. Houston takes 53 pitches with two balls no strikes, has 29 called ball three. Arizona, like the Rockies also took 47 pitches but had 27 of them called ball three. Only three NL teams, the Rockies, Giants and Brewers have had more than fifty percent of their taken 2-0 pitches called for strikes. The Brewers and Giants are both at 46% of taken 2-0 pitches called ball three, the Rockies are far behind everybody at 40%, in the AL, the lowest is the Mariners at 45%.
How much has inconsistent umpiring cost the Rockies in the early going? It's hard to say, but there are definitely some signs that it's hurting them more than most.
Seth Smith should be playing everyday, Clint Barmes shouldn't be playing at all while the Rockies are on the road.
Baseball-Reference.com has a "Neutralized Batting" feature which is supposed to take park effects out of players' stat lines. While Barmes' result there shows that maybe the stats people are tweaking the Coors effect too much, it's eye opening. The equation believes that Barmes would have zero hits on the season thus far if the Rockies only played in neutral parks. Again, clearly overkill for our venison lover, but by how much? Barmes is and always has been a player that benefits tremendously from playing at Coors. He is a valuable player there, but seemingly nowhere else. Smith, conversely, is the least affected regular in the lineup by Coors, his neutralized line is exactly equal to his unadjusted stats.
Congratulations to Matt Daley for making it to the majors.