Fan (Lack of) Confidence and Pinch Hitters

The pinch hitters are punchless.

After sweeping the Giants, the Rockies took to the road last night.  Jorge de la Rosa pitched his first complete game of his career, and against the team with the second best record in the Major Leagues no less.  A win there and that Gillette fan confidence poll is through the roof.  A win there was very, very attainable at the end of the game.

Let us recall the situation .  With two outs in the ninth, Colorado trailed by one, with two runners on base.  The Phillies third-string closer was set to face Jose Lopez.  Lopez has been finding better results at the plate, but even the five hits in his last four starts only pushed his batting average up to .184.  Not a good option.  In need of a single against a pitcher with heat and a devastating change-up, Jim Tracy understandably turned to his bench.

The bench was almost completely intact there in the ninth inning; by virtue of Jorge de la Rosa's complete game, he was not pinch-hit for.  Seth Smith, normally a starter, pinch-hit and doubled earlier in the inning.  Otherwise, Tracy had his pick of anyone on the bench.  Unfortunately for him, quantity doesn't trump quality.  

As Jason Giambi strode to the plate, I felt an unfamiliar feeling - a completely defeatist attitude.  As a persistent optimist, I will continue watching in the most trying of times.  But I had no doubt the Rockies were cooked.  Not so unpredictably, the 40-year-old Giambi struck out, completely overmatched by a 93mph fastball in the middle of the strike zone.

It isn't just Giambi, who is hitless in eight appearances as a pinch-hitter, and it isn't just last night.  The Rockies as a team have hit .135/.226/.192 in the pinch, far worse than the NL league average of .200/.277/.291.

2011 Pinch Hitters PA H BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
Ryan Spilborghs 18 3 4 5 .214 .389 .429 .817
Jason Giambi 8 0 1 4 .000 .143 .000 .143
Alfredo Amezaga 7 1 0 1 .167 .167 .167 .333
Ian Stewart 7 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000
Jonathan Herrera 4 1 2 0 .500 .750 .500 1.250
Ty Wigginton 4 1 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500
Seth Smith 4 1 0 0 .333 .250 .667 .817
Dexter Fowler 3 1 0 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Todd Helton 3 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Jose Morales 2 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000
Jose Lopez 2 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Carlos Gonzalez 1 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000
Team Total 63 8 7 17 .151 .238 .226 .418

The Rockies have scored just one run after the eighth inning in 2011, and the pinch-hitters are a huge reason why.  Seth Smith's double last night was only the Rockies' second extra base hit from the bench and the first since a garbage time home run by Ryan Spilborghs on April 20, nearly a month ago.  When the "A" line-up starts, the available pinch-hitters on the roster now are: 

Bench 2011 OPS+
Jason Giambi      33
Ryan Spilborghs      64
Alfredo Amezaga      75
Jose Morales      53
Jose Lopez      21

That's a 40-year-old slugger struggler, a declining fourth outfielder, a AAAA utility infielder, a fringe MLB backup catcher, and - oh look - the worst hitter in MLB since 2010.  Honestly, poor Jim Tracy. With a struggling offense, solid bullpen and good starting pitching, last night's situation is going to be a common occurrence where contributions from the bench could mean the difference between a W and an L.  

So here's the question:  how confident are you that the bench will turn it around and become assets at critical moments?  Actually, that might not be the right question.   Let me try again:  how confident are you that Dan O'Dowd will address the situation in some capacity and add any kind of weapon on the bench?

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