Saturday Rockpile: The case for Jonathan Herrera

Jonathan Herrera was the only Rockies position player left on the bench last night. - Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

There are certain situations in which the Rockies' 25th man can prove quite useful, and we saw one of them last night.

The Coors Field crowd roared last night when, down 5-2 with men on second and third with one out, Walt Weiss called back Jonathan Herrera and sent Carlos Gonzalez to pinch hit for Rob Scahill as the tying run against Clayton Kershaw. However, were I in Weiss' shoes, I would have stuck with Herrera in that situation.

This is not to say that Weiss necessarily made the wrong call, if you go "by the book" sending Gonzalez up in that spot was probably the right call. This just happens to be one of those cases where I think the book is wrong.

With men on second and third and one out, what the Rockies really needed there was to avoid a strikeout because, aside from an infield pop up or grounder back to the mound, any ball in play will score a run. Herrera's K-rate is essentially half of CarGo's this season, with Herrerra striking out 12.5% of the time to Gonzalez's 23.8%, and his career K-rate also significantly lower than CarGo's, 13.9% as opposed to 21.4%.

Additionally, Herrera carries a below-average IFFB% in his career of 7.9% to Gonzalez's career IFFB% of 11.9. Essentially, if you combine their career K% and IFFB%, Herrera had a 21.8% chance of producing a non-run scoring outcome, whereas Gonzalez had a 33.3% chance of doing the same.

Even if Herrera grounds out or hits a sacrifice fly in that situation, the lead is cut to 5-3 in the seventh and still have Gonzalez as an option to use in the eighth or ninth.

There is also the Kershaw factor. Presumably, Gonzalez was scheduled for a day off yesterday because of the opposing pitcher. If you send the switch-hitting Herrera to face Kershaw in the seventh, you have the option to utilize Gonzalez against someone who isn't the best left-handed pitcher in baseball.

This isn't to say that the decision to use Gonzalez was obviously wrong or that there was no argument for using him there. Actually, the argument to send CarGo up to bat there is pretty simple: any time you can send up one of the best hitters in baseball as the tying run late in the game, you do it.

The argument for Herrera there is more nuanced but, in my humble opinion, is no less valid.

Note: Todd Helton's ninth-inning home run rendered most of this moot, but I think it's something interesting to think about.

Links:

Todd Helton's time to take a seat on Rockies bench awkwardly arrives - Denver Post
Here is the Mark Kiszla column mentioned by Drew Goodman after Helton's game-tying home run last night.

Nolan Arenado's struggles as Rockies rookie confined to his offense - Denver Post
Patrick Saunders discusses Nolan Arenado's stellar defensive play at third place and his struggles on offense, the latter of which is not helped by an unsustainably low .237 BABIP.

Josh Rutledge eager to get back in Rockies' pressure cooker - Denver Post
Irv Moss catches up with Josh Rutledge in Colorado Springs and has some notes about minors and the draft.

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