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Don Baylor, Godfather of Rockies big bats or windmill chasing strikeout generator?

In a season where scoring is down across the National League by about 2.5% from 2008, the Rockies have actually seen an increase in scoring from last season by 7.6%, and are on pace to score 57 more runs than they did last season. Still, recent comments here and elsewhere have expressed concern over the job hitting coach Don Baylor has done. I think the arguments against Baylor boil down to the low averages that several players have held this season, a high amount of strikeouts and a general feeling that the Rockies are not performing well in clutch situations.

The argument that I and others put forward in support of Baylor are that runs ultimately trump other considerations with a hitting coach. If he's getting our guys to get to home plate better than any other team is getting their players to score, and thus far in 2009 he is, than he's doing his job.

Rockies 2008 and 2009 NL ranks in key offensive categories:

Year Runs Hits Avg 2B 3B HR RBI SO BB OBP SLG wOBA OPS+
2008 8th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 8th 4th 7th 5th 7th 2nd 13th
2009 1st 13th 9th 5th 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st 2nd 2nd 2nd 5th


So this table basically confirms what we've been seeing. Hits by the Rockies and batting average in general are down, but every other facet of the offensive game: power, plate discipline, stretching liners to the gaps for extra bases, etc.., seems to have seen dramatic improvements for the Rockies this season. That in turn has led to the equally dramatic improvement in the team's run scoring. And while the strikeouts have seen a bit of an increase, the Rockies were a high strikeout team already, only now they've bumped the amount of walks to catch up with the K's.

I have a feeling that this debate will rage on into the offseason with Rockies fans, but for me, the proof is in the pudding that comes out of the oven, not the one that goes in.

Finally, just in case you were wondering, one statistic that Don Baylor excelled at as a player hasn't really shown up as being coachable. The Rockies have dropped from the sixth most plunked team in the NL in 2008 to the 13th position in 2009.