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Monday Rockpile: Acquiring Situational Hitting - Critical or Overblown?

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Rockies will look to address hitting woes this winter | ColoradoRockies.com: News

Batting woes and inconsistency were such a major problem for the 2011 season, it's almost getting repetitive to hear it. Thomas Harding busted out some hard research in the form of Baseball-Reference and brought us some facts. The particular numbers he busted out were a bit selective, but they pointed out that the Rockies posted a .245 AVG with RISP, made productive outs on 31% of opportunities, and 51% of runners who reach 3B with less than 2 outs scored. This clearly points to bad situational hitting, lack of fundamentals, bad dental hygiene, and other unsavory aspects of the Rockies' bats in general. I'm sure we can blame Ian Stewart for it.

Seriously though, this is not something the Rockies should overvalue when hunting for offense this offseason. Seriously. Coach the guys you have to improve how they make their outs, but getting good situational guys might be done at the expense of just getting good batters. Yes, a guy who grounds out to the right side with a runner on 3B and less than 2 outs is more appealing than a guy who pops it up to the SS. But the Rockies have this tendency to declare a need and then just get the completely wrong guy to fill that need.

For example, in 2010, the Rockies felt a crunch from 2009 in not having enough positional versatility off of the bench. So they went out and signed Melvin Mora, he of 1 position over the past decade. After Mora filed, the Rockies were interested in improving their situational hitting then, as well, along with adding some right-handed pop. So they get Ty Wigginton, who proceeded to go 0-for-2011 in tight spots and while he WAS a near-.800 OPS bat against LHP, let's just say that Wigginton was a bit disappointing. Now, expressing a need for situational hitting and better groundouts and stuff, I'm predicting Craig Counsell on a 1-year, $3M deal, and they'll play him in CF.

In all seriousness though, they found a way to quantify all them "good" outs. Seriously. Every game we watch, we list WPA leaders - those who contributed the most to the team's chances of winning (accounting for situational hitting and stuff of that nature). Furthermore, using wRAA (which is what wOBA is based on), we have an idea of what the actual run production was. So if we use Fangraphs' WPA/LI metric and subtract wRAA from it, we get a Win value that kind of represents all of the positive win stuff which doesn't come in the form of a hit or walk or whatever. (If I just lost you completely, take a look at this article. If you're still lost, don't sweat it. I'm just throwing numbers at the point to give it some weight.)

Anyhow, this metric is dubbed "Little Things" by Fangraphs. The Rockies are dead last in the NL in Little Things, 4th from last in Major League Baseball. The 3 teams the Rockies are ahead of? The Yankees, Rangers, and Red Sox, the 3 most potent offenses in the game. Yeah. (Funny story, Jonathan Herrera leads the Rockies in "Little Things" despite only getting 320 PA.)

This isn't trying to eschew the value of good bat control. Far from it. But this is supposed to illustrate the value of getting guys who are just flat out good batters, rather than getting guys who are contact hitters for the sake of being contact hitters. I know that's easier said than done, but getting guys who fit the hole the team has but aren't really good at anything else is part of why the team is where they are in general.

This offseason, the Rockies need to be looking for guys who are good at baseball first and foremost. Seems silly to say, but if you stock the bench with players who could play in most situations without a lot of managerial criticism, then boneheaded lineup decisions won't hurt nearly as bad.