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Rock Mining Week 4: A (Baby) Bull in a China Shop

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A Saturday look at the past week of Rockies baseball, going beyond the box score to find the good and bad trends of the Colorado Rockies. This week: whether or not patience is a good thing to try and force on a young hitter.


Free swinging Wilin Rosario is slugging .559 with a .309 average, which begs the question: even if you could teach a baby bull patience, would we want to? Wilin Rosario is averaging 3.74 pitches per plate appearance (P/PA), which is an improvement from last season, but is below the team average of 3.86 and only free swingers Josh Rutledge and Troy Tulowitzki have a worse P/PA. The question then becomes, does it matter?

Patience is a virtue...except for when it is not.

For those who have not read my previous articles, you should know that I believe in taking pitches and working pitch counts. It tires the pitcher, gets to the team's bullpen, provides the batter intel on the pitcher, and makes the other team's players have to stand in the field longer. I would much rather see a player work a seven pitch out instead of swing hard at the first three pitches they see. For this reason, Wilin Rosario really bothered me this week with his at bats. In nine of his last eighteen at bats he has only seen 1 or 2 pitches. Then, when he worked a count to 2-2 on Friday night before hitting a home run, I decided to prove he does better when he is more patient at the plate.

The problem is, the statistics do not agree with me. In his young career, Wilin is at least as good, if not better, hitting the ball early in the count. Enough so that the numbers show that, much like Tulo, he is better off swinging at every pitch that comes over the plate. In the 18 at bats this week, this is how he fared by number of pitches:

# of Pitches On Base % Slugging % OPS
1-2 .333 .444 .777
3-4 .250 .500 .750
5 or more .400 1.000 1.400

The home run on Friday night makes the bottom numbers look really good, but his numbers when seeing 3-4 pitches shows that he may be better off putting a ball in play early rather than trying to see more pitches. One week is a small sample size, so here is how he has done so far in the 2013 season:

# of Pitches On Base % Slugging % OPS PA
1-2 .391 .696 1.087 23
3-4 .238 .286 .524 21
5 or more .346 .667 1.013 24

Now, with his free swinging ways, it is understandable that he is bad in the 3-4 pitch range as this is where he can be 1-2 or 0-2 (12 times) and strike out. However, it is also where he can have the good hitter's counts of 2-1, 3-0, and 2-0 (8 times). It also makes sense that his OBP gets better in the 5 or more pitches because he has a chance of walking. Incredibly, Rosario is better when he gets into a pitcher's count, with a batting average of .309 when he gets behind (0-1,0-2,1-2) and .255 when getting ahead in the count (1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 2-1, 3-1). Finally, to get an even better sample size, we can look at his entire major league career:

# of Pitches On Base % Slugging % OPS PA
1-2 .389 .801 1.190 157
3-4 .262 .445 .707 256
5 or more .293 .330 .623 133

As shown above, putting the ball in play has been Wilin's strength so far in his career. This may be something that hitting coach Dante Bichette has keyed on, as he has become more aggressive of late. However, as Jay Tymkovich wrote earlier this week, pitchers are not going to offer him many more fastballs, so he may have to get a little more patient. While I now accept his approach at the plate, I will still cringe every time Wilin and Tulo are set to come up in the same inning as it can turn in to 2 pitches-2 outs. Other Rockies notes from this week:

The Good-young depth

Averaging over 7 runs a game in their last 10, the Colorado Springs lineup appears to be a huge strength for the Rockies as the season wears on and call ups will be needed for injury or performance. It sure seems that a lot of the Sky Sox regulars could start for offensively challenged teams like the Twins or Marlins. The Rockies have already called up Ryan Wheeler to provide a left handed infielder when they placed Todd Helton on the disabled list. Almost every conceivable need could be met with a player only an hou'rs drive away.

Want a left handed hitting catcher if our veteran backup gets hurt? Lars Davis is hitting .327/.389/.449.

Want a veteran left handed bat for the bench and to back up the entire outfield? Tyler Colvin has 4 home runs and a .967 slugging percentage.

What if Rutledge continues to struggle and needs time in the minors to get himself right? DJ LeMahieu is waiting in the wings with a stat line of .368/.387/.485.

How about a young dynamo to keep the blood fresh? The Sox offer two in Nolan Arenado, .364/.392/.667, and Corey Dickerson, .359/.391/.594. Of course, as I write this these two are cooling off, with Corey playing his first game without a hit and Nolan having gone 3 for 17 in his last four games, but you get my point.

The Bad-Pinch Hitting

The problem with Colorado having a lot of young depth is that they don't have the veteran bench player that can be relied on for a pinch hit. Colorado is tied for last in NL in pinch hit batting average with .167 and it is largely due to using young hitters in these often high leverage situations. Rockies batters 28 and older have pinch hit 10 times, going .400 with 3 RBIs and 3 strikeouts. Their pinch hitters under the age of 28, on the other hand, have come up 26 times, hitting .077 with 1 RBI and 11 strikeouts. Yorvit has been Walt Weiss's current solution to this issue and he has gone 2 for 2.

The Ugly-Wilton Lopez

Another week, another blown lead by Wilton Lopez, or at least it seems that way. In truth, he only loses a lead every other week for the Rockies. I know it is early in the season and he has some proven history, but Lopez is quickly wearing out his welcome with Rockies fans. With Chris Volstad now gone, Lopez is accountable for more than 30% of the runs given up by the remainder of the bullpen.

With Rob Scahill providing a solid three innings in his short stint this past week and newcomer Bobby Cassevah pitching lights out in Colorado Springs, Lopez needs to have more outings like he did Thursday night (1IP, 1H, 0ER, 1SO) to keep his late inning role. Even when Lopez has done his job, he has made it difficult to watch. In eleven appearances this year, all one inning or less, he has given up hits in nine of them, allowing multiple base runners in six of them.