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Sunday Rockpile: Rockies need to stop running, bunting

Bunting, stealing and running for extra bases might work for some teams, but for a squad that hammers the ball the way the 2013 Rockies do, is being aggressive really worth the risk?

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Jason O. Watson

The Colorado Rockies need to stop being aggressive. I know that sounds and feels weird. I'm not talking about at the plate where their aggressiveness, as the numbers show, generally pays off. However, in every other aspect of the offense, the Rockies would do well to slow down, stop running, stop bunting and trust in their obvious ability to hit.

The Rockies lead the National League in at-bats per game. This is incredibly important, especially for a lineup that has five guys with an OPS+ of more than 100. The more chances you get, with these kinds of hitters, you are greatly increasing the likelihood of stringing some hits together or getting some of the over-the-wall variety. The more outs you create on the base paths, the fewer chances you are giving what is possibly the best offense in baseball to do what they do best; not run, but hit.

In yesterday's game, the Rockies ran into a double play on a hit and run and the day before, Todd Helton was gunned down at second trying to stretch a single into a double. Both of these individual scenarios are explainable and neither is really a baseball tragedy but they stand in a long line of outs the Rockies have made on the base paths this year, including a number of troubling decisions from third base coach Stu Cole (and a fair few from Eric Young Jr.). Why would a team that's first in OPS in the NL be doing such things?

Manager Walt Weiss said specifically at the beginning of the season that he wanted to turn his guys loose on the bases. It makes a certain kind of sense, considering some of the athletic abilities of his players, but every time they take a risk and don't succeed, they are taking the bats out of the hands of some of the best hitters in baseball. The Rockies have hit 62 home runs this season and have 15 sacrifice bunts, none of which guaranteed runs but each of which guaranteed an out.

Bryan Kilpatrick wrote a specific breakdown for such a situation in yesterday's game wrap.

If it was up to me, the Rockies' offense would operate on a 90-percent conservative, 10-percent aggressive mindset. Let the circumstances demand the occasional bunt or the occasional steal of second, but let the modus operandi be to trust your teammates. I am not always sold on the sabermetric arguments that teams should never bunt or steal, but this team should realize that the fewer outs they give up on the bases, either on purpose as a sacrifice or by being too aggressive, the more chances they have to swing the bats -- to which the results so far have been much more positive.

Aaron Sorkin Quote-of-the-day!

"When your enemy is makin' mistakes, don't interrupt 'em" -Billy Beane (Moneyball)

If we link it, you will go

Bruce Bochy gives his take on the atrociousness that was Alfonso Marquez' umpiring yesterday. It's been a long month for MLB umpires. I wrote a scathing report on the state of umpiring here on Purple Row on May 8 and that very night would turn out to be the now-infamous Angel Hernandez home run replay fiasco in Cleveland -- and birthed RIRF's now-famous Mariano Rivera GIF in Denver. And now ...

USA Today reports that umpire Jeff Nelson is apologizing for his botched call in last night's game in Seattle. These incidents are becoming more and more apparent in the age of Twitter when very little can go unnoticed. Still, this stand as a good example of how more technology can help not only the teams, players and coaches, but also the umpires themselves.

This piece by Matt Hunter at Hardball Times hits right on a conversation I've been having with myself lately (yes I have conversations with myself) -- namely, the difficulty in truly measuring defensive performance through statistics. The irony, and I've pointed this out here at the Row, is that many of the stats used to measure defense have a fundamental flaw often used to completely dismiss stats like RBI; they are situational and opportunistic and don't always tell the whole story. Fascinating read.