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Rock mining week 9: Removing LOBster from Rockies' road diet

Scott Cunningham

In case you haven't heard, the Rockies do better on offense at home than on the road.  Sarcasm aside, the Rockies have scored 162 runs in 837 at bats at home while scoring 117 runs in 1085 bats on the road.  The interesting thing is that they have had a similar number of base runners (albeit in more innings on the road) with 350 at home and 341 on the road.  To put this into a comparison, the Rockies score one of every 2.16 baserunners at home while it takes them 2.92 baserunners to score a run on the road.

At first, I thought this meant that they were not getting enough extra base hits on the road.  However their road extra base hits (60 doubles, 4 triples, 34 home runs) are comparable to their home numbers (57 doubles, 5 triples, 38 home runs).  Now I know that there is a large disparity in at bats between the two locales, but I am just looking at extra base hits based on the number of base runners which is fairly equal.

The bigger issue seems to simply be with baserunners per game.  At home, the Rockies are averaging 15.2 baserunners per game while they have 10.6 per game on the road.  Without a home run, you need at least two baserunners, idealy three, to make sure and score a run in an inning.  On the road, they are averaging just over one an inning while they have the luxury of averaging 1.67 an inning at home.  With this said, I think the Rockies need to look at maximizing the runners they do get on base while on the road.

This could be done by attempting more hit and runs, more stealing, and possibly more sacrifice bunts.  Looking at the numbers so far this year, the team doesn't seem to be adjusting its baserunning effectiveness when it goes on the road, so this could be something to look at.  However, where I choose to look today is at putting the best road hitters together in the front of the lineup to maximize run scoring potential.

As I mentioned in my short article yesterday, the Rockies have some players who are roadblocks to scoring in their road lineup.  Here are the top ten hitters by OPS on the road this year:

Name OPS
Dickerson 1.054
Arenado .821
Tulowitzki .815
Morneau .806
Rutledge .792
Cuddyer .733
Blackmon .678
Gonzalez .614
LeMahieu .608
Rosario .598

From this list, we can see how much it hurt the team to lose their road warrior, Nolan Arenado.  What I also can see from this list is that Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez have no business being in the top half of the road lineup right now, let alone in the top four spots where they have resided for most of this road trip.  Corey Dickerson's numbers may be inflated by SSS and being used almost exclusively against right handers, but he needs to spell Blackmon on the road.  This was the original reason the team kept so many outfielders, and Charlie's hot start seemed to take Walt Weiss off his game plan that he needs to get back to.

As a model of comparison, here is the home top ten:

Name OPS
Tulowitzki 1.559
Blackmon 1.117
Cuddyer 1.117
Stubbs 1.111
Dickerson 1.096
Morneau 1.005
Gonzalez .983
Barnes .981
Arenado .826
LeMahieu .782

This shows that  Charlie Blackmon does deserve his place at the top of the lineup at home.  It also shows that Cargo is in general struggling, but an OPS of .983 at least gives an argument for his place in the home order.  What it also gives is a good idea of who is consistent and should be considered for road duty as well as used as rocks in the order to support their teammates.

Justin Morneau, 6th at home and 4th on the road; Michael Cuddyer, 3rd/6th;  and Tulo, 1st, 3rd; these are the three bats that should be the basis of the lineup right now.  Whether that is 2,3,4 or 3,4,5 is up to the manager.  On the road, Dickerson and Arenado (when he is back) should surround these three.  Only after those batters should the team look to Carlos Gonzalez and Wilin Rosario to fill the order.  DJ LeMahieu should not crack the top half of the order at home or on the road.

Will this make much of a difference?  If it improves the team by one run every other game, it could.  The Rockies have lost nine road games by one run already this year including two in extra innings.  Three to four road more road wins would make this team a little bit more bearable to watch on the road and close to winning half of all road games.

The Good

For a week with only one win, this will have to go to that winning pitcher, Jorge De La Rosa.  Jorge has returned to form after a slight hiccup to start the season.  With only one earned run in his last three starts, he is showing why he got the nod to start the season when Jhoulys Chacin hit the disabled list.

The Bad

Rex Brother and LaTroy Hawkins have both taken losses this week.  For a team struggling to score runs on the road, the bullpen has to do better.  Wednesday's game was particularly disheartening as Hawkins combined with Boone Logan to give up a one run lead by allowing four runs in the ninth.

The Ugly

If relief pitching was a disappointment in that game, the offense was embarrassing.  The team left 15 on base in this game, the worst of all was when Walt Weiss decided to bring in Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki as pinch hitters after the Phillies walked the bases loaded with no outs.  Cargo bounced in back to the mound for a 1-2-3 double play and then Tulo struck out.  I don't mean to be mean to Cargo, but he doesn't have a role as a pinch hitter.  In his career he is only 2 for 26 with 2 walks as a pinch hitter, good for a .077 avg and .220 OPS.  Tulo isn't much better, 2 for 14.  Sometimes the starters should be left to starting.