Back in 2013, I created a metric called "Drag Factor" designed to measure how much the lousy bats in the Rockies lineup were holding the team back. Many of the regular readers here are already familiar with it, but since we haven't brought it out in a while, here's quick explanation of how it works and why it's useful:
The exact equation to calculate Drag Factor is as follows ...
Drag Factor = ((100 - wRC+) * Plate Appearances) / Team Total Non-Pitcher Plate appearances
1) An individual's Drag Factor can be calculated with the equation above.
2) A team's Drag Factor (which is more useful) can be calculated by adding the Drag Factors of everyone on the team together. The higher the Drag Factor goes, the more it cripples the offense.
(If you are not familiar with wRC+, here's a link that explains the metric.)
In a nutshell, we are looking for everyday players (not pitchers) who have a very low wRC+ and a very high number of plate appearances. The more extreme the combination of each of these two factors are, the higher a player's Drag Factor score is going to be.
When a roster of these scores is added up, it gives you a number that does an excellent job of quantifying how much "bad" is in a team's offense. (The average Drag Factor across MLB tends to end just under 12.00 most years.)
Let's dive right in. Here's two tables with Drag Factor scores. The first is the individual scores making up the 2015 Rockies, and the second is the total Drag Factor scores for the last 12 Rockies teams so you can get a sense of where the 2015 squad ranks in recent history.
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While a total team Drag Factor of 13.99 isn't good, it's also not an abomination either. As you can see on the second table, it ranks mid pack in terms of what we've seen from the Rockies over the last dozen years. (Random side note. The low Drag Factor scores in 2012 and 2014 are arguably the biggest reason those teams didn't lose 100 games with the pitching they had. Take any year off the top half of that table and couple it with the 2012 or 2014 pitching and you easily have a 100 loss team.)
The biggest problem with the Rockies Drag Factor in 2015 is that it's spread out among so many players. Eight if the 21 position players to get an at bat for the team this year posted a Drag Factor of 1.14 or higher. In other words, there's no easy fix to this problem. The ship is taking on water from all different places and there's simply not enough depth to counteract the problem.
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One thing the Rockies have done a much better job of recently is not allowing the Drag Factor of any one individual player to get outrageously high. This was the case in 2015 as Daniel Descalso's team worst 2.07 Drag Factor was very manageable. Here's where some of this year's scores rank in terms of worst Rockies Drag Factor scores over the last five years.
At first, 2015 doesn't look that bad from this perspective. Only one score in the top / bottom nine and only two in the top / bottom 14. However, if you were to extend this down to 20 or 30 scores, you would see more 2015 mentions than any other year listed here.
The Rockies have shown they're willing to attack poor Drag Factor scores from players by knocking them off the 25 man roster - We've seen it several times over the last couple of years - but they just don't have enough weapons to fight this war right now. They're willing to shuffle the deck if guys don't perform, but the deck they're playing with doesn't have 52 cards in it.
Look how many different places the Drag Factor scores of 1.14 or higher are coming from on this team.You have middle infielders, you have a catcher, you have a former catcher trying to play first base, and you have part and full time outfielders. The only place you don't have Drag Factor accumulating on this team is third base, and that's because Nolan Arenado played 157 games there.
And on that note, there's a good chance that the team Drag Factor is going to get worse next season. Just take the left side of the infield for instance. With Troy Tulowitzki gone, you're now going to get a full season worth of shortstops running up a Drag Factor score for the first time in a decade, and anything short of Arenado playing every single day will also shoot up the Drag Factor score from that position. The only position on this team where I could see the Drag Factor score getting significantly better in 2016 is first base, and that's only if the club tries to put Corey Dickerson there full time since his bat will play at that spot and his outfield defense is rough.
These scores tell us something we probably already knew: The holes in the Rockies offense are not easily fixable. It's just another reason why the front office needs to sell off some of the solid members of the lineup they do have this winter so they can cash in on future value. If all goes according to plan, the Rockies will have enough positional depth to combat Drag Factor from piling up across the roster in just a few short years.
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Since we're talking about how the Drag Factor for the Rockies is spread out among so many players, I wanted to show an example of a team with a similar overall Drag Factor score where the problem is much easier to attack. Take a look at what the Royals faced this season:
Here, 59 percent of the total team Drag Factor score was from just two players. So even though the total of 13.28 is similar to what the Rockies faced, the Royals were able to wipe more than half their Drag Factor out during their playoff run. Some of that was through action, and some of it was through luck.
The action: The Royals traded for Ben Zobrist at the trade deadline and he posted a wRC+ well over 100. This completely absorbed the team's biggest Drag Factor problem in Omar Infante.
The Luck: Alcides Escobar batted .330 with an .861 OPS during the post season. In other words, Kansas City's second biggest Drag Factor problem had a hot streak at the perfect time and wouldn't have even shown up on a Drag Factor table if we ran one for the playoffs.
Make no mistake, even though Ned Yost batted Escobar leadoff the entire post season, this is a TERRIBLE hitter. We're talking about a guy who posted a .293 OBP during the regular season and didn't walk once in 77 post season plate appearances. He just had the BABIP fairy pick a really, really convenient time to smile on him.
Take those top two names off the Drag Factor chart (and you can if you're looking at what Kansas City did in October), and suddenly the Royals have a team Drag Factor of just 5.51, which would be exceptional. This is why their lineup felt bottomless while they were making the run to the World Series. Despite what their regular season total says, the post season Royals are what a team with a low Drag Factor looks like in real life.
The Rockies unfortunately have the exact opposite situation as the Royals. Their Drag Factor is coming from all over the Roster. There's no Ben Zobrist signing the Rockies can make that will suck up 30 percent of the team's Drag Factor, and hot streaks from a few of their bad players won't save them either, especially not over 162 games.
Instead, the Rockies' best move here is likely to draw back, accept the fate of a truly terrible Drag Factor score in 2016, and get as much as they can trading away lineup assets like Carlos Gonzalez, DJ LeMahieu (because of his glove), and Charlie Blackmon. It's their best chance to have the depth necessary to combat this problem during the team's next contention window.