On July 6, Tony Wolters was hitting .205/.290/.308; his borderline absurd defensive contributions behind the plate were keeping him in the major leagues. Since then he is hitting .439/.511/.707 with two home runs, three doubles and even a triple, which, with his defense, makes him one of the most valuable commodities in baseball over that time span.
The most incredible number from this run is his games played. In the last 37 games the Rockies have played, Wolters has started just 12 of them, less than a third. Walt Weiss has elected to give the majority of starts to Nick Hundley, who is an inferior receiver behind the plate and is now hitting .248/.322/.397 for a wRC+ of 79, compared to Wolters’ 86 wRC+. When you compare their numbers against right handed pitchers it gets even crazier: Wolter’s (a left-handed hitter) is hitting .254/.340/.408 against righties on the year (remember, he was flirting with the Mendoza Line a month ago), while Hundley has hit .224/.313/.354 against righties.
Wolters has long been the superior option behind the plate but due to his deficiencies at the plate, Hundley has been the primary catcher. Wolters may just be on a hot streak but Walt needs to ride the hot streak, at least against right handed pitching, and see if the young backstop can run with the opportunity.
Yesterday wasn’t what Rockies fans were hoping to see out of their de-facto ace, but Jon Gray didn’t seem too worried. In his previous two starts Gray had given up 15 runs (14 earned) on 16 hits with nine strikeouts. So when he got pulled with in favor of Christian Bergman in the fifth inning due to ineffectiveness (four runs on six hits with three strikeouts) and ineffeciency (96 pitches), it’s easy to think that his troubles were merely bound to continue. But after the game Jon Gray was singing a different tune.
“Everything was better today...I have thrown worse than I did today and gotten better results. I just ran into some trouble, and I didn’t get quick outs. The (Nationals batters) were more patient with me, so I probably have to fill up the (strike) zone more early.”
At the major league level we’re primarily interested in results, so when a player struggles often the first reaction is one of frustration. But on days like Wednesday, when the results aren’t great but the player feels good about how he pitched, that could portend success in the near future.
With a day off today the Rockies don’t necessarily have to fill Tyler Chatwood’s vacated rotation spot right away, but the question still lingers. Walt Weiss was playing coy with reporters before yesterday’s game against the Nationals about the plan:
When asked about possibly promoting some talent from Triple-A, Weiss wryly responded, “I think you know who is in the conversation there,” alluding to the highly-touted Jeff Hoffman, but reiterated that no decision has been made at this time.
Hoffman has been performing well of late and certainly deserves a look. But considering the Rockies promoted Ben Paulsen over Jordan Patterson when Mark Reynolds went down, I’m betting they will opt for a player on the 40-man roster (like Eddie Butler, who’s been mostly good over the past several weeks) over a prospect like Hoffman.
Despite the bold headline, Nolan Lees has a pretty measured take on where the Rockies have gone this season. Trevor Story’s injury, which the training staff couldn’t get a full understanding of until the swelling went down, which happened to come after the trade deadline, serves as the turning point. While I agree that it seems the front office gave up on the season after the deadline, and I agree that the moves were mostly defensible, there is an understandable level of disappointment over them throwing in the towel. Sure, this team seemed to be better than expected, and it would have been fun to see them go for it. However, Lees is correct when he says “the Rockies front office’s top priority is competing in 2017.”