DENVER — There is an old adage in baseball that hitting is contagious, and according to Rockies manager Bud Black, not hitting can be contagious as well.
“When you don’t hit I think guys have a tendency to try a little hard,” Black said. “Guys can press a little bit because of what is happening at the plate with the group.”
Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Reds wrapped up a four-game set in which the Rockies scored just 14 runs against Cincinnati, whose 5.17 team ERA is the worst in baseball. The “not hitting” bug definitely seems to be spreading around the clubhouse.
“It seems like when you’re going through a tough time, it’s contagious,” Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, for his part, has been struggling all season, hitting .217/.297/.337 with six home runs in 258 at bats.
“I know what it feels like to be the best player in the game and the worst player in the game,” Gonzalez said. “Right now, I feel like I’m the worst player in the game.”
However, it is not just Gonzalez that is struggling for the Rockies. The team is just 3-12 in its last 15 games and has scored only 48 runs in that span. Rockies hitters are batting .226/.281/.308 in that stretch, with just 25 extra-base hits.
Those numbers are mere symptoms of the real problems of late for the Rockies offense. In the last 15 games, the Rockies are second in baseball with a soft contact rate of 23.4 percent. They are also second-to-last with a hard hit rate of 27.2 percent.
Not only are the Rockies failing to hit the ball hard, they are also failing to hit it in the air, despite the fact that nine of their last 15 games have been either at home at Coors Field or in Arizona at Chase Field. In that stretch the Rockies are 28th in the league with a fly ball rate of 28.3 percent and lead the league with a whopping 52.2 percent ground ball rate.
Given those numbers, it is not just the results that have been bad for the Rockies of late, but the process as well.
Black mentioned that players can press when a team is struggling, and that certainly seems to be the case with the Rockies, who are slugging just .288 with a wRC+ of 33 with runners in scoring position in the last 15 games. Also, multiple players suggested that one big game, or even a big inning, is all it will take to break the Rockies out of their funk.
“One swing can change it,” Rockies catcher Tony Wolters said. “We’re gonna come out tomorrow with a positive attitude.”
If one swing can indeed change things for the Rockies, it would behoove them to make it one that produces a hard-hit fly ball or line drive, not the softly-hit grounders that have been their forte of late.