Ian Desmond has had a rough time in his first year with the Colorado Rockies. Hitting a baseball is hard and it must be even more complicated for a guy, generally known for his health, to be out of action with three separate disabled list stints complicated by learning a new position in first base. If rhythm and routine are a huge part of a player’s success, Desmond has been unfortunate to get off to such a poor start in his new digs. According to Manny Randhawa from MLB.com, Desmond is not just hitting the ball on the ground a lot but he’s not hitting it is hard as he used to either. He’s keeping an optimistic outlook and there’s a chance to rebound to competency with a Gerardo Parra type of rebound, who it should be noted, looked even worse last year than Desmond does this year. Carlos Gonzalez was able to find his own groove over the last month, so there’s hope to be had for Desmond. Still, perhaps Desmond should focus on launching a few more balls in the air so he can use his speed to take advantage of that large Coors Field outfield. Meanwhile the Rockies keep solidifying their playoff chances which makes it slightly easier to handle Desmond’s lack of effectiveness while still appreciating his demeanor about the situation.
It’s this late in the season yet we’re still talking about adjustments, whether it’s Carlos Gonzalez’s return to form or Ian Desmond’s lack of one. Count Tyler Chatwood among the mix. Superficially, his numbers seem better since returning to a starting role after his bullpen stint. As Groke notes, he’s allowed one run in three starts over 13.2 innings, which includes a “bullpen” game where he was limited to just three innings. Chatwood credits that success to rediscovering a two-seam fastball. However, looking closer at the numbers during that timeframe, he’s allowed 19 baserunners, “good” for a 1.40 WHIP accumulated against the poor offenses of the San Diego Padres, the San Francisco Giants and the slumping Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s walked six batters over those innings, giving him a 4.0 walk rate over 9 innings which is better than his seasonal 5.3 walk rate, but it’s still very high. In Chatwood’s last start, just 52 of his 94 pitches were strikes which manager Bud Black noted “For Tyler, long term, that’s probably one thing for him that he should really concentrate on as his career continues.” Usually, given some time, the overall ERA and then the wins and losses catch up to the peripherals. Chatwood’s still allowing a lot of baserunners and eventually those baserunners will start scoring.
To mitigate that, Chatwood believes he has a new weapon to handle such situations. Yet for all the talk of a new found pitch, Chatwood’s sparkly ERA might not just look superficially better because of a small sample size against weak opponents. For the season, Chatwood has an ERA of 6.27 in the fifth inning and a 8.59 ERA in the sixth inning. and allows an OPS of .956 the third time through the order. Black’s just not giving Chatwood a chance for his wheels to fall off. We’d better hope not because, with Chad Bettis and Kyle Freeland struggling, there’s a very real chance that the National League leader in walks allowed ends up starting a playoff game. If so, Black should keep a short leash on the “proven(ly wild) vet”.
I can admit to being wrong when warranted. Back in April, I suggested there might not be that much of a difference between Pat Valaika, Alexi Amarista and Cristhian Adames in terms of overall offensive production. Of course, the day after I wrote that Rockpile, Valaika he hit a double. I doubled down on Valaika in May and that day, he hit two home runs. So, let’s call this a triple down reverse jinx hoping he blasts another one out of the park in today’s game against the Padres. Yesterday he hit a grand slam, which was his fifth hit over thirty three plate appearances since August 15th, slashing stats of .156/.176/.344 with two home runs and 7 RBI, four of them coming last night. He’s struck out 13 times in those 32 at bats as well. In other words, he really hasn’t been that good in the last month though his overall seasonal OPS looks mathematically pretty with a .800 OPS.
It’s not that I don’t like Valaika. There is a lot of value in a roving infielder/corner outfielder who has pop in his at bat, is young enough to improve and is making the league minimum. He leads the league in pinch hit home runs, pinch hit RBIs in a part time role that is hard for even seasoned veterans to perform in. Whatever the Rockies saw on him, his power has definitely played up beyond what I expected. So, I think he should not only make the playoff roster, but should be a leading bench contender for next year. But right now he screams of a player who the league is catching up to and doesn’t have a good enough walk or contact rate to compensate for it. I don’t think I’m wrong on him just yet, in the sense that I think he’s a useful bench player who may be overexposed if he got more regular playing time due to injury. But maybe after this vibe goes out to the void, he’ll hit for the cycle or something. Meanwhile, make sure to read Macaluso’s article as Valaika and the other Rockies rookies talk about the difficult adjustments they’ve had to make to becoming bench players and the energy on the team this September.