August ain’t been fun for Colorado Rockies fans as the team has struggled to score runs. Dinger, that dastardly dinosaur, might serve as a good role model for the Rockies. He shows no mercy as he stiff-arms a kid to score on a 26 yard touchdown. Nope, no bunting (or whatever the football equivalent of that is), nor talk about gaining “productive yards” via a dinky screen pass to a halfback. He just powered on through the ifs, ands and buts to score.
Maybe the Rockies can do something with their Coors Field mascots to help inspire the hitters? Turn the Tooth Trot into a Royal Rumble and the last mascot standing wins a free dental exam and a discount to heal their wounds. Maybe that’ll inspire more smiling Rockies runners to touch home plate.
It’s been four weeks since the Rockies have scored five runs in back-to-back games so almost any off-the-wall idea should be fair game, right? Well, at least the ones that don’t affect clubhouse chemistry such as changing the batting order or benching Carlos Gonzalez. If the team’s best idea for revitalizing their offense is pining for Ryan Howard pinch hitting opportunities, we might as well add more entertainment and get the mascots involved.
Amid the drudgery of the last month, Patrick Saunders remains optimistic about German Marquez and his future. With some choice quotes from Jonathan Lucroy and a scout, Saunders thinks Marquez is well suited to aid the Rockies for years to come. Optimistically, as bad as August has been, Saunders also thinks Marquez should start the Wild Card game.
I think it’s pretty close. While Jon Gray is the easier name to go with and his rotation slot lines up, Marquez has been pretty darn consistent all season. He hasn’t allowed more than five runs in a start since the bludgeoning the Nationals gave him during his first start of the season and has managed to go at least four innings in all his starts. That hasn’t been quite as good as Gray though since his return from the disabled list, and lately, that five run threshold of runs seems a little ominous for the Rockies offense. Nonetheless, I agree with Saunders that you don’t have to squint too hard to see Marquez as a potential ace.
Gray made a first inning mistake pitch, and because the Rockies haven’t scored much lately, that was the game.
A refrain I’ve seen around the internets is that the Rockies have a high batting average with runners in scoring position. That’s true, they’re hitting .294 with a .839 OPS overall. However, the Rockies have a .716 OPS when behind in the game as opposed to a .796 OPS when they are ahead. It seems getting or losing that early lead is affecting how the Rockies hit for the rest of the game and makes it harder for them to claw back. I get it, it’s demoralizing to be losing. But the requirement for a Rockies win should not be two early shutout innings. Other teams figure out a way to come from behind and the Rockies need to as well.
The Rockies also have a .678 OPS in “Late and Close” situations, defined by Baseball-reference.com as “plate appearances in the seventh inning or later with the batting team tied, ahead by one, or the tying run on deck.” First on that list with at least ten appearances is Jonathan Lucroy who has a 1.327 OPS over fifteen plate appearances. He batted eighth in Saturday’s game. Second on the list is Ryan Hanigan (1.155) who we haven’t seen since the Rockies were winning regularly. Third is Pat Valaika (1.106) who has started six games in August and got hits in four of them. The worst on the list is Alexi Amarista (.199), who has been the primary early game pinch hitter. Second and third worst are Ian Desmond (.339) and Gerardo Parra (.361), who batted fifth and sixth respectively in Saturday’s game. Granted lists with small sample sizes are funky and shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but if lineups are decided by things such as handedness or history against a pitcher, a shakeup might be a good place to start.
On the subject of shakeups, over the last 28 days, Parra has a .693 OPS and has struck out 20 times in 21 games started, well above his career rate and much of that coming in the cleanup slot. The much lamented Carlos Gonzalez has actually outhit him over the same timeframe to the tune of a .775 OPS.
Another place to start is to ban the bunt for non position players. The Rockies lead the league with 49 sacrifice bunts, nineteen of those bunts from position players. That’s as many as the Dodgers (4), Diamondbacks (6) and the Brewers (9) have combined. That’s the equivalent of being no-hit for six and a third innings. Worse yet, it doesn’t even count failed bunt attempts, putting Rockies hitters into pitcher’s counts and reducing the chance they do get on base. Outs are bad, especially at a place like Coors Field where a groundball or flyball could lead to so much more than just an out.