The Colorado Rockies have scored 14 runs so far in five home games. That measly showing has come against the Atlanta Braves and the San Diego Padres. On the one hand, both of those teams have decent pitchers. On the other hand, this is supposed to be a soft portion of the schedule for a team with playoff aspirations.
There have been lots of strikeouts, a lack of opportunities to rally, and a tendency to squander those opportunities when they arise. It feels similar to last year in that the offense is quite top heavy with Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon, and DJ LeMahieu carrying an otherwise inconsistent lineup. If one of those three is struggling or is hurt, as Blackmon has been for a few games in 2018, the offense feels even more punchless.
History tells us the Rockies will hit, they say. This team is going to score runs, they remind you. Those things might be true (they also might not, but that’s another conversation for another day). But for now, let’s remember that a sustained cold stretch by the 2017 offense nearly cost the Rockies their playoff spot. The way things are going, we might be staring at that kind of stretch right now.
We know the Rockies have talent and they have options to jolt their offense. Let’s think about some ideas of how they can shake things up to score more runs and avoid an early-season lull.
Call up Raimel Tapia
This offense needs some swagger. It also needs some help in the middle of the lineup. So while we might assume Tapia would bat leadoff, I’m thinking the Rockies could use him in the fifth or sixth spot. For what it’s worth, he is driving the ball so far in Triple-A action with three early home runs.
It gets a little tricky to find a spot for Tapia because, in case you somehow didn’t know this by now, the Rockies have a lot of outfielders. They also have starts going to Pat Valaika and Mike Tauchman. The most obvious move would be to send Tauchman down and call Tapia up, or if you tried to add another bat (more on this shortly) it might take carrying a fifth bench player and leaning on the versatility of bullpen guys like Chris Rusin and Antonio Senzatela. It doesn’t have to be complicated, though, and Tapia should be up with the Rockies.
Why not David Dahl, you ask? He was just placed on the seven-day disabled list. If the Rockies haven’t made a move in a week, you can swap him in for Tapia if that’s your thing. And if we reach that point, let’s just hope the Rockies aren’t coming off a series in Washington in which they literally scored zero runs.
Call up Tom Murphy
The Rockies have a lot to like about Tony Wolters, and they might not want to upset their battery situations with a young starting rotation that’s trying to get on track. Then again, Wolters has just two hits so far in 12 at-bats, and Murphy is doing his thing again where he smashes minor league pitching (just a .571 average (!) with a couple home runs through five games).
It’s early, so those stats are not that useful. But it’s also no secret that Murphy is a better hitter than Wolters. Chris Iannetta is playing well and taking most of the time behind the dish, so this would be a marginal change. It doesn’t mean the Rockies shouldn’t consider it.
Let Ryan McMahon play against lefties
Word is that McMahon will get some starts once the Rockies face more right-handed pitching. The suggestion would be that he will struggle against left-handed pitching, even as the team trots Carlos González and Gerardo Parra out in those situations.
I think about that late win in San Diego over the weekend. Facing wicked left-handed closer Brad Hand, CarGo struck out and looked helpless doing so, waving at sliders out of the zone. McMahon, also in that tough left-on-left spot, stayed off those pitches and drew a bases loaded walk. The Rockies should at least give him the chance with regular at-bats to see if he can find more of a rhythm in those left-on-left spots.
Bat DJ LeMahieu leadoff
And do it even when Charlie Blackmon is in the lineup. Double plays are never good but they are especially bad when your team is starved for offense. It’s a small thing and ultimately lineup debates are probably overblown, but this swap could still help. It would also free the Rockies up to do other creative things with Blackmon in other spots in the lineup.
Stop starting Pat Valaika
National League benches call for versatile players. If you have a guy who is also good as a pinch hitter, fleeting as those successes can be in such a tough role, it’s all the better. Valaika shined in those spots last year. The Rockies should use him in that role and stop with this silly non-platoon where he’s starting at first base, because it’s just not working.
Check in on those free agents
Mark Reynolds seems like a good guy. Not the vindictive type. Certainly not the type to laugh at his former team after they decided not to sign him to instead proceed with a left-handed heavy roster that arguably doesn’t have an actual first baseman. If he was that kind of guy, though, he probably had a lot of fun last night.
Anyhow, Reynolds is a free agent. Old friend Matt Holliday is a free agent, doing radio while he waits to see if a team wants him. Joey Bautista fended off rumors of his retirement this winter and is still available. The team seems to want right-handed bats for those games against lefties. There are more options than Pat Valaika out there.
None of those guys would fix the Rockies, and maybe it doesn’t make sense to add them. But aren’t we already at the point where the team should at least keep all their options open to breath life into an offense that was a problem last year and looks like it might be a problem again this year?
After today’s finale against the Padres, the Rockies go on a seven-game trip where they face the Nationals for four games and the hot-start Pittsburgh Pirates for three games. Going into that trip with a struggling offense could spell big trouble. Even if we know better than to panic in April, the Rockies shouldn’t wait too long to shake up their offense or it might be time to panic sooner than later.