If you were to guess which Rockies’ fielding position had the lowest batting average in 2020, which position comes to mind?
Maybe second base? Nope.
Designated hitter. The position that is all about and only about hitting, that is the position where 10 different Rockies combined to post a .212 batting average, well below the team’s .257 average, but also below second base at .228 and catcher at .230. There was more run production and power from the position, but in their first chance to use the DH, the Rockies could not capitalize. Overall, the Colorado’s DHs hit .212/.283/.354, producing 34 runs (fifth on team), 48 hits (eighth, behind only catcher), nine homers (second behind shortstop), 28 RBI (fifth), 20 walks (third), and 69 strikeouts (less than only 74 by second basemen).
It’s not surprising to see that a DH spot doesn’t have the highest average because the position lends itself to hitters with more power. At the same time, the DH should deliver a boost to the lineup and it definitely wasn’t as much of a boost as the Rockies needed in 2020. The DHs did out-hit pinch hitters, who mustered a measly .186/.314/.302, and the 2019 Rockies pitchers, who combined to hit .140/.180/.174, but that’s a low bar to clear.
I was excited about the DH. I would take more offense over pitchers hitting (I did miss Germán Márquez) and managers strategizing any day. I honestly thought the new 2020 rule would help the Rockies, as did others like the Rox Pile before the season started. The Fan 104.3 was arguing that the new rule was benefiting the Rockies even in mid-August. With a promising lineup with more bats than positions, there was hope that it could give more at-bats to aging newcomer Matt Kemp and less-than-skilled fielder Daniel Murphy, while also allowing for Charlie Blackmon to take some breaks from right field and build up experience for guys like Raimel Tapia and maybe Sam Hilliard.
By the end of September, with the strange 2020 season in the books, the results of the DH were clear and the Rockies did not take advantage. When it comes to team position performance by wins above average, the Rockies ranked No. 11 in the NL and No. 21 overall in the MLB at -0.6 at DH, according to Baseball Reference.
Here’s how the Rockies designated hitters performed in 2020:
Rockies Designated Hitters in 2020
It’s hard to get an idea if the DH helped any NL teams, including the Rockies, because of the short season and challenging circumstances of the 2020 season. However, it’s good to compare anyway. Overall, the Rockies hit much better in 2019 than 2020, despite having the DH in 2020 and this could be due to several things like Nolan Arenado’s injury and struggles in 2020, the home-run flying ball of 2019, and the small sample size of the 2020 season. One year ago, the Rockies were better in almost every offensive category including slashline (.265/.326/.456 vs. 257/.311/.405), runs per game (5.2 vs. 4.6 in 2020), hits per game (9.3 vs. 8.8), homers per game (1.38 vs. 1.05), doubles per game (1.99 vs. 1.40), RBI per game (4.9 vs. 4.4), and total bases per game (15.9 vs. 13.8).
The Rockies aren’t the only ones though. In the first year of the NL having the DH, one might think that the offensive statistics would improve in the league average, but that wasn’t the case either. It turns out that the NL hit better in 2019 than 2020 in slashline (.251/.323/.431 vs. 246/.325/.421), runs per game (4.78 vs. 4.7), hits per game (8.59 vs. 8.05), homers per game (1.36 vs. 1.28), RBI per game (4.59 vs. 4.5), and total bases per game (14.72 vs. 13.75).
On the other hand, the Rockies have an ace up the sleeve to back the DH: Coors Field. In an article by Isaac Levy-Rubinett of The Ringer about which NL teams would benefit most from the DH from July 16, Levy-Rubinett wrote, “Coors Field is a DH haven!” That’s what most analysis would suggest, especially with a guy like Kemp who had cleaned up in his career at Coors Field (.308/.370/.578 with 25 homers, 24 doubles, and 90 RBI in 451 plate appearances). Instead, Kemp hit .214/.276/.400 with four homers, one double, and 13 RBI in 76 plate appearances.
Perhaps it’s more telling to look at the categories that Levy-Rubinett used to organize teams: “The Rich Get Richer,” with teams like the Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds, and Nationals, “Improve the Defense, a.k.a. Problem-Solving,” like the Brewers, Braves, and Cubs, and “Too Little, Too Late.” Guess which one the Rockies were in?
Even if the Rockies DHs would have hit better, it would have been too little, too late. However, if the DH is here to stay in the NL, and there is no official word yet, the Rockies will need to find the right person or people to turn it into an advantage.
Should the NL bring back the DH in 2021?
This poll is closed
Yes. More offense, please.
No. Tradition matters.
Doesn’t matter if the Rockies can’t use it more effectively.
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After being out of the league for six years due to the yips, and then returning to become the best pitcher in the Rockies bullpen, Sporting News named Daniel Bard as the NL Comeback Player of the Year after “receiving 37 of the 85 votes cast, which was well more than twice as many as anyone else.”
Bard ended the season with 3.65 ERA, 27 strikeouts, six saves, and a 4-2 record in 24 2/3 innings.
After a hiatus of 2,646 days, Daniel Bard returned to the Majors and shined.— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) October 15, 2020
Give it up for the Sporting News Comeback Player of the Year! pic.twitter.com/45dK8zSQgi
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