This is not great.
In the midst of a 2-9 skid that has seen the Rockies drop from first in the NL West to a tie for third place with a 13-12 record, the Rockies made roster moves, but still got swept by the Astros. The bullpen can’t hold leads. The starters not named Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela are getting shelled, or when they aren’t, the offense can’t score runs. Only two Rockie hitters are hitting above .300 in Raimel Tapia (.311) and Charlie Blackmon (.426). One of the hardest parts is the ongoing slump of Nolan Arenado. Despite a solo homer and double on Thursday, Arenado is hitting .234/.279/.768 with seven homers and 15 RBI. It might be time for one of those sayings like, “As goes Nolan, so go the Rockies.”
Unsurprisingly, Arenado is not giving up: “I have a hard time going home and not trying to figure it out. I want to figure it out. I’m gonna do everything I can to make it better.”
Nick Groke points out that the Rockies have been streaky lately. After starting 11-3 in 2020, the Rockies have now gone 2-9. In 2019, the Rockies started off the opposite way, going 3-12, but righting the ship with a 10-2 run in May before free falling again with a 3-16 skid.
Groke notes one similarity between the two seasons, the Rockies low ranking in wRC+ (weighted runs created) and wOBA (weighted on-base average). These stats both give greater importance “the value of each outcome” in seeing how many runs players are worth. This year, the Rockies are 26th in wRC+ and 15th in wOBA, meaning they aren’t getting the base runners they need or the big hits to bring them home.
Thanks to an expanded 16-team playoff field, the Rockies are still in postseason contention, but just by one game just before they are headed to play the Dodgers who are riding an 8-1 winning stretch. Next week will see the halfway mark of the 2020 season. The Rockies have to figure out a way to get back on track before it’s too late, which in a 60-game season is approaching quickly.
Looking for any positives we can focus on right now, we can direct our attention to Ryan McMahon.
McMahon woke up Thursday with a .208 batting average and three home runs. As of Thursday afternoon, his average bumped up to .225 with five homers. Still not great, but headed in a better direction.
As Kevin Henry notes, a big part of McMahon’s improvement is seeing the ball better and being more disciplined at the plate. In 15 of the first 16 games he played in this season, McMahon had at least one strikeout for a total of 28. McMahon has struck out three times in a game six different times this season for a total of 33 strikeouts. However, in the last seven games, McMahon had four games when he didn’t strikeout at all. He totaled only five strikeouts during that stretch. If he can keep the trend of reducing the strikeouts, he could really aid a team that is struggling to get runners on base, but even more to bring those runners home.
With a pair of two-run homers on Thursday, McMahon also drew two walks, finishing 2-for-3 with four RBIs for a total of 16 RBI and 13 runs scored on the season. In the last seven games, he’s driven in eight of those runs.
This article also talks about Germán Márquez’s struggles and the current nosedive of the team, but we read about that enough every day in recaps.
On Wednesday, the Rockies brought up their top prospect Brendan Rodgers. He entered the game in the eighth inning to play second base. He hit a grounder to second, but it allowed Drew Butera to advance to third base and later score on a Tony Wolter’s single. In the ninth inning, Rodgers hit a two-run infield single. The Rockies still lost, but he helped make things happen.
Rodgers said he’s been working really hard at the alternate training sight, where he’d been practicing and staying ready before being called up. Bud Black said Rodgers is stronger and his “stamina has improved,” so he expects to see some power from Rodgers’ bat.
Rodgers says he feels good at the plate: “I’m very confident in myself and the guys are confident in me, so I think I’m going to do a lot of good things.”
That didn’t happen on Thursday unfortunately, as Rodgers went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and three groundouts, including with two runners on with two outs in the bottom of the eighth when the Rockies were down by two runs.
Again, just trying to focus on some positive news, this is a very nice feature on Rockie great Dante Bichette getting back into coaching, but this time with the Blue Jays instead of the Rockies. It starts with quotes from Michael Cuddyer, who won the 2013 NL batting title when Bichette was one of his hitting coaches with Colorado. He has nothing but praise for Bichette in terms of his coaching abilities and baseball knowhow, especially commending his decision to step aside from the Rockies to spend more time trying to help his sons find success in the majors. Now he gets to coach again, but even better, he gets to coach his youngest son, Bo, on the Blue Jays. Unfortunately his oldest son, Dante Jr., signed a Triple-A deal with the Nationals prior to the 2020 season, but was sidelined with MiLB cancelled its seasons.
This 3,000-plus word feature is a short book on Dante and has way too much to include here, but it does draw on some comparisons from the Rockies Bichette coached in 2013 and the current Toronto squad: both have young rosters with promising players and powerful offenses that also tend to strikeout more often and walk less often.
Bichette is also a student (and fan of) Ted Williams and his book “The Science of Hitting” by Ted Williams.
Bichette believes Williams is the best hitter in MLB history and that the information in the book still holds up to today’s game. Bichette said, “My theories on hitting were a lot like Ted Williams.’ I’m gonna look for a pitch and I’m gonna commit to that pitch, and if I’m not right, then when I get to two strikes I’m gonna have a helluva two-strike approach. If I was smart enough and I was paying attention, I would be right a lot. If I wasn’t paying attention, then I’d feel like I didn’t have the right to guess.”
Bichette focuses on players improving their two-strike approach, which he says most players struggle with as the MLB has a .169 batting average with two strikes. The Rockies are hitting .208 with two strikes, but they do need more clutch hitting and run production, so maybe his advice could still help:
“When you’re looking to do damage, you’re hunting a certain pitch and you’re committed to that pitch. When you’re hitting with two strikes, you have to handle all the pitches in all the parts of the zone. You have to let the ball get a little deeper, so if you are fooled by an off-speed pitch, then you still have some room for the bat to get through the zone and make contact.”
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