It’s not enough to say that the Rockies have gotten off to a slow offensive start. Through April 19th, they’re slashing .221/.270/.385 as a team, which comes together for a 62 wRC+. Now, even if you believe the park adjustments are too harsh on the Rockies because they don’t take the Coors Hangover into account, that’s fine (and I agree). But there’s a gap between a slight measuring error and... this: the next-worst team in baseball in terms of wRC+ are the Brewers, and their team mark is an 81 wRC+. For those scoring at home, that’s a difference of 19 points between the 30th and 29th ranked teams and, for reference, that 19-point-gap is larger than the difference between the Brewers and the 11th-ranked Padres (99 wRC+). Not good!
So what’s the issue? Well, first and foremost, it’s not like this wasn’t an expectation. The Rockies were projected as one of the very worst offenses in baseball before the season started, but even the worst predictions didn’t expect this. The Rockies have seven qualified hitters this season (Hampson, Blackmon, Tapia, Story, Fuentes, Cron, and McMahon) and only RyMac has been above average by wRC+ (128). The next highest figure is Tapia’s 71. What in the world is happening?
Well, the Rockies are not hitting the ball hard whatsoever, to begin with. They rank third-to-last in average exit velocity and second-to-last in Hard Hit % (balls hit 95+ MPH) and I’m pretty sure if there was a stat named “Harmless Flyout %” they would be leading baseball in that one. But to me, the one piece of data that truly stands out is the Rockies’ aggression at the plate. Let’s first take a look at pitches/PA, which is a decent surface-level way of looking at a team’s overall plate patience:
I highlighted the Giants — who are leading the Majors at 4.16 pitches per plate appearance — and Cleveland — who represents the current MLB average of 3.93. As you can see, the Rockies right now only have the Reds (3.72) within the same neighborhood but the Reds also have the third-best offense in baseball by wRC+ (116). The Reds are being aggressive and punishing baseballs; the Rockies are being aggressive and not threatening them at all. The Rockies currently rank first in the majors in Swing % (50.6%), Chase % (30.9%) and First Pitch Strike Against % (65%). You couple that with the fourth-worst Swinging Strike % in baseball (13%) and you get a team that’s getting behind in the count, swinging a whole lot while doing it, and hitting a bunch of air in the process. Only the Reds and Royals are swinging more often at the first or second pitch of a plate appearance.
This also seems to be an active change. The Rockies talked before the season about being aggressive with hunting fastballs and they’ve done it alright. They’re currently sporting the lowest walk rate in the bigs (6.2%) and I’m just not sure how it gets much better from here. Story will turn it around (he’s hitting the ball very well) and Blackmon probably will too, but besides them and McMahon, who else has the bat control plus power combination to make this overly aggressive style they’ve clearly embraced work? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
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That series was something else. A K-fest in Game 1 of the doubleheader, a Germán Márquez gem, a great Senza start spoiled by poor hitting, and a caught stealing to seal a loss. I didn’t mind that send, by the way. Story is a legitimate base stealer and putting the go-ahead run in scoring position is good. It’s not like they sent Cron to steal second or something...
You knew it was coming. The Athletic ranks the Rox as the very worst team in baseball and it’s the first time in years, according to them, someone not named Orioles or Pirates has grabbed that spot. I don’t think this team is as bad as their current record (they’ve lost a ton of close games), but yeah... not great.
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