If the sport of baseball is America’s pastime, then overreacting to the first week of the season is America’s backup pastime. In that vein, the Rockies have only played six games so far this year, and I’m already a little worried about where Brendan Rodgers will fit in the lineup when he returns from an injury to his right hamstring.
There’s no doubt I’m getting a little ahead of myself here. Bud Black said that Rodgers would be out for at least the first month of the season. A little back of the envelope math, and you might find that this means the Rockies have only played about 25% of the games they expect to before Rodgers is healthy and ready to go. Assuming Rodgers is all healed by the beginning of May, that gives the other infielders plenty of time to cool off, get hurt, or develop some other reason to fall out of the lineup, but so far, they haven’t really done that.
The Rockies may only be 2-4 to start the season, but the infielders’ contributions so far have been solid. They are showing signs of creating another infield logjam that has halted Rodgers’ ascent to the majors before. 2021 was supposed to be the year Rodgers finally got his shot to own a spot in the infield and break out. Once again, his health interrupted that plan, and now, the Rockies may find themselves in the familiar position of having to figure out where Rodgers fits in the puzzle.
As has been the case for years, Trevor Story has the shortstop position firmly locked up. Barring an injury or a trade in the next three weeks which is almost unimaginable, Rodgers will not be playing in his natural spot. The plan all winter was for Ryan McMahon to handle third base duties until Josh Fuentes had a say about it. Despite wanting to move out of Nolan’s shadow, Fuentes literally followed in his cousin’s footsteps. While Fuentes hasn’t torn it up to start the season, his performance in spring training and fielding abilities make it likely he’ll stick around unless his hitting really collapses.
That leaves second and first base for some combination of Ryan McMahon, C.J. Cron, Chris Owings, and eventually Rodgers. The organization is counting on McMahon to take a big step forward this year, so it’s reasonably certain to assume he’ll hold on to one of those spots (hitting three home runs against the Diamondbacks on Tuesday certainly didn’t hurt his case either). He’s also brought his strikeout rate way down, an issue that has been the biggest cause of his struggles in the past.
Then you have Chris Owings who, signed in the immediate aftermath of the Rodgers injury, has gone out and hit .500 with a 1.563 OPS through the team’s first six games. That line includes last night’s game where he went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a triple prior to leaving the game with leg soreness. C.J. Cron is arguably the most expendable of the infield options for the time being, but he has the potential to get hot at the plate and is just three years removed from a 30-home run season with the Rays.
All this is the long way of saying the Rockies could be facing the same struggle they have for years when it comes to Rodgers, who, despite being the most exciting young player on the team, may not have a place to go when he finds himself healthy again later this season. On paper, having too many players who are good enough to play is a nice problem to have, but the Rockies will need to make sure Rodgers gets consistent playing time or the team will run the risk of blocking him once again.
But I’m probably just overreacting to the first six games...right?
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This may have been two days ago by now but I just can’t bring myself to turn the page on such a great performance that quickly. McMahon joined Jeff Cirillo (2000), Larry Walker (2004), and Nolan Arenado (2017) as the only Rockies to ever tally 14 total bases in a game.
For a slightly less positive twist on McMahon’s career evening, he became the first player to hit three homers and four total extra base knocks while having his team lose a game since 2001. Cleveland’s Ellis Burks similarly dominated a game in which his team went on to lose in extra innings.
For a player with a fair share of struggles in recent memory, it was great to see RyMac break out in a big way, hopefully serving as a sign of things to come.
First off, you can’t discuss the Bridich Barrier (the part of the right field wall at Coors Field that was raised five years ago to help pitchers) without giving credit to Trevor Story for the wonderful naming abilities.
Now, as for the actual impact of the wall, the data suggests that it actually has helped Rockies pitchers. In that part of the park, considered right-center field, the visiting teams at Coors Field have seen their home runs decrease by 4.2% in the five years since the wall “grew”. There has also been a 69.2% increase in the amount of triples that opponents have seen when the ball heads to that part of Coors.
Of course, as Rockies fans, we’ve learned not to get too excited about anything and that instinct comes in handy here. The wall increase has only saved the Rockies about 20 runs which amount to .06 runs per game. That measly number unfortunately isn’t enough to explain why the team hasn’t made the playoffs the last two seasons. Either way, it’s fun to see the impact of the Bridich Barrier five years after its inception.
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