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The contact machine Raimel Tapia

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Rockies news and links for Monday, May 10, 2021

Did you know that crabs live in more different places than any other sea animal? They can be found all across the world, from underwater volcano vents to under Antarctic glaciers. One type of crab even lives on land and climbs trees. Another type plays left field for the Colorado Rockies and is leading the team in hits. Crabs don’t get enough love.

The Rockies’ el cangrejo, Raimel Tapia, is having a great season. After hitting for a career high .321 BA in his last year’s short 184 at-bat season, Tapia has followed up by now hitting a similar .314 in 121 at-bats. And so far this season he’s had a team high eight multi-hit games and is currently on a nine game hitting streak. I think it’s safe to label Tapia as a professional hitter. It’s not just that he’s gotten all these hits, it’s how he’s doing it.

Last year, Tapia became a much more effective hitter when he lowered his strikeout percentage from 2019’s 22.4% to 18.4% in 2020. This year he’s managed to lower it even more to an elite 11%. That’s not just good, that’s about as good as it gets in baseball as that’s in the top three percent of all players, according to Baseball Savant.

When most players lower their strikeout rate, it’s usually because they stop chasing and get a better sense of the strike zone. Players in those lowest percentages have some of the best plate disciplines like Juan Soto who only has a 13.8% chase rate. Tapia on the other hand has a 35% chase rate which is near the bottom of the league. So how is Tapia doing this? He just makes an insane amount of contact.

Raimel Tapia’s game is completely reliant on his extraordinary bat-to-ball skills. So far this year, he’s got an unreal 12.9% whiff rate. His chase contact percentage is at 75.6 which is higher than some players’ contact percentage when the ball is ACTUALLY IN THE ZONE (cough, cough Sam Hilliard). Just look at the pitch location on some of these hits.

As a result of his willingness to swing, Tapia is not what you’d consider an optimal new school/analytics driven player. Because his bat covers so much space, the quality of his contact can significantly vary. 62.5% of his batted balls are ground balls, therefore his average exit velocities are low and his average launch angle is a minuscule 0.7 degrees. He doesn’t walk often (7.1%) and he doesn’t hit for extra bases.

Yet all this is exactly what makes Tapia Tapia. He makes a ton contact and sprays the ball all over the field. He’s a singles hitting machine that a defense just can’t anticipate. It doesn’t matter whether they’re on the road (.339 BA) or home (.290 BA), facing a lefty (.308 BA) or righty (.316 BA), or whether the bases are empty (.288 BA) or if runners are in scoring position (.360 BA). It doesn’t matter to him, the guy just knows how to put the ball in play and make something happen (.330 BABIP).

Raimel Tapia is a fighter at the plate. He plays with a lot of energy and as we’ve seen, he’s the kind of scrappy player that can be the difference maker in any game. How real and sustainable these numbers are is something he’ll have to prove through the rest of this season. If he does, it’s not that hard to envision him playing at Coors Field on July 13th.

★ ★ ★

Colorado Rockies: A flurry of injury updates | Rox Pile

Rockies manager Bud Black gave some updates on Sunday about the statuses of a few guys.

C.J. Cron (back)–still “sore”, hoping to avoid IL but Rockies could decide what to do today.

Kyle Freeland (shoulder) and Brendan Rodgers (hamstring)– sent to Arizona for extended spring training

Carlos Estévez (finger)– recovering well, Rockies are hoping to have him resume throwing in a few days

Antonio Senzatela (groin)– will be activated today

Without changes, the Rockies are headed toward fan apathy | The Denver Post ($)

Patrick Saunders talks about how critical of a crossroads the Rockies are at. Are fans becoming disinterested? Will the club fall back into it old ways and become apathetic? Or could it be on verge of transforming itself?

Matt Adams returns to St. Louis; Rodgers and Freeland take next steps | The Gazette ($)

The addition of Matt Adams to the team left a lot fans scratching their heads as to why they’d add a 32-year-old who hasn’t hit above .250 since 2018 instead of a rising youngster like Colton Welker. Well after Welker’s news broke last week, Cron’s injury and Connor Joe’s promotion, the depth is actually helpful.

ON THE FARM

The Albuquerque Isotopes won their first game of the season on Sunday. Greg Bird got the game going with a two-run home run in the first inning, he’d finish with a 2-for-4 game. Wynton Bernard, Nick Longhi and Taylor Motter also got in on the action by smacking their first home runs of the year. Ryan Castellani made his first Triple-A start of 2021, giving up a pair of runs in five innings of work. Since nothing is ever easy in the Rockies organization, reliever Chad Smith nearly let a four run lead slip away in the ninth before settling in and striking out his last two batters.

The Hartford Yard Goats lost their fifth consecutive game to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Ryan Rolison made his second start and gave up three earned runs in four innings with one walk and eight strikeouts. Shortstop Taylor Snyder and second baseman Coco Montes led the offense with a pair of hits each. Elehuris Montero also had a nice game by going 1-for-2 with a double and two walks.

The Spokane Indians got annihilated by the Eugene Emeralds. Helcris Olivarez notably allowed four runs (two earned) in four innings. The team achieved a rare feat by committing more errors (5) than hits (4).

The Fresno Grizzlies lost their third game of the season to the San Jose Giants. Zac Veen went 1-for-3 with a two run RBI double and a walk.

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 6, Sugar Land Skeeters 4

Double-A: Richmond Flying Squirrels 4, Hartford Yard Goats 2

High-A: Eugene Emeralds 15, Spokane Indians 1

Low-A: San Jose Giants 5, Fresno Grizzlies 3

★ ★ ★

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