Let’s cut to the chase: the Colorado Rockies have hit 177 home runs this season so far with five games remaining, a total that ranks 22nd in baseball. If that feels like a low total and/or spot on the rankings, that’s because it is; the Rockies have almost never sunk this low when it comes to hitting the ball out of the ballpark:
That’s not good. You know what else is not good? The fact that since the full-season introduction of the juiced ball in 2016, the Rockies’ average HR rank is 16th. You don’t need me to tell you that playing half your games at Coors Field and being painfully average at hitting balls over the fence is a bad thing, particularly in this era of baseball where a huge chunk of runs are scored on homers. Part of that is the difficulty the Rox have on the road, where they’ve hit just 74, tied for the third worst mark in MLB, but it goes deeper than that, because they don’t even crack the top 10 in home round-trippers.
Getting into why they struggle to hit homers would be too much for a single Rockpile and also likely be beyond what Baseball Savant can tell me, so we can only speculate. Maybe it’s the way they teach hitting, but I can’t know that for certain. With that in mind, what can we do to fix the HR total? What are some viable ways to do it? Let’s take a look at some different solutions.
This looks like the easy answer. If the Rockies want to spend (which is debatable, and we’ll see what happens), there’s some very good players out there. Trying to re-sign Story might be a lost cause, but I’d like to make an argument for Mets RF Michael Conforto, who’s had a pretty bad season in 2021 but will be 29 on Opening Day 2021 and was a .259/.358/.484 (128 wRC+) hitter from 2015-2020. And as a plus, he’s always been a patient hitter who draws walks, which this team badly needs. Conforto would likely not cost as much as some of the top shelf players available, and is a strong candidate for a rebound. You can forget about the Kris Bryants, Javier Baézs and Carlos Correas of the world, but Conforto could be attainable. There’s also re-signing C.J. Cron if he’d take a solid short-term deal, which would be fine by me with the DH looming.
Ah yes, the classic Rockies method: waiting for guys already on the roster to improve. In this case, however, there might be some merit to this strategy. A full season from Brendan Rodgers would help, as would regular playing time for Joey Gallo-lite Sam Hilliard, Colton Welker and Connor Joe. The rest will likely hold steady or maybe even decline a bit (Elías Díaz, I’m looking at you, buddy), but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the Rox to get more power from guys already on the roster. It can’t be the only measure to solve the lack of punch, though, but we all know that.
I’d say “trades”, but let’s keep it realistic to an extent, shall we? I really can’t figure other realistic ways for the Rockies to get better at smacking the ball to the crowd, and I can’t emphasize this enough: 99% of the time in 2021 Major League Baseball, you’re either a power hitter or a bad hitter. With how pitchers are being trained and deployed, the pool of hitters with the abnormal skills to be productive despite mediocre or subpar slugging percentages is shrinking by the day. The Rockies are also lagging behind in plate discipline (do they have some VR training for discipline and pitch recognition? I’m not so sure), and the mix of bad discipline and subpar power simply does not work in modern times. Is this fun or good for baseball? Nope! But it’s reality, and the Rox need to start living in it when it comes to hitting Major League pitching.
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Can’t say I’m not excited about Veen and how good he’s been. My guess is he starts next year at Spokane, and I’d love for the Rockies to be aggressive with his promotion if he rakes there too. I didn’t quite get why he spent the entire season at Low-A, to be quite honest with you fine folks.
Interesting that Bud Black himself is talking about plate discipline, and I’ve seen some people on this page say that even the broadcast is talking about patience as a good thing. Also, if the Rockies start whiffing at home too, we might have a problem.
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