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An early look at the 2022 Rockies hitting peripherals

Colorado Rockies news and links for Monday, April 18, 2022

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After taking two of three from the World Series favorite Dodgers, sweeping the new-look Rangers, and splitting a four game set with the Chicago Cubs, the Rockies fall squarely in the category of “early season surprises” in a good way. Despite dropping yesterday’s game to the Cubs, the Rockies have a positive run differential, 6-3 record, and sit a game out of the NL West lead. This success has been on the backs of a lights out bullpen and also consistent hittings - despite the lack of production in clutch situations.

With obvious disclaimers of early-season-small-sample-size and Coors factor aside, the 2022 Rockies are leading the majors in hits and OPS, second in AVG, and seventh in runs scored. Comparing these to the 2021 ranks show notable improvement.

Rockies Standard Hitting, 2021-2022

Stat 2021 (MLB rank) 2022 (MLB rank)
Stat 2021 (MLB rank) 2022 (MLB rank)
R 739 (11) 46 (7)
H 1338 (9) 87 (1)
OPS .731 (12) .797 (1)
AVG .249 (8) .280 (2)
MLB.com

Again, the Rockies season is barely five percent complete. But the team has played on the road, winning both games. In 2021 it took until the 27th game of the season for the Rockies to secure their second victory away from Coors. It remains to be seen whether this success is sustainable, and the peripheral numbers have good and bad things to say.

Rockies Hitting Peripherals, 2021-2022

Stat 2021 (MLB rank) 2022 (MLB rank)
Stat 2021 (MLB rank) 2022 (MLB rank)
BABIP .299 (6) .333 (3)
O-Swing% 32.8% (22) 29.9% (13)
Z-Swing% 70.5% (25) 67.9% (13)
FanGraphs

To start, a .333 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is unsustainable over the course of the season and is likely inflated by the Rockies having played the majority of their games thus far at the expanses of Coors Field. We can expect that the Rockies corresponding standard offensive stats and associated ranks to come down as the BABIP does.

The O-Swing% and Z-Swing% numbers provide a rosier outlook. The 2021 Rockies were just under league average in terms of their plate discipline, but the 2022 team has taken a more selective approach team wide so far. This seems to be mostly due to the team no longer having free swingers like Trevor Story or Raimel Tapia. The holdovers from last year’s team look to be chasing pitches outside the zone at similar rates to before, while also being more aggressive with the pitches that are in the zone.

Rockies Individual Hitting Peripherals, 2021-2022

Player 2021 O-Swing% 2022 O-Swing% Difference 2021 Z-Swing% 2022 Z-Swing% Difference
Player 2021 O-Swing% 2022 O-Swing% Difference 2021 Z-Swing% 2022 Z-Swing% Difference
Charlie Blackmon 29.4% 33.3% -3.9% 69.5% 61.0% 8.5%
Kris Bryant 32.5% 32.5% 0.0% 77.0% 77.0% 0.0%
C.J. Cron 33.7% 33.8% -0.1% 67.9% 63.6% 4.3%
Connor Joe 22.4% 27.3% -4.9% 69.6% 63.9% 5.7%
Ryan McMahon 29.1% 23.5% 5.6% 74.4% 73.6% 0.8%
Brendan Rodgers 35.9% 38.8% -2.9% 75.6% 71.4% 4.2%
FanGraphs

These rates tend to stabilize sooner than the traditional outcome based offensive stats, so they should provide a realistic look at the Rockies plate discipline going forward. While the outcome based hitting stats will likely come back to earth, if the Rockies are able to keep on swinging at the better pitches, then their successful offensive output will be more likely to continue.

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Why Don’t the Rockies Use Four Outfielders? | FanGraphs

For a team with a reputation of being neither analytically minded nor on the forefront of any new cutting edge strategies, the Rockies do have a history of occasionally trying some different things. FanGraphs Justin Choi explores a potential way the Rockies could counteract the expansive acreage of Coors Field - using four outfielders. While this would surely bring down the amount of bloop singles and power alley extra base hits that the outfield surrenders, it would seemingly work against the current strategy of pulling together a group of ground ball inducing pitchers.

Inside Rockies manager Bud Black’s tough love for his pitchers | The Denver Post ($)

For Bud Black, being known as a player’s manager doesn’t necessarily equate to being soft on his team. A former pitcher himself who recently won his 1,000th game as a manager, Buddy tells the players what they need to hear, as opposed to what they want to hear. The Post’s Patrick Saunders references a recent game against the Dodgers, when starting pitcher Antonio Senzatela was pulled in the fourth inning, despite just having induced what should have been a double play ball and with his team up 6-0. In Black’s eyes, Senzatela was pitching badly, and he didn’t tread softly around letting his pitcher know immediately - “I don’t want to wait until the next day. Sometimes I will wait until after the game. I’ll say, ‘That was a tough (decision) for me tonight but this is why I made the change.’ ”

As a former big leaguer with a track record of success as both a manager and a pitcher himself, it’s no wonder that Buddy commands the sort of respect that he does from the players. That mutual respect allows him as a manager to make the tough decisions, and know his players will have his back like he has theirs.

Kris Bryant on Cubs expectations, opportunity with Rockies and more | The Athletic ($)

Kris Bryant’s move to the Rockies was one of the shockers of the hot stove season, and has been met with some confusion across the baseball world. The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma gets in depth with Bryant and his rationale for the signing and he makes one thing clear - his desire for the expectation with the Rockies is to win ball games. Bryant choice to leave potentially bigger markets like Chicago was a family decision, and he believes that Denver is the right place for them going forward, on levels not limited to baseball.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: Tacoma Rainiers 12, Albuquerque Isotopes 11

After scoring 10 runs yesterday in Tacoma, the Isotopes did one better today, scoring 11. However, it wasn’t enough as the Rainiers plated nine in the first inning alone en route to a win with a box score that was a throwback to the Coors Field of old, ending the Isotopes four game winning streak. Pitcher Frank Duncan made his third start of the year but was only able to record one out before exiting the game. On the flip side, every Isotope recorded a hit, led by Sean Bouchard’s three hit, eight total base performance. Albuquerque has an off day today, then will travel to Round Rock to begin next week’s slate of games on Tuesday.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 4, New Hampshire Fisher Cats 1 (Game 1); New Hampshire Fisher Cats 3, Hartford Yard Goats 0 (Game 2)

Making up for Saturday’s rainout, the Yard Goats played two seven inning games against New Hampshire, splitting the double header. Hartford took game 1, led by a first inning two-run home run by Willie MacIver (no. 28 PuRP) and a solid bounce back performance from Noah Davis (5.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 7 K) on the mound. There was no offense to be found in game 2, however, as the Yard Goats were held to two hits by New Hampshire. Former first round pick Riley Pint made fourth appearance of the year, throwing a spotless last inning. The Yard Goats have no game today but will continue their season against the Somerset Patriots on Tuesday.

High-A: Spokane Indians 8, Eugene Emeralds 1

Led by a solid pitching start by Andrew Quezada, the Indians handily defeated the Eugene Emeralds yesterday. Zac Veen (2021 midseason no. 1 PuRP) continued his tough start at the plate, going 0-4, but did reach base with a walk and then continued to be a terror on the base paths, stealing his sixth and seventh bags of the season. Drew Romo (no. 3 PuRP) went 2-4 with his third homer of the season. Spokane next plays on Tuesday, at home against the Hillsboro Hops.

Single-A: Fresno Grizzlies 2, San Jose Giants 1

Rounding up Sunday’s minor league action, the Grizzlies came from behind to score two in the ninth and beat San Jose. Juan Brito (HM PuRP) had the go-ahead two-run single after entering the game as a defensive replacement. The Grizzlies have an off-day today but will welcome Lake Elisnore for their next game Tuesday.

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