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Rockies can’t afford defensive slide

Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, April 29, 2022

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I was trying to brace for a 3-4 road trip. Instead, it was 2-5, but it felt much worse.

The Rockies have now lost four in a row, all at the hands of 7-10 Phillies. In those four painful, error-laden, anti-clutch games, the Phillies, who have a formidable offense with Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber, outscored the Rockies 32-9.

On the bright side, the Rockies still have a winning record at 10-9 with the 3-16 Reds on deck. Unfortunately, the Rockies, who we expect to struggle on the road, are struggling in a place we didn’t expect: fielding.

In the four games in Philadelphia, the Rockies made seven errors. Wednesday’s 7-3 loss had no errors, so it was really seven errors in three games. Ten of those runs were unearned – just gifts from the Rockies. Ryan McMahon, the usually stellar third baseman who finished 2021 as a Gold Glove finalist and had double the amount of defensive runs saved as the winner, Nolan Arenado, made four of the errors. Dom Nuñez, José Iglesias, and Conner Joe each added one.

When you consider the errors, combined with the Rockies going 5-for-30 with runners in scoring position and the pitchers giving up an average of 5.5 earned runs per game in the series, four losses sound right. On top of that, great plays that can halt rallies and swing momentum, like a web gem from Sam Hilliard or Yonathan Daza against the wall or a McMahon barehanded grab to rob a single, didn’t happen. Instead, miscommunications like Charlie Blackmon and Randall Grichuk both stopping short to watch a fly ball fall down between them are more common.

The Rockies aren’t good enough at the plate or on the mound to survive those kinds of mistakes. They not only need to make the routine plays, but they need to make more of the extraordinary plays as well. So far this season, that’s just not there, outside of a few exceptions like Grichuk robbing of Corey Seagar of a homer or Brendan Rodgers sliding and popping to retire Matt Vierling.

This shows up in the Rgood stat, a Baseball Info Solutions calculation in Baseball Reference which represents “the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on plays where they made an exceptional contribution or obviously misplayed the situation.” As a team, the Rockies are at 0, which is tied for 13th in MLB. In 2017, the Rockies were best in baseball in Rgood. Even in 2020, they were tied for fifth and in 2021, tied for 10th.

Rockies Team Defense Since 2017

Year RA/G/Rank DefEff/Rank E/Rank DP/Rank F%/Rank Rtot/Rank Rgood/Rank
Year RA/G/Rank DefEff/Rank E/Rank DP/Rank F%/Rank Rtot/Rank Rgood/Rank
2022 5.28/27th .647/30th 13/T-23rd 24/1st .981/T-23rd 9/T-26 0/T-13
2021 4.94/22nd .686/25th 73/5th 140/7th .987/T-4th 27/10th 1/T-10th
2020 5.88/30th .675/26th 43/T-26th 78/1st .981/T-21st 9/T-10th 2/T-5th
2019 5.91/29th .677/25th 97/T-16th 165/3rd .984/T-12th 6/T-14th 10/T-2nd
2018 4.57/20th .688/T-18th 74/3rd 162/3rd .988/T-2nd 36/T-6th 3/6th
2017 4.67/14th 0.683/T-18th 77/3rd 168/4th .987/T-2nd 19/8th 14/1st

After finishing 2021 tied for fifth-fewest errors in MLB, the Rockies already have 13, which is ranks No. 23 this season. Even worse, when it comes to defensive efficiency, the percentage of balls in play converted into outs, the Rockies are dead last. Even though I consider the Rockies to be a perennially solid defensive squad, the Rockies tied for 18th in this category in their playoff-bound years of 2017 and 2018. They’ve been No. 25 or No. 26 the last three seasons.

In Rtot (Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average), which calculates total defensive contribution by “the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made,” the Rockies are tied for 26th at nine. During the playoff-less last three seasons, the Rockies’ lowest finish in Rtot was in 2019 when they tied for 14th.

While 2022 has been defined by sloppy work in the field so far, the season is still young. There is plenty of time to correct this. McMahon needs to get his confidence back before his mind starts to psych him out on every grounder. The Rockies need some remarkable plays to be back on track defensively.

One thing that has held steady is Colorado’s ability to turn double plays. The Rockies have turned 24 of them, which is the best in MLB. This is their bread and butter. If the Rockies can keep turning double plays, maybe they will be able to dig themselves out of the messy hole they dug themselves in the first 18 games and rediscover their footing and fielding along the way.

★ ★ ★

Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado, Génesis Cabrera suspended for benches-clearing incident vs. Mets | CBSsports.com

Nolan Arenado is off to an amazing start in 2022. Through Thursday’s action, he leads is second in the National League in RBI (17), third in batting average (.382) and hits (26), and is tied for fourth in homers with five. After playing a key role in a bench-clearing scuffle against the Mets on Wednesday, the former Rockie is now facing a two-game suspension, which he is appealing.

It’s not just the baseball: Why hit batters and command issues seem to be trending upward | The Athletic ($)

It’s weird. The Mets have been hit by a pitch 19 times so far. The Pirates, none. Even though the team distribution is uneven, hit batters are on the rise in recent years. The numbers have been increasing since the early 1980s. This season, however, the numbers are slightly down. Brittany Ghiroli and Eno Sarris explore the trend that could be more to do with rewarding velocity over control, movement over command, and higher pitches that are moving more inside rather than the lack of “sticky stuff” or changing baseballs.

★ ★ ★

On The Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 13, Sacramento River Cats 2

The Isotopes had a home run party on Thursday when five different players hit them on Albuquerque’s way to a blowout win even though five of the six homers were solo shots. Brian Serven led the way with two homers and now has five on the season. Wynton Bernard also hit his fifth homer of the season and Sean Bouchard added his third, while Taylor Synder hit his second. LJ Hatch hit his first homer of the season and was the only Isotope to do so on Thursday with one other person on base. Albuquerque finished the game with 15 hits, enough so that the two fielding errors they committed didn’t hurt them. Brandon Gold got the start for the Isotopes and only gave up two runs despite seven hits in four innings. Reagan Todd pitched two scoreless innings for the win, and Logan Cozart, Jake Bird, and Nate Griep all added scoreless innings.

Double-A: Harrisburg Senators and Hartford Yard Goats split doubleheader

After falling 6-1 in game one, the Yard Goats came back to win 6-5 in game two thanks to Willie MacIver’s solo home run in the top of the seventh inning that proved to be the game-winner. Brenton Doyle and Jake Alu hit back-to-back solo homers in the third for Hartford. Trent Fennell had a rough start, giving up four runs on four hits, including two homers, and two walks in three innings. PJ Poulin, Blair Calvo, and Nick Kennedy combined for four scoreless innings to give MacIver the chance to win it.

In game one, the Yard Goats were up 1-0 after three innings after Michael Toglia hit a sacrifice fly to score Isaac Collins in the third. After three scoreless frames, Hartford starter Nick Bush gave up three homers. Dugan Darnell gave up a two-run homer in the sixth inning and the deficit was too much to overcome.

High-A: Everett Aquasox 9, Spokane Indians 1

When Benjamin Sems tripled and came around to score for Spokane when Eddy Diaz hit a sac fly, the Indians cut the Aquasox lead to 2-1 halfway through the fifth. The game remained close until the seventh inning when Anderson Bido gave up a three-run homer and a two-run double as part of a seven-run inning that put the game out of reach. Tony Locey started for Spokane, giving up two runs on four hits with four walks and five strikeouts in 3 23 innings.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 9, Stockton Ports 2

Juan Brito hit a two-run triple, an RBI double, and a sac fly and Adael Amador hit a home run to guide the Grizzlies to a win Thursday night. Fresno jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings and never looked back. Denzel Clarke and Nick Brueser hit back-to-back RBI doubles and Juan Gerrero added a two-run single. Fresno starter Evan Shawver improved to 2-0 on the season after pitching a solid five innings, giving up two runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts. The bullpen only allowed one hit in four scoreless innings with six more strikeouts to close out the win.

★ ★ ★

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