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Rockies need to step up their swipe game

Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, May 27, 2022

Last season, I got lots of emails from Old Chicago with the subject line “Come Steal Your Free Beer!” They were letting OC Rewards members know about a free 10 oz. draught beer that was ice cold and waiting for me thanks to the Rockies stealing a base the day before.

The emails came often; it seemed like a few a week. This season, these emails have become rare. The Rockies just aren’t stealing bases.

It’s no surprise that the Rockies aren’t stealing as many bases as they were in 2021. After losing both Raimel Tapia and Trevor Story, who both finished tied for 14th in the MLB with 20 bags apiece last season, the Rockies roster no longer had its best two base stealers.

What is surprising is just how much base stealing has disappeared from the Rockies game. After finishing 2021 in 15th place in stolen bases as a team (76 stolen bases while being caught 23 times), this year, the Rockies are tied for dead-last in MLB with nine. In 43 games, that’s an average of one bag per 5.375 games compared to one every 2.2 in 2021. Of course, José Iglesias stole a base in the ninth inning on Thursday, to bump the Rockies from the basement in stolen bases to tie with Detroit. Now, they also are stealing a base every 4.89 games.

That means that through Wednesday’s games, seven players have stolen more bases than the entire Rockies roster, led by Seattle’s Julio Rodríguez at 13.

Due to MLB’s desire for “action on the field,” which does not play well for the Rockies as insightfully explained in this article from Purple Row’s Renee Dechert on Thursday, homers are down and the demand for small ball is up. Since the Rockies have given up the third-most runs in MLB through their first 44 games at 238 (for an average of 5.41 per game), the Rockies need to manufacture more runs by any means necessary.

The first step in making this plan work is by getting on base. The Rockies are good there, ranking No. 4 in baseball with a .325 on-base percentage. They even rank No. 10 in runs scored at 201 for an average of 4.57 runs per game. That’s not enough.

If the Rockies can steal more bases, maybe more of those runners will come around to score and bump up that average. If nothing else, maybe it will reduce how many double plays the Rockies have hit into — 36, which is fourth-most in the majors (including both from Thursday night). Instead of erasing those runners, the Rockies need more hits and runs and more base stealers.

So, who will step up and steal those bases?

This season, the Rockies have been led by Sam Hilliard, Connor Joe, and Iglesias, who each have two, and then Charlie Blackmon, Randal Grichuk, and Garrett Hampson all have one apiece. For perspective, speedy youngsters like Freddie Freeman and Paul Goldschmidt have three each.

Even worse, the Rockies have been caught stealing eight times, which ranks No. 17 in MLB. A 50% success rate isn’t ideal. Yonathan Daza and Joe have each been caught twice, while Blackmon, Hampson, Hilliard, and McMahon have each been thrown out once.

While the Rockies lost considerable speed in Story and Tapia, who have five and three steals respectively this season, they are still fast. Colorado lists three players in the top 60 when it comes to Statcast sprint speed.

Hampson is the fastest Rockie with a 28.9 feet per second sprint speed. In 2021, Hampson totaled 17 stolen bases last season while being caught seven times. Hampson played in 147 games and had 494 plate appearances. This season, thanks to a hand injury that kept him out for over two weeks and a crowded roster, Hampson has only played in 17 games this year with 44 plate appearances with five singles and six walks. Considering that, having two attempts and one stolen base, that’s not bad for Hampson. He’s making the most of the little playing time he has.

Stolen bases now need to come from Daza and Hilliard, who are 53rd and 60th respectively on the sprint speed chart at 28.5. Daza has tried twice and been caught both times. With his hot hitting and hit-for-average-not-for-power style, Daza has 28 singles and seven walks, which gives him lots more chances to advance. Hilliard has played in more games than Hampson and close to the same as Daza (94 plate appearances compared to Daza’s 98), but he’s struggled to get on base. He’s hit eight singles with 11 walks. Because of Daza’s successes, and especially if and when Kris Bryant returns, Hilliard is going to have a hard time finding a place in the lineup.

Therefore, after Daza, the Rockies second-tier base stealers will need to swipe more bags without the top speed. This would be players like Iglesias (No. 127 sprint speed at 27.9), Blackmon (128th at 27.9), Grichuk (165th at 27.5), and Bryant (178th at 27.4). The wildcard is Joe, who ranks No. 258 at 26.5, but because he has the CoJo flow, he can make anything happen.

These five Rockies need to step up their swiping game. Fewer double plays, more runs, and maybe more wins. The Rockies need all the help they can get right now. It’s time to get small and start stealing.

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Beard vs. no beard: How the Boston Red Sox started winning after their skipper’s lucky shave | ESPN.com

If shaving a beard can help the Red Sox turn things around and go 7-3, maybe the Rockies should think about a lucky shave. However, the real reason this link is here is because of the section of the article titled “Trevor’s turnaround.” It gushes about how Story has started hitting — eight homers, 23 RBI, two stolen bases, and 12 runs scored while hitting .345/.394/1.069 in his last seven games (and that was before Thursday when he — and started to come out of his shell in the clubhouse. He’s also adjusting to being a dad now that his son, Stetson, is 7 weeks old.

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On the Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 5, Round Rock Express 3

Tim Lopes hit a two-run homer, Bubba Thompson hit an RBI triple, and Elehuris Montero and Kyle Holder both hit RBI singles as the Albuquerque got the win on Thursday night. Peter Lambert got the start and pitched three solid innings, surrendering only one hit with two strikeouts and two walks. Matt Dennis gave up one run in 2 23 innings on three hits with one walk and one strikeout for the win. Julian Fernández had another rough start, giving up two runs in one inning, raising his ERA to 11.57 ERA. Chad Smith threw a scoreless 1 13 innings with one strikeout for his ninth save.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 7, Richmond Flying Squirrels 4

A pair of three-run innings highlighted by a two-run double by Aaron Schunk in the fourth and a two-run double by Isaac Collins in the seventh helped carry the Yard Goats to a win on Thursday night. Ezequiel Tovar went 2-for-3 with a triple and one run scored and Michael Toglia had two RBI, one on a single and one on a fielder’s choice. Michael Baird pitched three scoreless innings with six strikeouts to start the game, Jared Biddy threw 1 13 scoreless innings for the win, and five Yard Goat pitchers combined for 15 strikeouts.

High-A: Everett AquaSox 4, Spokane Indians 0

Despite matching the AquaSox for hits with seven, Spokane couldn’t bring anyone home after going 1-for-8 with RISP. Evan Shawver had a solid start, but got the loss, throwing six innings and only giving up one run on four hits with three strikeouts and one walk. Everett scored three more insurance runs in the eighth to seal the win.

Low-A: Stockton Ports 6, Fresno Grizzlies 5

A two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth came up one short as the Grizzlies fell to the Ports on Thursday night. Braiden Ward hit an RBI double and Warming Bernabel hit a sac grounder in the ninth (his third RBI groundout of the game), but Fresno left Ward on third to end the game. The Grizzlies got down 4-0 after two innings, but started chipping away at the lead with two runs in the third when Bernabel hit an RBI fielder’s choice and Hunter Goodman walked with the bases loaded. Fresno went 2-for-12 with RISP and left eight runners on base. McCade Brown (0-2) took the loss, giving up five runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and one walk in five innings.

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