It’s another year and the Rockies are leading the MLB in hits. In spite of their subpar record, Coors Field remains the gift that keeps on giving, humidor, Bridich barrier, and unjuiced balls aside. This should come as no surprise - the acreage of Coors Field has been discussed at length and is at this point a known quantity.
Unfortunately for the Rockies, the other team also hits at Coors Field. True to form, Rockies pitching has allowed the most hits in the majors and are tied for first in runs allowed. So hits and runs scored alone are not the best gauge of the Rockies relative offensive progress.
These days, with tailored defensive and pitching approaches to every player in a lineup, selectiveness at the plate is more critical than ever. Look no farther than Juan Soto - the recently traded Padres superstar who is doing his best Ted Williams impression - to see how a good eye for the strike zone can affect game outcomes. Soto is currently hitting .252, a figure far below the numbers that Williams was known for, but we fortunately have other metrics by which to judge players. He is second in the MLB in on base percentage behind Paul Goldschmidt (who is doing his best young Paul Goldschmidt impression) despite a batting average almost 100 points below the Cardinals star.
Two of the current metrics used to judge plate discipline are Z-Swing%, the percentage of pitches inside the strike zone that a batter swings at, and O-Swing%, the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone that a batter swings at. Intuitively, we know that the fewer pitches outside the zone that a batter swings at, the more success they will have. MLB pitchers are good enough, they don’t need too many favors with batters swinging at would-be balls.
O-Swing% is where Juan Soto shines, currently leading the league with a 20.7% rate. He also ranks in the top five in Z-Swing% as a traditionally selective hitter even when the ball is in the zone. In that same top five, we see some familiar names: Guardians bat handling wizard Steven Kwan, old friend DJ LeMahieu, and current friend Connor Joe. Joe has continued his solid plate discipline from last year, and although his overall numbers are not in line with where they were at that point these peripherals indicate that a positive regression is bound to kick in.
For the Rockies, plate discipline and selectiveness in 2022 start and end with Connor Joe. The team (denoted in purple below) ranks near the bottom third of the league in O-Swing% and roughly in the middle for Z-Swing%. Teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Padres, and Blue Jays are all in the top third of the league in O-Swing% and it translates to their respective winning percentage.
On an individual level, we know it’s Joe that is still leading this team,
He’s selective in and out of the zone, and while it hasn’t been directly paying off with concrete results this year, it points to a bright future. Jose Iglesias is on the other side of the spectrum - swinging at almost half of pitches thrown outside the strike zone - yet nonetheless still having success.
Clearly there are different ways to have success in this league. Z-Swing% and O-Swing% are peripheral stats that are just that - they do not count when it matters on the scoreboard. But, they do bear an input on the stats that do count, and they stabilize early and are less susceptible to unlucky bounces, making them a good judge of a player’s season.
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You saw it. I saw it. We all saw it.
No one has ever called #Rockies 3B Ryan McMahon "Dr. Strangeglove." But his mitt turned against him when #SFGiants Thairo Estrada's bouncer went right between the index and middle fingers for a second-inning error. pic.twitter.com/6xFsXfTzs3— Thomas Harding (@harding_at_mlb) August 21, 2022
(In case you didn’t see it.) Ryan McMahon has had an up and down year defensively, especially on the heels of his stellar 2021, and that luck continued Sunday. McMahon was attributed an error on the play, his 14th on the year, that could have been solely attributed to his literal glove. The glove had been in use since McMahon was in high-A in 2017 but was quickly retired after the play. The Rockies eventually lost the game in extras to the Giants.
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On The Farm
Albuquerque jumped out to an early lead but lost a back and forth affair to the Rainiers (SEA) Sunday night on a walk-off after tying the game in the top of the ninth. The Isotopes had plenty of offensive stars on the night - Jimmy Herron, Sean Bouchard, Coco Montes, Ryan Vilade (no. 8 PuRP), and Jonathan Morales all tallied multiple hits with Vilade smacking a double and a triple, and Bouchard adding a homer. Unfortunately, they were undone by timely hitting on behalf of the Rainiers, who were 5-11 as a team with runners in scoring position. Albuquerque returns home on Tuesday for their next series against the Round Rock Express (TEX).
Unable to take the series from the Fisher Cats (TOR), the Yard Goats dropped the Sunday matchup after taking three in a row. Although there was a lack of production in the run department from the offense, they were putting runners on - eight hits and five walks, but being 2-15 with runners in scoring position let them find the scoreboard only once. Zac Veen (no. 1 PuRP) had a two hit night and added his second RBI and third steal of the season at the AA level. Brenton Doyle (no. 10 PuRP) had a double, a single, and his 20th steal of the year. Next up, Hartford will travel up to Portland, Maine for a series with the Sea Dogs (BOS).
Making up for the lack of clutch hitting in the higher levels of the minors, Spokane did not miss on Sunday. They mashed three home runs and went a combined 8-14 with runners in scoring position to salvage a split in the series with the Dust Devils (LAA). Everyone in the starting lineup recorded at least a hit, and eight of the nine in the lineup scored a run. No. 30 PuRP Eddy Diaz and Robby Martin Jr. each had four hits. Mateo Gil and Trevor Boone each had three hits. It was an all-around effort for the Indians, who also added four stolen bases to back their pitching. They will now travel across the Cascades to Everett, taking on the Aquasox (SEA) starting Tuesday.
Sweep! The Grizzlies continued their success against the Rawhide (ARI) and their winning ways on the season, taking their sixth win in a row. Recently named no. 64 MLB prospect Adael Amador (no. 17 PuRP at last voting) set the tone at the top of the order, reaching base on three walks and aiding an overall offensive effort. Hitters three through eight in the Grizzlies lineup scored runs, highlighted by Zach Kokoksa’s two runs and RBI on a triple and a single. Fresno will look to maintain their winning ways tomorrow as they start off their next series, this time with the Stockton Ports (OAK).
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