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Rockies need to get into the pinch-hitting game

Colorado Rockies news and links for Friday, September 2, 2022

The September decisions of which position players get penciled into the lineup each day seem more complicated this year. Without any kind of playoff contention, the Rockies find themselves playing the same game for the fourth-straight season: who plays today? Do veterans or rookies get more time?

The curveball this year that makes things more difficult is the lack of pitch hitting with the universal DH. There is one more batter every day getting usually at least four at-bats, but on most days, it really is just the one extra hitter. The Rockies aren’t big on using pinch hitters to get ideal matchups or making midgame changes (unless it’s a blowout). Once the lineup is set, that’s usually it.

That needs to change in the Rockies final 30 games.

In 2022, through 131 games, Rockies pinch hitters only have 22 at-bats. That is the lowest in all of baseball. While using a pinch hitter doesn’t translate to wins (the Braves are the second lowest at 33 at-bats), the MLB average is 72. If you look at teams who have the most pinch hitter ABs, they are actually teams who aren’t in contention: The Giants (163), A’s (113), Rangers (106), Diamondbacks (103), and Pirates (101). Those are teams who know they don’t have a winning roster. So they are trying to give more players a chance, learning what might be a better roster along the way.

The Rockies also haven’t been bad when they do use the DH this season. In 28 plate appearances, they have totaled one homer, two doubles, eight RBI, six runs, and six walks (including one intentional).

Rockies Pinch Hitting in 2022

C.J. Cron 2 2 2 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.500 2.500 3 0 0
Charlie Blackmon 5 5 4 1 2 0 1 4 1 2 .500 .600 1.250 1.850 5 0 1
Yonathan Daza 4 4 3 1 1 1 0 4 0 1 .333 .250 .667 .917 2 1 0
Randal Grichuk 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .500 .000 .500 0 0 0
Connor Joe 6 6 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 .167 .167 .167 .333 1 0 0
Elias Diaz 4 4 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .250 .000 .250 0 0 0
Elehuris Montero 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Brian Serven 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Alan Trejo 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Sean Bouchard 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0
Garrett Hampson 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.000 0 0 0
Totals 27 28 22 5 6 2 1 8 5 8 .273 .393 .500 .893 11 1 1
Baseball Reference

Starting on Thursday, MLB bumped up roster sizes from 26 to 28 and the Rockies brought up Alan Trejo and Chad Smith. The Rockies current roster has nine players who can play infield, including Garrett Hampson, Michael Toglia, and Connor Joe. They also have six players who can fill roster spots in the outfield, with the aforementioned versatile trio. If Bud Black has nine hitters in each lineup and doesn’t make changes, that leaves a lot of guys just chewing gum and spitting sunflower seeds for nine innings. With waiting lists at first base, third base, and DH, there has to be more pinch hitting or midgame changes of any kind.

In the case of San Francisco’s pinch hitting, they are looking for ideal matchups. They average using five pinch hitters every four games. The Rockies are using one pinch hitter every six games. Over the last 30 games, the Rockies should be aiming for an average of at least one pinch hitter a game.

For the many who were against the universal DH, one of the main arguments against it was that it took out the strategy of the manager. But it doesn’t have to. Instead of pinch hitting for a pitcher, pinch hit for players. There isn’t one single Rockie this season who is hitting so well that they aren’t worth subbing out if there’s a better matchup on the bench. It also might be worth it to give younger players more chances to hit in different situations.

This roster logjam is the pickle a team finds itself in when they don’t have a plan and without making trades, even though a position might be flooded with candidates. The roster can’t change now, so the best thing Black can do is favor the young. Show your managerial skills with lineup construction in putting guys in different places to see if they can succeed. Pinch hit and make defensive substitutions more often. Get more players more action, even if it isn’t for a whole game.

If winning doesn’t matter, which the Rockies certainly seem to be showing with their actions, try to go for player evaluation. Black’s shown a willingness to do this by putting Ryan McMahon in the leadoff spot. Keep experimenting. Try to find something to build from this offseason and into 2023. If nothing else, the front office might at least be able to get a clearer picture of whose time with the Rockies might be coming to an end.

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Charlie Blackmon on Atlanta roots and coming back home | Rox Pile

Kevin Henry checked in with the longtime Rockie on what it was like to return to his home state during the Rockies three-game series against Atlanta. Blackmon even got to spend Monday’s day off with friends and family. This is a good check-in on some behind-the-scenes stuff for Chuck Nazty and what he thinks about Truist Park vs. Turner Field.

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On The Farm

Triple-A: Albuquerque Isotopes 9, Sugar Land Space Cowboys 7

Things didn’t look good when the Isotopes found themselves down 7-2 after the first inning, but they immediately started to climb back into the game. In his first rehab start since going on the IL with a left shoulder dislocation on Aug. 12, Yonathan Daza hit an RBI single and Sam Hilliard followed with a three-run triple to cut the Sugar Land lead to 7-5. Jonathan Morales added another run with an RBI groundout in the sixth and then the home-run show started. Tim Lopes and Bret Boswell hit back-to-back homers in the eighth with Boswell’s putting the Isotopes ahead.

Coco Montes added another solo shot in the ninth for insurance that Albuquerque didn’t end up needing. Daza went 3-for-4 and scored two runs, while Dom Nuñez and Montes both posted two-hit nights. After Zach Neal had a rough start, giving up seven runs (five earned) and didn’t get out of the first inning, five Isotopes came out of the bullpen to combine for 8 13 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. Joel Peguero recorded the win and Zach Lee earned the save.

Double-A: Hartford Yard Goats 4, Reading Fightin Phils 3

Julio Carreras connected for three hits and drove in a run, Aaron Schunk added three more hits, Daniel Montano added an RBI triple, and Hunter Stovall chipped in an RBI single to carry the Yard Goats to their third straight win. Tony Locey entered the game in the fifth, giving up one run on three hits with three strikeouts in three innings to earn the win. Jared Biddy and Stephen Jones each posted a shutout inning with Jones getting his sixth save of the season.

High-A: Spokane Indians 4, Vancouver Canadians 3

There were two outs when Robby Martin Jr. stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth and he hit a walk-off, ground-rule double to score Bladimir Restituyo to set off a Spokane celebration. The Indians found themselves behind 3-0 in the seventh inning when Nic Kent hit a two-run homer to make it a one-run game. In the bottom of the eighth, Restituyo hit a sac fly that ended up sending the game to extra innings. Chris McMahon had a solid start for Spokane, giving up three runs in six innings on seven hits with seven strikeouts. Juan Mejia threw two scoreless innings with five strikeouts, Blake Goldsberry pitched two more scoreless frames, and Anderson Bido was perfect in the 11th to earn his first win of the season.

Low-A: Fresno Grizzlies 11, Modesto Nuts 0

Capping off a 4-0 night for the Rockies farm system, the Grizzlies put up a blowout win over that saw 13 Fresno hits and five Nuts errors. Benny Montgomery and Sterlin Thompson both recorded two-hit nights with a double, Yanquiel Fernandez hit a two-run double, and Bryant Quijada and Benjamin Sems drove in a pair of runs a piece. All nine starters and two pinch hitters recorded either a hit or scored a run for Fresno. Brayan Castillo threw five scoreless innings with six strikeouts to earn the win and three other Grizzlies pitchers held Modesto to five hits on the night.

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