A lot of things went right today for the Rockies in a 5-2 win at Philadelphia. The way this game unfolded, it could have easily gone the way so many games have gone this year, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. As Ryan Spilborghs said, it’s the #PITCHING, but it seems several things are being figured out.
There is no doubt the starting pitching is getting better. I had extreme trepidation that disaster was imminent with Eddie Butler starting in place of the scratched Jorge de la Rosa. Butler delivered a quality starting, prompting the Phils announcers to say their lineup was making him look like Chad Bettis. Not that good, but good nonetheless. 6.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, and 1 run.
That run came in the 1st, and it looked like Butler was headed down the same old path. He got two quick outs, then gave up an Utley single followed by a Howard double. He buckled down from there and became a lot more efficient, throwing 78 pitches with 53 strikes in his best outing yet.
The offense came to help. We said look out for Arenado in another day game, and he delivered in the 2nd with a HR off Harang. Michael McKenry followed a couple batters later with another HR, for a 2-1 lead. They elevated Harang’s pitch count to 109 and sent him to the showers after six. In the 7th, Ben Paulsen greeted Luis Garcia with a long ball, followed by a Brandon Barnes double and pinch hitter Rafael Ynoa single for a 4-1 lead.
Scott Oberg made things interesting in the bottom of the 7th. Jeff Francoeur drove a ball to left center that a fan extended way over the fence to snatch away from Barnes. The dude got booed worse than Santa Claus on the replay result, ground rule double. Oberg escaped without damage.
After Tulo and Arenado produced a double and single respectively to plate another run, Rafael Betancourt came in to work the 8th and just wasn’t himself. He went full to pinch hitter Cesar Hernandez, who then took him deep. He then walked Ben Revere on four straight pitches, very un-Betty like. He was sweating profusely and seemed a little disoriented when Steve Foster came out, followed by Keith Dugger. The good news is they weren’t looking at an arm or a leg, but nonetheless they decided to lift Betty, who tried to walk off the field with the ball. Official word is flu-like symptoms, translated:
Betancourt: “WHHHHHHHARRRRRRF” #Rockies
— Don Dingee (@DonnyDinger) May 30, 2015
In trots Boone Logan. Not surprising, after Freddy Galvis lurked the Utley and Howard show, left on left. OK. Logan actually got Galvis to fly out. Then was the first flub of the day. Utley shot a ball in the general direction of Tulo, but with a slight shift on Arenado crossed, grabbed the ball and tried to get to second base before Revere. I’m not sure if Arenado was trying to process turning two, or was distracted by Revere who was closing faster than expected, but when he got near the bag, Nolan forgot which foot to use to step on it. (“Right front, right back, … it’s probably harder than what you have to do, Hannah.”) Logan hung tough, fanning Howard out of the zone.
Anyone reading RoxWalkOff knows that Logan sucks with runners on base and right-handed batters at the plate. I’m glad someone forwarded that to Weiss, who went and got Logan for Brooks Brown, who got the third out from Maikel Franco immediately. Hurrah, a well managed mid-inning pen decision for a change.
So, here’s the next note I’d like forwarded to Walt. See our lead photo. I heard all that stuff from Goodman/Huson on how great the Rockies defensive shift is. They use it more than anyone. It has reduced groundball BABIP from .260 last year to .220 this year. (I’ll take their word for it right now, still looking for source data.) ISN”T SABERMETRICS GREAT? THE SHIFT IS WORKING!!!!
See that guy at the plate in the 9th? That’s Cody Asche. He’s hitting .248. Last night, he hit a ball into the 6 hole with Tulo shifted way up the middle that got a chuckle out of Bettis, no-hitter ruined. Shift is back today, except with Arenado 6 hole and a wide open third base line. One might ask why, after getting toasted, we’re trying this again. The answer is the 2015 spray chart for Asche:
@RockiesZingers enlightened me last night that it doesn’t matter what the batter’s average is, it’s about tendencies. Yes, we see that Asche hits a lot of groundballs to the right side. My question: what is the shift for? Answer: it’s to put more fielders in range of *hard* hit groundballs. Asche’s hard hit ground ball percentage: 13.8%. He’s not hurting people that much, is he? It also has something to do with pitch location, maybe he’s getting jammed a lot and can’t do much.
I trust Coors Shield to go get medium pace ground balls from their normal positions. By shifting, you’re showing a .248 hitter a lot more respect than he deserves, and you’re giving him the opportunity to … oh, there’s another single to left off Axford, right through the hole Arenado vacated.
I’m not saying the shift isn’t working, but the sabermetric elves need to do a bit more homework on how much damage somebody can really do rather than just counting dots on spray charts. Shift for Ryan Howard (25.6% hard hit groundballs) if tendency merits, not Cody Asche. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. But, far be it from me to question somebody’s sabermetrically-enhanced bonus.
I love stats and use them all the time, but I think there is still room for things like common sense and intestinal fortitude. I’m glad we are seeing all three of those things from the Rockies of late, it’s a lot more fun to watch (and write about).