01 April 2015
In Part 1 and 2 of this series I looked at the role of the pitching, first the bullpen and then the starters, in the decline of the Rockies to baseball irrelevancy. But what is the problem isn’t the guys throwing the ball. What if the problem all along has been…gasp…the offense.
For a team that plays in Coors Field we all know that the Rockies are of course an offensive powerhouse, held back only by these major pitching issues. Or, are they? The Rockies have always had to outslug the opposition at home and then hope to carve out a few runs on the road. But has the Rockies always had the offensive powerhouse.
Let’s leave out the road issues for a minute (though as you will see below, the road numbers play a big role in 2010 and 2014). We all know, and to date no one knows how to fix the issues (if they can be fixed), as most of the issues relate to the shift in seeing pitches on the road vs. home. Based on what we are hearing I would not be surprised to see this team do far more “small ball” things like steal, bunts, hit-and-runs, and the like this season. We shall see.
THESIS – THE REAL PROBLEM IS IN THE BATTERS BOX, NOT THE MOUND
But is the real issue the offense including, or especially, at home?
In looking at the data for these years I show for each of the top 11 players in # of plate appearances (PA), their Batting Average (BA), on-base-percentage (OBP), OPS (OBP+slugging), and then the final number is their OPS+, adjusting for park effect and comparison to the league. Again, a score of 100 is the league average. At the bottom of the list I have broken out the team’s performance for BA, OBP, OPS homers and grounded-into-double plays for home and road.
THE PROBLEMS BEGAN IN 2010
I have been focusing on what caused the slide to obvlivion from 2011-2014, but the offensive issues began in 2010. This chart shows the team’s record both H and R since 2007, and the sOPS+ which shows the split relative to other team’s splits. As expected you see the Rox having a substantial H split advantage compared to other NL team’s home numbers. And of course they are below the league average when comparing R #s to other team’s road numbers.
What we see though is that when H sOPS+ is over 120, they win at least 45 games other than 2012, when let’s be honest, everyone was cranking balls out of Coors. They average 49 wins. In years under 120, 41. Still good, but as we know the Rox have to pummel teams at home to make up for the challenges on the road.
On the road the key # appears to be 94. When they are within 6% of other team’s road number they average 38 wins. Years in which they are 8% or lower worse than the league road average, they average, gulp, just 28 wins. Enough said.
In 2010 the team was done-in by really bad road offense. Even at home the numbers are really inflated by two guys named Tulo and CarGo. The only one with an OPS+ (a stat that takes into account league and park effect, a good individual measure for guys) who was better than league average was Spilly, and he only had 388 PA. The 2010 team simply was bad offensively.
The 2011 team wasn’t terrible on the road, but struggled to put up big numbers at home, and had a weird lineup of either very good or very bad. The 2012 numbers again have to be tossed. My mother could have hit .300 that year at home, and she passed in 2010, but wow they stunk on the road! The offense rebounded at home the past 2 years, which is why the wins are there, but both years the team simply couldn’t hit on the road. The 2013 team should have been better on the road with an road OPS closer to 2011, but they failed in a lot of 2-out runners in scoring situations. The 2014 team on the road was an embarrassment (and the 21 road wins was 62 Mets-like). Then again, how many bench-players and AAA guys were playing in those road games from late-May to late-August.
THE SAD FACT IS – THE ROCKIES ARE A BAD OFFENSIVE TEAM!
So now we know, for all the “This is a great lineup” talk every year, it hasn’t been. Yes, anytime you can throw out a healthy Tulo and CarGo (Tulo’s healthy OPS+ numbers are 138,131,139,171 – CarGo’s are 143,125,122,144). And of course they have between then 2 season of 600 PA (and only 6 500 PA between them out of 10 tries). But after these two? Helton had one year in four of better than league average numbers. Dex had 2 but only 2012 was really good (and again, 2012 is a joke). Cuddy had 2, but only one great season. Charlie B has had the last 2, but both barely above league average. And Nolan had his first last year. Rosario had 2 slightly above league-average numbers. Last year they got a great year from Morneau and a pretty good year from Stubbs in 424 PA. But those numbers don’t leap out at you, do they?
RECAP – WHICH OF THE 3 PARTS OF THE TEAM WERE GOOD THE SAME YEAR?
Back in 2010 the team had good starting pitching, great pen work, and a sub-par offense (2 out of 3 areas +), and they won just 83 games despite career years from a number of guys. 2011 the team had a great bullpen, slightly poor starting pitching, and a poor offense (1 out of 3 areas +), 2012 saw an awful starting group, bad bullpen, and a decent offense at home and horrible on the road (can we say 0 for 3 areas+), 2013 saw slightly poor starting, slightly poor pen work, and slightly poor offense ( shall we say 0 + areas, but no really bad – areas, no wonder they only won 74 games, the high point of this dreadful period), and 2014 saw awful starting pitching, beyond awful bullpen work, and while the home offense was epic, the road offense was epically bad (so lets say half a positive areas), resulting in 67 wins and an extremely disappointing season.
So no, it wasn’t the bullpen that dragged down this team, as I thought. It wasn’t even the starting pitching, which is what most of us think of when we think of 2011-2014. And surprisingly the offense was a bigger factor than I realized before looking. And while you could point to the injuries (with so few PA for their big 2), there is simply an inescapable fact.
THIS TEAM HAS STUNK IN ALL THREE OF THE KEY AREAS!!!! STUNK! HORRIBLE! THEY MANAGED TO STRINK IN EVERY AREA…
Of course the defense has been pretty good a lot of the time, and the bullpen had a great 2011 and the top three starter in 2013 were pretty good, but really, this team has stunk all over the place. I knew the last 4 years were miserable. I knew they disappointed the daylights out of us in 2011 and 2014 when they should have been at least a .500 team. But I had no idea how bad they were across the board. And what is really bad…it takes a lot of work to improve a team when basically 18-20 out of 25 guys on your daily roster were sub-par at best. This team did need a total make-over, and I admit that I never saw it.
So can it be improved? Can this team turn it around in 2015? Or 2016? Or even 2017?
Well, at least the offense this year (if healthy) should be a lot better, with guys in LF and RF who could be 130+ OPS guys, the best player when healthy in baseball at SS, a 3B waiting to explode offensively, a returning batting champ at 1B and a CF combo that should be close to an .800 OPS. You can live with light hitting C and 2B if all those other guys perform up to their ability. But in the past 5 years, very few guys other than Tulo and CarGo have been doing that. 2015 needs a change, and it needs a big change in….offense.
DETAILED STATS TO BLOW YOUR MIND
Here is how the data breaks down. I show for each year the top 11 players in # of plate appearances (PA), their Batting Average (BA), on-base-percentage (OBP), OPS (OBP+slugging), and then the final number is their OPS+, adjusting for park effect and comparison to the league. Again, a score of 100 is the league average. At the bottom of the list I have broken out the team’s performance for BA, OBP, OPS homers and grounded-into-double plays for home and road. I warn you…these are scary numbers for a team we have been told year-after-year has “a great lineup.”
|PA – BA/OBP/OPS/OPS+||PA – BA/OBP/OPS/OPS+|
|Carlos Gonzalez||636 PA – .336/.376/.974/143||Carlos Gonzalez||542 – .295/.363/.889/125|
|Troy Tulowitzki||529 PA – .315/.381/.949/138||Troy Tulowitzki||606 – .302/.372/.916/131|
|Dexter Fowler||505 PA – .260/.349/.757/92||Dexter Fowler||563 – .266/.363/.796/103|
|Todd Helton||473 PA – .256/.362/.728/87||Todd Helton||491 – .302/.385/.850/117|
|Ian Stewart||441 PA – .256/.338/.781/97||Ty Wigginton||446 – .242/.315/.731/86|
|Clint Barmes||432 PA – .235/.305/.656/67||Mark Ellis||286 – .274/.317/.708/80|
|Miguel Olivio||427 PA – .269/.315/.765/92||Chris Ianetta||426 – .238/.370/.785/101|
|Seth Smith||398 PA – .246/.314/.783/96||Seth Smith||533 – .284/.347/.830/110|
|Ryan Spilborghs||388 PA – .279/.360/.797/102||Ryan Spilborghs||223 – .210/.283/.588/51|
|Melvin Mora||354 PA – .285/.358/.779/98||Jonathan Herrera||320 – .242/.313/.612/58|
|Brad Hawpe||300 PA – .255/.343/.776/96||EY Jr.||229 – .247/.342/.640/66|
|PA – BA/OBP/OPS HR GDP||PA – BA/OBP/OPS HR GDP|
|Home||3164 – .298/.368/.866 108 53||Home||3152 – .274/.349/.796 94 46|
|Road||3101 – .226/.303/.654 065 50||Road||3123 – .242/.309/.683 69 66|
|PA – BA/OBP/OPS/OPS+||PA – BA/OBP/OPS/OPS+|
|Carlos Gonzalez||579 – .303/.371/.881/122||Carlos Gonzalez||436 – .302/.367/.958/144|
|Josh Rutledge||291 – .274/.306/.775/94||Troy Tulowitzki||512 – .312/.391/.931/139|
|Dexter Fowler||530 – .300/.389/.863/119||Dexter Fowler||492 – .263/.369/.776/102|
|Todd Helton||283 – .238/.343/.743/89||Todd Helton||442 – .249/.314/.738/89|
|Chris Nelson||377 – .301/.352/.810/105||Nolan Arenado||514 – .267/.301/.706/81|
|Marco Scutero||415 – .271/.324/.684/74||DJ LeMahieu||434 – .280/.311/.673/74|
|Wilin Rosario||426 – .270/.312/.843/109||Wilin Rosario||466 – .292/.315/.801/104|
|Michael Cuddyer||394 – .260/.317/.806/102||Michael Cuddyer||540 – .331/.389/.919/136|
|Tyler Colvin||452 – .290/.327/.858/114||Charlie Blackmon||258 – .309/.336/.803/106|
|Jonathan Herrera||251 – .262/.317/.668/70||Josh Rutledge||314 – .235/.294/.630/63|
|Jordan Pacheco||505 – .309/.341/.762/93||Jordan Pacheco||262 – .239/.276/.588/52|
|PA – BA/OBP/OPS HR GDP||PA – BA/OBP/OPS HR GDP|
|Home||3168 – .306/.367/.867 100 74||Home||3134 – .293/.347/.808 88 52|
|Road||3015 – .241/.291/.662 063 58||Road||3018 – .246/.298/.672 71 59|
|PA – BA/OBP/OPS/OPS+||Hopeful top 11|
|Carlos Gonzalez||281 – .238/.292/.723/89||Carlos Gonzalez|
|Troy Tulowitzki||375 – .340/.432/1.035/171||Troy Tulowitzki|
|Corey Dickerson||478 – .312/.364/.931/142||Corey Dickerson|
|Justin Morneau||550 – .319/.364/.860/125||Justin Morneau|
|Nolan Arenado||467 – .287/.328/.828/116||Nolan Arenado|
|DJ LeMahieu||538 – .267/.315/.663/76||DJ LeMahieu|
|Wilin Rosario||410 – .267/.305/.739/93||Nick Hundley|
|Drew Stubbs||424 – .289/.339/.821/115||Drew Stubbs|
|Charlie Blackmon||648 – .288/.335/.775/104||Charlie Blackmon|
|Josh Rutledge||342 – .269/.323/.728/92||Daniel Descelso|
|Brandon Barnes||313 – .257/.293/.718/88||Wilin Rosario|
|PA – BA/OBP/OPS HR GDP|
|Home||3174 – .322/.372/.902 119 68|
|Road||2744 – .228/.279/.636 067 53|