I have been saying that this team has not been winning with smoke and mirrors. And as you look at the data, aside from Tulo being crazy good and Blackmon still being higher than expected by a bit and Jordan Lyles being 5-0, this team is actually starting to hit and pitch in-line with norms. When it comes down to it….this team is better than I thought and at 23-17 is actually 2 games worse than then Pythagorean calculation says they should be (those 1-6 in bullpen games would be why). Anyways, 11 observations from the stats:
1) Justin Morneau has been a really big bat for this team through the first 40 games, but as a number of folks have pointed out, he is not someone who is going to hit lefties well all-season long. Fortunately for much of the early season he has. But his numbers against lefties has dropped to .300/.310/.810. Still pretty good, but his numbers over the past number of games against lefties have been far poorer. With Cuddy out there really hasn’t been much of an option (playing Pacheco with his complete lack of power and less than excellent glove isn’t much of an option). When Cuddy comes back I imagine they will give Justin ABs against some lefties but sit him against the tough ones.
2) We are really hurt hitting wise in the catcher position with Wilin out. He started off slow this year, but take a look at 2013 and he had 9 homers by the end of May. The combined homers for Pacheco and McKenry….0! They are getting on-base well enough, but the lack of power, especially on the road, makes this line-up look really short quickly.
3) Adding to that short line-up is the loss of Josh Rutledge. Josh’s glove is more acceptable on the road because DJ simply isn’t a threat on the road, where his .648 OPS says a lot. Josh is the far superior hitter, not enough at Coors to start there, but on the road, you can bet Walt Weiss wishes he could have the two split these 7 games 4 for one and 3 for the other.
4) Carlos Gonzalez had a great year hitting on the road last year, even when Tulo was out for a month. Whether you believe in “protection” for a hitter or not, last year’s team once Tulo went down didn’t have one hitter (okay, Cuddy hit .311 with a .852 OPS) that made a pitcher scared, and so CarGo didn’t get a lot to hit. And last year he hit .332 with a .987 OPS on the road and only .273 with a .930 OPS at home. Some of that was down to BABAIP – on the road .407 at home .331. Carlos should have a high BABIP because he hits balls very hard and not a lot of grounders generally. Right now the fact that the Rockies are playing as well on the road as they is amazing when you see CarGo is hitting .186//247 OBP/.631 on the road largely to a BABIP of .194! .194!!!!! Infield practice lets more balls through. This will even out at some point – maybe not .402 again but .340 or so? When that happens, this team on the road becomes very good. Not worry, at home he is hitting .371/.400/1.029 on BABIP of .400. The good news is he has given the team 4 homers on the road, one more than at home. But wow do they need CarGo to break-out the next two days.
5) I have asked the question why Corey Dickerson say against Cueto opening day of the series in favor of Drew Stubbs. One, you figure that Walt was playing Drew in his old-team place and was riding a seemingly hot hand. Okay, not how we would do a line-up, but understandable. But how do you sit a guy against righties who is hitting .385 with a 1.108 OPS (after his big game on Saturday). The other reason they sat him – he is the lone lefty power of the bench, and knowing that Chapman was coming back on Saturday, Friday night was the night to have him against the righty Broxton in the 9th. But I hate when you sit a great lefty bat because you might need him in the 9th, yet Walt is not the first manager to do so – his mentors Cox and LaRussa were known to do the same thing. But I say play to win in innings 1-8, not 9.
6) The weird platoon splits we have seen most of the year from guys like Blackmon and Arenado have normalized. DJ still hits righties better than lefties, and CarGo is hitting lefties better than righties, but for DJ that is volume I think and playing against yea-old soft-tossing lefties while CarGo is a really good hitter who against most lefties hangs in very well (as Justin was earlier in the season but has been bailing out a bit more of late). Look, against Chapman on Sunday forget it, but still. So the team is beginning to hit more normally.
7) Blackmon is still hitting for a high average, but he has hit well in every category, even .293 on the road, and finally had power this trip with 2 road homers. I still don’t think he will hit .330, but .300 might be more and more likely, which is not bad for a lefty playing against lefties regularly. Nolan still has no homers on the road, but he does show good doubles power, which is why he has an .812 OPS on the road. The other night on MLB Network’s nighttime show the recently retired Mark De Rosa came out and said that he thinks Arenado should be mentioned in the same breath as Manny Machado (generally viewed as the third best young player after Trout and Harper). While they all see Machado probably hitting more homers in his career as he get bigger, he said Arenado is actually the better defender and Arenado is going to be a .300 hitter with 20homer and 40 double power as well. So, the “poor man’s Manny Machado” label is now the National League Manny Machado – not bad for a guy who still needs to hit a bomb on the road.
8) Pitching staff wise the numbers on the road have come down this trip, as we have seen a lot of good pitching and few earned runs. Yes, the defense has been poor this trip but I really do see this being the lack of rest and somewhat not having the players you want at each position. But this trip has seen in the first 5 games a great start by DLR, a decent start by Morales, a nearly good enough start to beat Cueto by Chacin, Lyles being Lyles, and then Nicasio giving 6IP of 2 ER ball with really just one bad pitch, the bomb by Frazier. The lack of offense is all that has kept this team from being 4-1 on this trip. Morales will start in KC and James Shields (sub 3 ERA), but he has been either really bad or really good, and this is due for his good outing (lets hope DLR’s back is healthy by Friday) and then Chacin going for his first win vs. Vargas (LHP FA signee this off-season, 3-1, 3.04 ERA). So two tough match-ups, but with the day-off I expect the Rox to hit well, field well…and pitch well.
9) Nicasio continues to be a great home pitcher, but did drop his WHIP on the road below 1.41. In many ways Nicasio and Morales are very similar pitchers in terms of outcomes. Morales I think knows he is pitching each time out to prove he is more valuable to this team starting than relieving.
10) Their reliever corp right now is about as solid as it has been in many years. If you look at numbers over just the past 2 weeks, just about everyone, including Rex, has dropped their numbers significantly. Belisle has shown the most improvement, earning the right for 8th inning duty again. Ottavino has a week of trouble, but is back. Boone has been getting beat with homers a bit too much, but even with that his numbers are good….as are Hawkins. Where this team is finding real strength right now are the 3 low guys in the pen – Martin, Masset and Kahnle. They make up maybe the best 6,7 and 8th men in the pen in the NL West. The team has been smart to not throw Kahnle too much, and Masset has yet to give up an Earned Run either in AAA or up here. Martin had one bad outing, but aside from that is throwing very well with some nights a 96 mph fastball and an 83mph slider and a nice curve. Nice piece so far as part of the Hererra deal.
11) The pitching numbers beyond W-L and ERA, the OPS and WHIP show this team to a much better pitching staff than people realize, and indeed if you go to either the ESPN or MLB stats trackers and look at our pitching on the road, at home, starters, and relievers, you will find this team is pitching about league average, and doing that with not just the Coors effect, but how pitching at Coors makes our pitchers need longer to recover. I just continue to be very impressed – and all this without 3 of our big 5 for a month of the season and with two guys from the pen who were counted on being blown right out of Coors to Colorado Springs and a Rule 5 guy on top of that. Dan O’Dowd and Mark Wiley have to be really pleased with what they have created here in just a few short years. Now…keep it up.