A Few Quick Thoughts About the Rockies’ Offense

When Charlie Blackmon was double-switched out of Tuesday night’s NL Wild Card game in the bottom of the eighth inning, immediately after the Cubs tied the game and the Rockies put in Wade Davis, it wasn’t hard to miss just how limited Colorado’s offense is. With their season on the line, the next nine hitters that manager Bud Black sent to the plate from that point were as follows:

Rockies’ Batting Order in Late Innings of Wild Card Game
Order # Player PA AVG OBP SLG wRC+
3 Nolan Arenado 673 .297 .374 .561 132
4 Trevor Story 656 .291 .348 .567 127
5 Gerardo Parra 443 .284 .342 .372 80
6 Ian Desmond 619 .236 .307 .422 81
7 David Dahl 271 .273 .325 .534 109
8 Carlos Gonzalez 504 .276 .329 .467 96
9 Drew Butera 182 .190 .264 .301 52
1 Pat Valaika 133 .156 .214 .246 9
2 DJ LeMahieu 581 .276 .321 .428 86
Tony Wolters 216 .170 .292 .286 45
Ryan McMahon 202 .232 .307 .376 68

Valaika, pinch-hitting for Davis in the 10th, gave way to pitcher Seung Hwan Oh, who departed in the 11th in favor of Chris Rusin via a double-switch that removed Desmond and brought in McMahon. Scott Oberg followed Rusin in the 12th, double-switched out in a move where Wolters replaced Butera. That Wolters ultimately collected the game-winning hit in the 13th owes something to the position that Cubs starter-turned-reliever Kyle Hendricks was forced into under the circumstances, but the fact that he came through, despite the meager prospects for doing so, is both Very Baseball and why the Rockies lived to fight another series.

Still, it’s worth noting that the Rockies’ offensive deficit stands out on several different fronts. Yes, they ranked second in the NL in overall scoring (4.79 runs per game), but that papers over a huge home/road split of 5.49 runs per game at home and 4.13 per game on the road, the latter of which ranked ninth in the NL. Via wRC+, their overall offense is tied for the second-worst of the Wild Card era (1995 onward) with… last year’s edition of the team, which lost the Wild Card game to the D-backs:

Playoff Teams With Lowest wRC+, Wild Card Era
Rk Year Team wRC+
1 2007 D-backs 82
2T 2018 Rockies 87
2T 2017 Rockies 87
4 2001 Braves 89
5T 2007 Cubs 90
5T 2005 Astros 90
7T 2017 Red Sox 91
7T 2003 Cubs 91
7T 1996 Dodgers 91
7T 1995 Rockies 91

Of course, those figures include plate appearances by players that won’t come anywhere near the postseason. Jeff Sullivan did take the trouble to crunch the numbers after omitting pitcher hitting and paring down to the expected rosters of the playoff teams. Via that exercise, the Rockies’ wRC+ rose to 102… which was still the worst in the field, and not by a little, as was their WAR:

Playoff Team Position Players, 2018 Stats
Team wRC+ BsR Def WAR # 100
Dodgers 130 6 -14 40 10
Yankees 126 11 -28 39 7
Athletics 117 10 38 39 7
Red Sox 114 7 28 35 7
Indians 112 3 -1 30 7
Braves 112 11 10 30 7
Astros 116 -6 -29 29 8
Cubs 113 -4 4 28 8
Brewers 109 1 13 27 8
Rockies 102 7 -4 21 4
# 100 = players with 100 wRC+ or better in at least 250 plate appearances overall (including with previous teams).

That right-most column is the number of players on the team who posted at least a 100 wRC+ while getting 250 PA overall and are still with the team (Andrew McCutchen counts for the Yankees, Mike Moustakas and Curtis Granderson for the Brewers, etc). This is one reason why the outlook for the Rockies looked so dire as of September 18, when Story suffered a right elbow injury that was feared to be UCL-related.

The 250-PA threshold is admittedly arbitrary; for example, it misses AL Wild Card Game hero Luke Voit, the hottest hitter in the AL since the start of August, as well as the hottest of any player moved in the days leading up to the July 31 deadline. I chose the cutoff to give the benefit of the doubt to the Rockies with regards to Dahl, the oft-injured former prospect who missed all of 2017 (save for 82 minor league PA) due to a stress reaction in his rib cage, and then missed all of June and July of this season (save for a rehab assignment) due to a foul-ball induced fracture in his right foot.

Before going down with the fracture, Dahl hit a very lopsided .275/.309/.484 with four homers in 97 PA, walking just 4.1% of the time and striking out 28.9%. He started 20 games in either left field (in place of Parra, mostly) or right (in place of Gonzalez) and came off the bench another 12 times. It wasn’t a particularly effective performance, good for just a 95 wRC+, and it fit into the larger pattern of the Rockies’ ongoing failure to assemble a productive outfield, which I wrote about in July. Upon returning, he continued to share time in the corners, hitting a tepid .254/.338/.451 for a 90 wRC+ in August and then a torrid .287/.330/.655 for a 141 wRC+ in September/October. He hit nine of his 16 home runs in 94 PA in the latter “month” (including the NL West tiebreaker game), with six in a seven-game span from September 24-30, the must-win games the team played against the Phillies and Nationals. Mind you, they weren’t especially high-leverage homers; only two gave the team the lead, and most of their wins in that span were routs in which the Rockies scored at least 10 runs.

So is Dahl really another legitimate threat for Colorado? I was willing to believe so during that barrage of homers, but now that Team Entropy isn’t tugging at my sleeve and I’ve had a closer look at the numbers, I’m not so sure. Get a load of these home/road splits:

David Dahl Home/Road Splits, 2018
Home 144 5.8% 22.1% .326 .364 .688 146 89.5 .435 .351
Away 105 8.5% 29.1% .200 .274 .324 55 87.5 .254 .271

Now, any conclusions based upon sample sizes of 105 or 144 plate appearances should be taken with a grain of salt, but those wide splits don’t exactly bolster my conviction that he’s a major asset. Still, a platoon involving him and late-August addition Matt Holliday, who hit .283/.415/.434 in 65 PA while making 13 starts in left field and one at DH, does make for decent upgrade over Parra. Whether that will be enough to help the Rockies get past the Brewers in the Division Series will hinge upon much more, but as the series unfolds, all of this is worth keeping in mind.

Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011, and a Hall of Fame voter since 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe... and BlueSky @jayjaffe.bsky.social.

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5 years ago

Is there any organization in competition with Colorado for the title of worst-run in MLB? They only plus free-agent signing they’ve ever made was Greg Holland, and they continue to lead the league in drag factor by a wide margin by insisting on not playing their best players.

5 years ago
Reply to  jdfree49

And yet here they are…again. I think the organization you are thinking of is the KC Royals who didn’t know what they were doing according to many from 2012 thru late 2014 yet Oct 2014 and 2015 happened….And also you can point to the 2008 – early 2010 SF Giants who were also a team whose GM was constantly questioned and many felt like he did not know what he was doing. Maybe there is more luck than we care to think about or maybe some of these guys actually have some crazy plan that somehow works and someone will write about it after the fact ….

5 years ago
Reply to  jdfree49

The Mets are still a thing

5 years ago
Reply to  scotman144

Classic! Didn’t even need to “Load Rest of Comments”.