Pacheco. Image: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Rockies' Young Hitters Continue To Falter

The Colorado Rockies were on their way to their projected mediocre results in 2013 when something funny happened: this is not the pitching staff’s fault. The offense has been the culprit.

Seriously. On Sunday afternoon this trend resulted in a 6-1 loss to Patrick Corbin and the Diamondbacks. In the bigger picture it has resulted in a stretch in which the team has lost 14 of their last 20 games.

Colvin. Image: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Even with some hiccups, the pitching has been a pleasant surprise this season. Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin have been studs. Tyler Chatwood has emerged. Rex Brothers and a cast of others have been solid in the bullpen, although that facet of the team has stumbled of late as well. But really, once Troy Tulowitzki hit the disabled list, followed closely by Dexter Fowler, it has been the bats that have cost the team some games.

This is especially true on the road, although this is less a reflection of a problem that is distinct to this season and more a description of the franchise’s history from day one.

The Colorado Rockies played three games in Arizona this weekend. They lost all three. In those games they were outscored by a total margin of 22-2. On Sunday they had one run on three hits, with Jonathan Herrera providing two of those hits (one was a solo home run, because why wouldn’t it be?).

The Rockies were supposed to stink this year. It was supposed to be a result of bad pitching. Of the 47 losses in their 42-47 record, I think any reasonable person who has watched the team would agree that less than half (roughly…ish) are the fault of the pitching staff.

And that’s fine, by the way. But the larger and more concerning problem lies with the young hitters. The recipe for offensive success this season was supposed to be a combination of the star-power of Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Michael Cuddyer and the steady contributions of a cast of others. The lone benefit of the rash of injuries in 2012 was that it afforded a number of young players the chance to be in the lineup every day and take their lumps. With that experience they would be geared up for good years in 2012. Combine that with the aforementioned three-headed monster and you have a potent offense.

To an extent that formula has worked out. But then take a look at the disappointing 2013 slash lines of a number of these young hitters who played significant innings down the stretch last season:

Chris Nelson: .242/.282/.318 (was designated for assignment and traded)
Jordan Pacheco: .249/.282/.325
Josh Rutledge: .217/.278/.323
Tyler Colvin: .169/.206/.308
Charlie Blackmon: .240/.269/.360

The only players who appear, at this point, to have benefited from the development last season are everyday catcher Wilin Rosario (.272/.312/.477) and second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who has come on strong as of late (.287/.340/.387).

The depth that was supposed to be lacking at pitcher was supposed to be plentiful with position players. These players all improved with an increased number of at-bats in 2012. Where did that development go? Did we miscalculate this situation and therefore overestimate the capabilities of this offense?

The fact of the matter is this: you throw in the aging of Todd Helton (.243/.314/.381) and the frequent playing time relegated to Yorvit Torrealba and Jonathan Herrera and you realize that the Rockies desperately need Dexter Fowler, Gonzalez, Tulowitzki, and Cuddyer to stay healthy and stay in the lineup.

Part of the Rockies’ offensive formula has worked out thus far. Their star players have played like stars, which is reflected in the fact that CarGo, Tulo, and Cuddy were selected as National League All-Stars. But the depth that their young hitters were supposed to provide simply has not been there. That fact has been exposed in recent weeks, and it goes a long way towards explaining the team’s recent skid.

It is July 7th and the Rockies are 4.5 games out of first place. If you asked me before the season if I would have been OK with that scenario, I would have heartily said yes. However, I would not have signed off on so many young hitters taking a step back in 2013 after seemingly taking a step forward in 2012. That is something that needs to change or be addressed if the Rockies plan to stay relevant past the All-Star break and trade deadline.

Tags: Colorado Rockies

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