Colorado Rockies: Ninth position in lineup still causing big problems
By Kevin Henry
In Wednesday night’s 8-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field, an old and familiar nemesis once again crept up and bit the Colorado Rockies again.
Throughout the 2017 campaign, the Rockies have had a hard time getting the ninth position in the opposing batting order out. Yes, that is the position usually held by the opposing pitcher … and that’s what makes the statistics even more frustrating.
On Wednesday night, Arizona pitcher Patrick Corbin went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .116 on the season. Rey Fuentes, who pinch hit in the seventh inning for relief pitcher Andrew Chafin singled in his only at-bat of the night, bringing the nine-hole damage against Rockies pitching to 3-for-4 on the night with two runs scored.
Wednesday was just an example of a problem that has faced Colorado all season. This year, batters in the ninth position against the Rockies (which, yes, includes some American League hitters when the Rockies have traveled in interleague play) have a .209 average and have drawn 40 walks. That’s just one less base on balls than the six-hole hitters (who have 41) have been issued this season.
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Colorado manager Bud Black has known the problem has existed all season. We talked to him about it in April when the Washington Nationals came into Coors Field and dominated a series. Part of the domination included walks and hits by Washington pitchers. I asked Black about walking the opposing pitcher after one of those games. Was it an unforgiveable sin for his pitchers?
"“It’s a bad one,” Black smiled. “It’s a no-no. It’s come back to bite us in the ass in two games.”"
It’s actually been a lot more than that as the season has worn on. And it has made Colorado the worst team in the National League West when it comes to getting the opposing nine hole batter out. Take a look…
Los Angeles Dodgers — .144 average, 30 walks
Arizona — .167 average, 24 walks
San Diego — .180 average, 32 walks
San Francisco — .204 average, 26 walks
Colorado — .209 average, 40 walks
If you consider all of Major League Baseball (including the American League), nine hole hitters have a collective .208 average and have drawn 34.3 walks per club. Colorado’s numbers are higher on both counts.
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The Rockies pitching staff must do a better job against what is supposed to be the weakest hitter in the lineup. While nothing in baseball is an automatic out, this position is often as close as it gets. Colorado needs to take advantage of those opportunities.