There will be much excitement later today when the Colorado Rockies call up other members of their 40-man roster as active roster expansions occur throughout Major League Baseball.
Certainly the Colorado Rockies could use a boost after dropping five of their last seven games, including a pair of clunkers to open a four-game road series against the division’s last-place team, the San Diego Padres. Fresh faces in the clubhouse will likely give manager Bud Black more options when it comes to his lineup and strategic using of a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner.
However, how much of an impact will the new faces make as the Rockies chase their first-ever division crown and second consecutive postseason berth? Let’s look back for a possible foreshadowing of what is to come.
Last season, heading into play on September 1, the Rockies were 72-61 and had just dropped two of three games in a home series against the Detroit Tigers (including the final start for Justin Verlander before he was traded to the Houston Astros). This year, the Rockies are 72-62 heading into September 1’s game in San Diego. Last year and this year have very similar records and very similar scenarios (both years chasing a playoff berth).
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In 2017, September 1’s call-ups included pitchers Jeff Hoffman, Carlos Estevez and Zac Rosscup, along with catcher Tom Murphy, infielder Ryan McMahon and outfielder Mike Tauchman. On September 7, the Rockies called up outfielder Raimel Tapia.
So what impact did those seven players make in their September appearances? Let’s look at their usage by Black last season after being called up.
Tapia, 17 games (two starts) and 25 at-bats
Tauchman, 21 games (no starts) and 16 at-bats
McMahon, 13 games (one start) and 10 at-bats
Murphy, four games (no starts) and four at-bats
Estevez, 14 games (no starts, 11.2 innings)
Hoffman, six games (no starts, 7.2 innings)
Rosscup, six games (no starts, 3.2 innings)
As you can see, the starting lineup changed very little with the new faces in the clubhouse. Using position players as pinch-hitters and pinch-runners were the norm. That probably comes as no surprise knowing Black’s penchant for playing his veteran players.
Pitching-wise, however, is where last year’s call-ups made more of an impact (and could again this season). Hoffman was the only one last season who averaged more than one inning per appearance last year (and that included a September 27 outing where he allowed four runs and didn’t record an out). Five of the appearances from Estevez were just one-third of an inning.
Could what we saw last year from call-ups be what we see this year as well? It’s very possible, and don’t forget that the Rockies will also have a new face in catcher Drew Butera, who came over from the Kansas City Royals in an August 31 trade. Could Butera see more time behind the plate as the month goes along?
There will be a lot of analysis about today’s call-ups. However, when the month plays out, look for them to play more of a bit part rather than a starring role in Colorado’s postseason push.