Colorado Rockies: How to avoid repeating the ’18 NLDS in ’19
Fix first base.
I’m not the biggest anti-Ian Desmond guy out there. He managed to put together a 20-20 season and he logged 88 RBI, good enough for third-most on the team. He had a few huge hits that resulted in wins when we needed them the most. He provides veteran leadership, postseason experience and an important clubhouse presence.
Desmond also put together a memorable number of empty at-bats. He strikes out too much and hits so many soft ground outs it drives the Rockies’ faithful mad. In 2018, he posted a poor .236 average to go along with a cringe-worthy career-worst .307 on-base percentage. Desmond’s performance isn’t the reason the Rockies got swept. No one could hit this postseason. It’s not his fault. But in the postmortem of the 2018 season, he stands out for three reasons.
First, he’s getting paid way too much. I know that point has been exhausted ever since his signing was announced, but he is the highest-paid player on the team and he just posted an underwhelming 83 OPS + (with 100 representing league average), which is actually an improvement from last season’s career-low mark of 72. As the Rockies look to make additions this offseason or retain/extend current stars like Nolan Arenado, DJ LeMahieu, and Adam Ottavino, that $70 million looms even larger.
Second, the bottom of the order needs to produce better than it did this season, and Desmond is the most talented hitter in the lower third, so a portion of that responsibility lies on him. In 2017, position players hitting in the 7-9 spots in the order hit .246, contributing to a record-setting RBI season from Charlie Blackmon at the top of the order. In 2018, the bottom third of the Rockies’ lineup hit just .221, a significant drop off.