Last night, Jim Tracy managed the Rockies like I tend to manage my fantasy teams. Tracy, doing his best Tony La Russa impression, obsessed over every possible angle only to have it all blow up in his face. His ninth-inning decision to pinch-hit Jason Giambi for Jonathan Herrera was as bad as it gets. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why he would lift the team’s best situational hitter in a one run ballgame with the speedy Dexter Fowler on first and one out. It was like he didn’t have the patience to play extra innings. He decided that either Giambi or Helton was going to win it with one swing or they were going to lose. Also, it’s not like Herrera was having a bad game. He was two for four with a triple before being pulled. What’s more, before that at-bat, Giambi hadn’t seen a live pitch since the Rox were in Florida over a week ago. Naturally, he struck out on three pitches.
This team has become dangerously reliant on the three-run dinger and Tracy’s move only further enabled that mentality. Over the past week, they have abandoned the grind- it-out approach that worked so well for the first month of the season. In general, they are taking very poor at-bats with runners in scoring position — 0-6 last night. They have not scored over five runs in a game since April 20th.
The bottom half of the lineup is mostly to blame for the team’s recent hitting woes. Basically, it’s a black hole that sucks up momentum and kills rallies. Last night’s sixth, seventh, and eighth hitters are all batting well under .200. In fairness, one of those hitters, Chris Iannetta, has a .395 OBP. Also, Spilly was playing because a lefty was on the bump. But, Jose Lopez is an utter waste of space. In fact, the third base position as a whole has become an offensive vacuum. The platoon of Ty Wigginton and Jose Lopez is very ineffective and it’s time for the Rockies to go in a different direction.
So what’s to be done with the hot corner? Bringing Ian Stewart back is a step in the right direction. I gave up on Ian becoming a star a long time ago, but he’s probably better than Ty Wigginton and definitely a step up from Jose Lopez. Even at his worst, Ian provides the threat of power and gets on base.
In eighty plate appearances this season, Lopez has one walk. He’s also hitting a buck-forty. When the Rockies acquired Lopez, they fooled themselves and their fans into thinking he was an everyday player. Ask any Mariners’ fan about Jose, and they’ll tell you that he’s not very good. If he was, Seattle wouldn’t have dumped him for Chaz Roe. Typically, teams aren’t in the business of trading solid big league talent for middle of the road minor league pitchers.** Lopez is a bench player with a semi-useful glove. If you rely on him to do something more, your team is in big trouble.
Currently, Ty Wigginton has a .309 OBP. While that seems rather low for him, it’s actually on par with what he’s done over the last couple of years. However, right now, Wiggy’s biggest problem is a lack of pop. His .383 slugging percentage is a career low and there isn’t much to indicate that he can turn it around. Over the last two seasons, his OPS is right around .730. As bad as Ian was last year, his OPS was close to .800. Also, Ian is much better defensively.
It’s interesting that the Rox would be so patient with Wiggy and Lopez and so impatient with Stewart. Granted, the two new Rockies are established veterans, but this team is better with Ian Stewart at third. It’s unfortunate that he got off to such a rocky start, but he had the right attitude about being sent down, and, according to sources, he found his swing in Colorado Springs. Now Tracy needs to let him play every day — even if he struggles. After time, if Ian can’t figure it out, the Rockies need to make a move. It will be a shame if their season falls apart because they can’t find a third baseman capable of making a contribution.
** The Pirates and Royals are an obvious exception to this rule.