Brad Hawpe has been well received in Denver and rightfully so. His contributions were a huge part of the Rockies’ success over the last seven years, something the fan base appreciates. However, if he continues to hit game winning homeruns for the opponent, he won’t be welcome for long.
It’s tough getting beat by a guy that the Rockies discarded. But, they were right to send him packing. Over the past couple of years, his bat has slowed and his productivity has fallen off significantly. Currently, the team has several players that are more productive outfielders than Hawpe. However, he can still hit mistakes and that’s exactly what he saw on Saturday — one giant, inexcusable mistake.
The Rockies first went wrong with the pitch call. At this point in his career, Hawpe should see very few change-ups. He is easy to tie up and should be pounded with inside fastballs and sliders. I don’t think he’s squared up an inside fastball in two years. The Rockies ought to know this as well as anyone. But, yesterday, Iannetta called for a change-up with two strikes on Hawpe.
While throwing a change-up wasn’t the best idea, they probably would’ve gotten away with it had Street thrown a better pitch. Iannetta set up low and away, but the ball ended up belt-high and right down the pipe. Hawpe’s homerun was impressive, but he was given a gift. Most big league hitters can do a lot of damage with a 79 MPH change-up over the middle of the plate. That’s called batting practice.
Street’s mistake to Hawpe can’t be dismissed as a one-time event. Over the last three weeks, he’s been serving up taters like he’s behind the counter at McDonald’s. In his last 10.2 innings pitched, he’s given up five homeruns. It’s only May and he has already surrendered as many homeruns as he did in all of 2010. With two more, he’ll tie his career high of seven homers surrendered in 2009.
To best understand what’s been causing this recent explosion of homeruns, it’s probably easiest to take a deep look at each of the dingers he has surrendered this year. I’ve already broken down what happened with Brad Hawpe on Saturday so there’s no need to further rehash that painful memory. Here’s the scoop on the other four homeruns:
April 14th Rockies @ Mets
Scott Hairston — 9th inning, 1 out, runner on second, 2-2 count.
Hairston’s shot was somewhat shocking. At that point in the season Street was pitching quite well and the blast seemed to come out of nowhere. However, the homerun received little attention because the Rockies were still able to hold on for the win.
Jose Morales set up for a low fastball on the outside corner, but Street missed badly, leaving the ball up and on the inside corner. At just 89 MPH Hairston had no problem turning on the pitch and hitting it out of the park.
April 26th Rockies @ Cubs
Alfonso Soriano — 9th inning, 0 out, bases empty, 0-1 count.
Like Hairston’s homerun, this one went unnoticed because the Rockies were able to hold on for the win and Street still picked up the save. It’s always a good idea to throw sliders low and away to Alfonso Soriano, particularly when he’s behind in the count. That’s what Chris Iannetta wanted, but Huston didn’t execute. He hung the slider, leaving it up and over the plate. Soriano crushed it.
May 5th Rockies @ Diamondbacks
Gerardo Parra — 9th inning, 1 out, bases empty, 1-2 count.
Chris Young — 9th inning, 2 out, bases empty, 1-1 count.
These two blasts caught everyone’s attention because they broke up a shut-out and sent the game into extras where the Rockies eventually lost. Up until this game, the Rockies’ relievers had been rock solid, but this blowup by Street was the start of the bullpen’s recent tail spin.
On Parra’s homerun, Street was trying to throw an outside fastball, but he caught too much of the plate and Gerardo easily drove it out of the park. Huston missed where Morales was set up by roughly a foot. There are very few pitchers that can get away with a poorly located heater against a good fastball hitter like Parra. Huston Street is not one of those pitchers.
The pitch Chris Young hit out was very similar to the hanging slider that Street threw to Soriano. It had a lot of spin, but no break and hung in the zone for far too long. You can’t throw a pitch like that to any big league hitter.
All of the homeruns surrendered by Street were the result of a poorly located pitch. It shows just how much of his success is predicated upon location. He isn’t capable of over powering hitters. It’s imperative that he keeps them off balance by changing speeds and hitting spots. When he doesn’t, he is meat.
However, aside from about 10-20 pitches this year, Street’s actually pitched well. Currently, over 21% of Huston’s fly balls have left the yard. That’s roughly 10% higher than his career average. His FIP is 4.73, but if his HR/FB ratio were closer to his career norm of 10%, his FIP would be 2.87.
Despite his recent propensity to serve up gopher balls, Street is the Rockies’ best option at closer. He’s been struggling here lately, but it’s a small sample size and his career track record indicates that this current streak is not consistent with his normal performance. The most important thing is that he keeps the ball down. If he can do that, the homeruns will stop.