Todd Helton and Chris Iannetta are two of the longest tenured Colorado Rockies.
Helton has been with the club 15 seasons and Iannetta has been a Rockie for six years.
Helton has always been a model of consistency, and he continues to produce in the heart of the Rockies lineup. His batting average this season is .321, 4th best in the National League. Helton’s career batting average is a lofty .324. Only once in his career, has Helton averaged less than .260 for the season. (He hit .256 in 2010.)
Iannetta has always seemed to underachieve offensively, and he continues to scuffle in the bottom of the Rockies lineup. His batting average this season is .214. Not good. Iannetta’s career batting average is a meager .231. Only once in his career, has Iannetta averaged more than .260 for the season. (He hit .264 in 2008.)
Let me paint a more recent picture of the contrasting offensive production of Helton and Iannetta? Take a look at the box score from Saturday night.
Helton was 2 for 3 with 1 BB, 2 RBI and 1 HR. He drove in both Colorado runs and accounted for the majority of the Rockies offense.
Iannetta was 0 for 3 with 1 BB. To his credit, he made a couple great blocks on tricky pitches from Jimenez and Street, but he continued to struggle at the plate. He grounded into a double play in the 3rd and failed to record a hit.
Take a snapshot of that box score and extrapolate that over the course of the season. Their numbers stay true to form. Helton leads the team in batting average. (Relief pitcher Eric Stultz is currently hitting .500, but we’re not going to count him.) Iannetta is 18th in the team in hitting. That includes all position players that have played with the Rockies at some point this season.
In a year in which the entire team has underperformed and failed to live up to the pre season hype, Helton has quietly had a great first half. After having an off-season last year with a bum back, he has had an individual resurgence. He already has more HR (10) and RBI (41), than he did last season. Tracy has relied on Helton to hit third in the line-up, and he has delivered. He leads the team in on-base percentage, is 3rd in hits, 3rd in RBI, and 4th in slugging. Not bad for a 37 year old.
Iannetta had the pleasure of coming into the 2011 campaign as the Rockies unquestionable number one catcher. Miguel Olivo departed via free agency, and the organization does not contain another standout prospect at catcher.
So with nobody really looking over his shoulder, you would think Iannetta would finally have that breakout season all Rockies fans have been longing for. Not so much. Both his backups, Jose Morales and Matt Pagnozzi, have higher batting averages, although they do have many fewer at-bats.
So why have the Rockies continued to play Iannetta the last half-decade, despite years of mediocre offensive production? Iannetta has always been a sick defender and he calls a nice game behind the dish. And although his home run totals aren’t staggering, he does have a knack for crushing clutch bombs. Ten of his 45 hits this season (22%) have been home runs.
It’s also worth noting that Iannetta displays astute patience at the plate. He is known for working deep in counts and leads the team in walks with 50. Helton is second with 38 free passes.
Iannetta is a legit major league player. But to put it bluntly, a career .231 hitter is not going to get it done.
I’m not saying the Rockies must cut ties with their catcher. I’m just saying I-a-need-a more from I-a-nnett-a, or he will eventually wear out his welcome.
Oh, and it’s a been a pleasure to watch Helton keep beltin’, one of the best Colorado Rockies of all time.
Contact the writer, Zach Cohn, at email@example.com.