Monday, June 13, 2011

Colorado Rockies lacking true power bat

Make no mistake. These Colorado Rockies hitters have talent.

Despite having talent, however, the Rockies can't seem to get anything going offensively for more than a couple of days in a row. They will go out and score a bunch of runs, but then they go right back to putting up one or two runs for a week.

With all of the talent up and down the lineup, anyone who follows the team has spent their fair share of the time being baffled by the lack of success offensively.

However, the answer is becoming more clear. The Rockies have talent, but they lack a hitter who is completely feared at the plate. They don't have a hitter who is a clear power threat that can hit the ball out of the park at any given time.

That is not to say that they don't have hitters capable of hitting the big fly. Obviously Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Seth Smith, Ty Wigginton and the resurgent Todd Helton have the capability of hitting the ball over the wall, but the reality is, those hitters aren't bona fide power hitters. Those hitters are more of the gap-type of hitters, they hit for high slugging percentage, but they would be considered doubles hitters before anyone would confuse them with a home run hitter.

Chris Iannetta is the closest thing the Rockies have to a true power hitter, but there are very few, if any, pitchers in the league who shake in their boots when Iannetta steps to the plate. He has the capability of being a home run hitter, but frankly, he has never turned the corner that he needs to in order to be a true middle-of-the-order hitter.

So why does having a bunch of doubles hitters make a bad lineup? It doesn't. However, lineups that boast power threats in them are much more difficult to handle. An opposing manager is always thinking about scenarios that would involve that hitter, and how to avoid pitching to him. Oftentimes an opposing manger will burn his better middle relievers early in a game to get that hitter out, rather than pitch in the normal sequence.

With the Rockies missing that true power bat, opposing managers don't have to pick their situations with their top relievers, they can bring them in at any point and feel comfortable with it.

Look at St.Louis, they have a combination in Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday that can hit any given pitch out of the ball park at any given time. They are true power bats. When an opposing manager faces the Cardinals, he constantly has to be thinking about scenarios that involve them doing significant damage with one swing of the bat.

Even in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have Matt Kemp, who has finally turned the corner in his big league career and become a consistent power threat. Now, with him in the lineup, managers have to find ways to pitch around him, or get him out using their top relievers.

Having a true power bat in the middle of the lineup adds a dangerous threat to a lineup, and changes games.

That said, should Tulowitzki be batting anywhere but the cleanup spot? Absolutely not. He is a great hitter who does significant damage, and often hits the ball out of the park. No disrespect is meant to Tulo. However, he does not fit the typical cleanup hitter type. He is a doubles hitter who can hit the ball out of the park, not a home run hitter who occasionally hits doubles.

The problem for the Rockies is that two home-grown talents have failed them. Iannetta, as mentioned, never became the feared bat that many thought he would be in the big leagues. He doesn't have to be a .300 hitter, or anywhere close to it, but he needs to pose a threat to the other team at any given moment. His on-base percentage is great, but the Rockies need him to be a run-driving machine. He needs to be hitting the ball out of the park much more frequently than he does.

The other player who has failed the club is Ian Stewart. The 26-year old has top-shelf power. In his rookie season he launched a ball deep into the third deck in right at Coors Field. He has the size and the power to be a consistent long-ball threat. However, his struggles are well documented. He has never found his stride in the big leagues. In his big league time, instead of pitchers wanting nothing to do with throwing a fastball inside to him, he has allowed pitchers to throw under his hands and force him to back off of the plate, only to take a called third strike. The pitches that he should be punishing are consistently being watched to the catchers mit.

Whether the lack of development of those two hitters falls on the shoulders of the team's management, or the players themselves, the lack of power in the lineup is a huge reason why the club has struggled offensively, even with a lineup loaded with talent.

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