The future may be sooner than anyone thought.
Since June 11th, the Rockies are 14-9. That’s not amazing, and it’s still not enough winning.
I could mention how the Rockies need to gain ground if they hope to make the playoffs. They need to win more than the Padres and the Dodgers (Rockies actually lost a game on both the last 10 games even beating the Padres two out of three).
That’s not what this article is about.
The Rockies, while not racking up amazing win totals, are still starting to win.
They are playing like every game matters.
Earlier in the season many of them looked like they had better places to be than the ballpark. They gave up games. They gave up at bats. Many times they looked punch-less. For much of the season, they were dead last in batting average and scoring in the National League after the sixth inning.
I wrote an article about players having to step up when there is an injury. That’s not news. That’s the story of every team in every sport when there is an injury to a star player.
I suggested that Ian Stewart and Brad Hawpe were the two I thought needed to step up. So who has stepped up? And does it actually cause some line-up questions in the future?
Who out there picked Clint Barmes as the hero? Anyone? Didn’t think so.
Clint Barmes is every Rockies fans' favorite whipping boy. He’s the weak link. He’s the guy that needs to be benched. He's the reason a blockbuster trade for Dan Uggla, Brian Roberts, or Bobby Grich needs to go down to replace him.
Clint Barmes has been known to be streaky hitter over his career. He’s on a hot streak now. Over the last 30 days, he is tied for the most hits (30), tied for the most runs scored,15, and second on the team with 15 RBI. He’s also had the most doubles (7) and tied for third on the team with three home runs.
I really didn’t see this coming, but it seems like Clint is embracing his moment in the spotlight. He still has a tendency to chase sliders out of the zone. However, he’s able to hit pitches in the zone and make them drop.
On the flip side of Barmes is Ian Stewart.
Stewart has almost completely disappeared. His line over the last 30 days is .185/.312/.323/.635 He’s had only one double, and two home runs, and only five RBI. He’s also struck out 24 times in only 63 at bats! He’s starting to lose playing time to Melvin Mora, who hasn’t been lighting it up himself, only batting .215 over the last 30 days.
Many Rockies fans have wanted a trade at second base. I’ll say they don’t need to trade for a second baseman. I say the Rockies need to upgrade at third base, and that upgrade is in-house already.
It’s Troy Tulowitzki.
Yeah, you read that right.
When Tulo returns, he needs to be moved to third. Stewart needs to be benched. Barmes needs to start at shortstop. But, but, but…. isn’t Tulo the greatest fielding shortstop ever?
Not this year.
His UZR is 3.2, which is pretty amazing compared to Barmes at short who's still a strong 1.9. However, if you look at RZR which measures handing balls in a normal fielding zone, Barmes is higher with a .877 rating against Tulo’s .838 rating.
In other words, yes. Tulo is an amazing shortstop. So is Clint Barmes.
I’m giving up on Ian Stewart.
I don’t think he can hit major league pitching. This was the year for him to step forward. However, he’s just another young power hitter that can’t make that adjustment to the major leagues. In fact, he’s gone backward.
He has a career batting average of .241. This year, he’s still above that even with his slide at .250 for 2010.
In '09 Stewart hit 25 home runs. This year he’s on pace to hit only 17.
Strikeouts have been a problem with Stewart, as they are with many young left-handed sluggers. Instead of going down, he’s on pace to have near 150 K’s after having 134 in '09.
It’s time the Rockies look at their roster and play players that are performing. Bench those that aren’t.
That means it’s time to end the experiment with Stewart.
I think he still has an option year. Maybe he could use a refresher course in AAA, like Dexter Fowler which worked out great, or Chris Iannetta, which wasn’t as great on his return to the majors.
But I move Tulo and not Barmes to third for a couple of reasons.
Tulo has the bat to be respectable as a third baseman.
Barmes didn’t get hot until he was put at shortstop. You can see watching the game that short is his natural position. He feels comfortable there when starting there.
Tulowitzki is the closest the Rockies have to a major league third baseman in their system. His size and his hitting profile him as a third baseman. Moving to third, would allow him to bulk up as he gets older, when we could assume his range will go down as well.
Tulo has been compared to Cal Ripken Jr. many times in his young career. Ripken also had to move to third as he got older.
Tulo doesn’t have to make that move now as he’s still a great shortstop. However, it’s inevitable he’ll end up there eventually. Might as well make it now and keep Barmes in his comfort role.
Injuries to stars force fans and team management to look at their players in a new light. Some step up. Some don’t. Clint Barmes has stepped up. Johnathon Herrera has stepped up. Ian Stewart has disappeared. If this trend continues, the Rockies should be thinking about trading or benching Stewart, and not Barmes when Tulowitzki returns.
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