Who is most likely to break out of a Rockies slump: Story, Desmond or CarGo?
Kiz: If you had told me on opening day the Rockies could be 52-39 at the allstar break without meaningful offensive contributions from Ian Desmond, Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez, I would have called you crazy. But here we are … although I’m not sure Colorado can keep rolling toward the playoffs with so many holes in its batting order. Can manager Bud Black count on any of these guys to bounce back?
Groke: The question is not “can” he count on them. He must. There’s no way around it. Black cannot just lop off three core players and hope their replacements reach the same level. Sure, Raimel Tapia can fly around the bases and Pat Valaika is proving to be a better-than-capable bench player. But this team was built for Desmond and Gonzalez, especially, to contribute in a big way. And Story’s defense is too difficult to keep out of the lineup.
Kiz: My guess is the swing of Story requires so much tinkering that we should write off this season as a learning experience. CarGo? If he continues to slump, Black has options in the outfield. The Rockies, however, really need Desmond to heat up, because first baseman Mark Reynolds, who doesn’t have a homer or even a single RBI in July, has started to cool off.
Groke: Let me get all Statsy-casty on you, Kiz. One of the best indicators of quality hitting, even in a slump, is how hard the ball flies off the bat. Exit velocity is the technical term. And among the three you mentioned, the hitter with the highest percentage of hard-hit baseballs is Story (followed by Desmond, then Gonzalez). Story also has the lowest percentage of soft contact. However — and it’s a big however — he has struck out 100 times. Far too many. If he can lay off the junk outside the zone and stick to cookies over the plate, Story can catch fire.
Kiz: Desmond was signed to a five-year, $70 million contract. Unlike the Los Angeles Dodgers, with their unlimited payroll, Colorado cannot erase an expensive mistake by throwing more money at a problem. Injuries robbed Desmond of April and have irritated him in July. But there can be no more excuses. Colorado needs at least a dozen homers and an .850 OPS from Desmond during the second half. Is that too much to expect? Groke: It is most certainly not too much to ask. It would be a troubling sign if Tapia, with his, uh, “developing” defense, becomes a starting outfielder in Desmond’s place. And for the sake of pure joy, a sudden Gonzalez streak could push this team to a whole new level. But here’s the trick: When the postseason chase reaches September, Black will have to play the hot hands. At that point, there’s no time left to hope a hitter outlasts a slump. Perform or sit.
Clockwise from left, Trevor Story, Ian Desmond and Carlos Gonzalez all are struggling at the plate, but the Rockies need them to contribute if their success is to continue.