The Rockies know they’re striking out at an unsustainable clip — a season-high 15 times Sunday, 60 times overall on the recent six-game homestand and 379 times on the season heading into Monday night’s game at San Diego, fourth most in the National League.
The question now is what to do about it, and outfielder David Dahl believes the Rockies’ collective ability to start putting the ball in play more starts with their mentality walking into the batter’s box.
“For me, especially early on this year, I struck out a few times and then it kind of got in my head where I was striking out a lot,” Dahl explained. “I started thinking about going up there and not striking out, instead of just going up there and hitting.”
It’s an ethos that’s easier spoken than applied in the major leagues, especially this year, when strikeouts are piling up at a record rate throughout the league and power pitchers are “hunting for the strikeout,” as shortstop Trevor Story noted.
Story, whose 53 K’s were tied for the NL lead with the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt, has emphasized throughout the season that cutting down on his 31.4 percent strikeout rate is a main priority.
But he also noted the ability to mentally turn the page from at-bat to at-bat is what has enabled the Rockies to stay afloat with a 22-19 mark through the first six weeks of the season despite their strikeout problem being compounded by the team’s struggles to hit with runners in scoring position (.222, second-to-last in the NL).
“That’s the tough part about baseball: You’ve got to do something within the next 15 minutes to get over it, and you have to have a short memory,” Story said. “And there’s always room for critical analysis and film study, but sometimes you just have talk about the good stuff (about at-bats) and not the bad. That creates positivity that can go a long way.”
When it gets down to that critical analysis, though, third baseman Nolan Arenado was to the point.
“There’s no doubt we need to find a way to shorten up to put the ball in play, or try to get ready to hit early in the count,” Arenado said. “We’ve got to be a little bit better about that.”
Meanwhile manager Bud Black, who noted after Sunday’s loss to Milwaukee that the team’s overall strikeout totals are “not something we are going to stand for as we move forward,” said the team is putting an emphasis on a two-strike approach during hitting meetings, but he declined to say exactly what those points of emphasis were.
“With the 12 position players, there’s certain mechanical things with each guy that they need to do that are different from the next guy. There isn’t one, common approach,” Black said. “There’s specific messages within each player’s swing that we talk about.”
And even though the Rockies aren’t alone in their division with their contact problems — the Padres, Diamondbacks and Giants also all rank at the bottom of the NL in strikeouts — Black said that, nor the league trend overall, is not an excuse for the Rockies’ strikeout issues.
“We worry about the Rockies. That’s our concern is, what we do,” Black said. “Our concern is how we play, and what we do as a group to beat the other team and make us the best team we can be. We know as a group, we have to cut down on our strikeouts.”
National League strikeout leaders*
- San Diego, 416
- San Francisco, 392
- Arizona, 390
- Colorado, 379
- Philadephia, 378
Team (per game)
- San Diego, 9.90
- Arizona, 9.75
- Philadephia, 9.69
- San Francisco, 9.56
- Colorado, 9.24
- Trevor Story, Colorado, 53
- Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona, 53
- Michael Taylor, Washington, 51
- Yoenis Céspedes, New York, 50
- Lewis Brinson, Miami, 49
- Ian Happ, Chicago, 49
*going into Monday
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