PHOENIX -- Rockies fans groaned through Trevor Story's two strikeouts in his first three plate appearances Friday night, but the final 1-for-3 with a walk was not a bad night. But he made it all moot by taking care of job No. 1 -- putting away the key play at
PHOENIX -- Rockies fans groaned through Trevor Story's two strikeouts in his first three plate appearances Friday night, but the final 1-for-3 with a walk was not a bad night. But he made it all moot by taking care of job No. 1 -- putting away the key play at shortstop.
After the D-backs' Chris Owings homered off Mike Dunn with one out in the eighth to cut the Rockies' lead to 6-3, the Rockies went to pitcher Jake McGee and needed outs. Solid-running Brandon Drury chopped one in the infield and Story made a play that was more difficult than it looked to throw in time to first base.
Story was .224 going into Saturday night --.265 in 34 games since missing 13 games with a left shoulder injury -- but his defense continues to carry value.
"On a scouting scale, he's playing an above-average shortstop," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "An average shortstop makes all the plays a Major League shortstop should make. What Trevor does is he goes beyond that average player, and makes those plays consistently. That play against Drury in the eighth? Hey, good play."
With Story's hitting struggles -- including 87 strikeouts in 228 at-bats -- the position would be in crisis if Story weren't so solid defensively. But even when Story was hitting 27 homers as a rookie last season, he knew which side of his job took precedence.
"You can't get too caught up in your offense," Story said. "Offensively, you're not going to be clicking all the time, but to win championships takes pitching and defense, and you can bring the defense every day at shortstop."
It's difficult to clearly quantify it. FanGraphs credits Story with one Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), which puts him a little above average, although the chances missed when he was out could be working against him.
But the DRS figure does not account for the extreme defensive shifts the Rockies use frequently. And the Rockies positioning, in regular alignments and shifts, accounts for the presence of otherworldly third baseman Nolan Arenado. Also, Statcast™ has made major strides in quantifying fielding plays, but hasn't developed metrics for infielders.
So the best that can be said is Story makes plays -- routine and better -- because of his increased knowledge. His method is to rely on third base coach Stu Cole for positioning information, but try not to suffer from information overload. In-game, he leans on what he sees in his pitcher and the hitters.
"I don't watch videos, but I talk to Stu, who lets us know the tendencies, then I watch the hitters and I can move based on what I see," Story said. "I need to have that instinct, and see how the game is playing out. Hitters go through different phases -- they might be heavy to one side or the other, and you have to see that."
• Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who hasn't played since suffering a right groin cramp Tuesday, could return to the starting lineup as soon as Sunday.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.