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Data makes a difference to Black, Rockies

Manager incorporates statistical approach to dugout talk
MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

CHICAGO -- Rockies manager Bud Black respects and incorporates the big-data statistical approach, but he notes that small data can mean the world during a game, even if they don't hold over the long haul.

For example, those with the data argue, with much statistical merit, that batting average with runners in scoring position is less relevant than the game's lore says it is. But when a Charlie Blackmon (.418 RISP, .466 in the same spot with two out) or a Nolan Arenado (.351 RISP) has an opportunity during a game, Black is not only looking at their approach, but dugout conversation is designed to make sure the team is thinking of ways of enhancing its performance when those chances arise.

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CHICAGO -- Rockies manager Bud Black respects and incorporates the big-data statistical approach, but he notes that small data can mean the world during a game, even if they don't hold over the long haul.

For example, those with the data argue, with much statistical merit, that batting average with runners in scoring position is less relevant than the game's lore says it is. But when a Charlie Blackmon (.418 RISP, .466 in the same spot with two out) or a Nolan Arenado (.351 RISP) has an opportunity during a game, Black is not only looking at their approach, but dugout conversation is designed to make sure the team is thinking of ways of enhancing its performance when those chances arise.

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"We talk about the clutch at-bat, two-out runs," Black said. "These are things we talk about in the dugout, things that fans and everybody don't get to hear and see. Not everything's for public consumption. There are things we keep internal.

"That's a separator for me. Every game ever played or all the games combined over long periods of time, you see things. But in today's game, I want to get a two-out hit. We've got to make a good play. We've got to make a pitch. And that's in today's game. We're not looking at 162 games."

But that statement is not one for someone to cherry-pick and present a case that managers and players are old school. Black has respected the numbers throughout his entire career, whether in the Indians' organization as an adviser, with the Angels as pitching coach, with the Padres as manager and with the Angels again as a front-office and scouting advisor.

Video: COL@CHC: Arenado pokes an RBI single to left

When rating the Rockies' offensive performance, the numbers and trends matter.

"On-base percentage is big," Black said. "Obviously, we've got to get on base to score runs. I still think there's more of a base-on-balls component to our offense than has shown up.

"We do have guys that are dangerous, and pitchers have to respect that. Usually, when pitchers respect power, respect hitting, they're a little bit more careful and they'll move the ball out of the strike zone. We've got to be selective. It's a catch-22. You want to be aggressive. You want to attack. That's a good thing. But at times, that can get you to expand the zone too much."

All numbers are trending upward. Traditional batting average and on-base percentages were .247 and .310 in April, .278 and .330 in May and .300 and .384 in June entering Saturday. Walk rate was 7.6 in April; it dropped to 6.6 in May, but it is 11.1 percent this month.

The weighted on-base average, which weighs each offensive event under the premise that all hits are created equal, was .320 in April, .328 in May and .365 so far in June. The weighted runs created plus, which accounts for park factors and the Majors' general run-scoring environment, was 74 in April, 84 in May and is 108 in June.

Worth noting

• Rockies right-handed pitcher Chad Bettis, working back from testicular cancer, could be throwing off a mound, "I think within the week," said Black. Black views Bettis as a starter, as does Bettis himself, but he said it's possible he could be used in relief depending on team needs when he is cleared.

• Righty Jairo Diaz, returning from Tommy John surgery, pitched a scoreless inning with one strikeout Friday for Triple-A Albuquerque at Salt Lake. Diaz made two rehab appearances in April, then he stepped out of games to do his work at the club's complex in Scottsdale, Ariz. Diaz was activated and optioned to Triple-A on April 29, so he is under no deadline to be ready for the Majors.

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.

Colorado Rockies