Story, Arenado flourishing as patience pays off

Rockies third baseman tallies 3rd 40-homer season

September 14th, 2019

DENVER -- Rockies hitting coach Dave Magadan recently figured that and weren't content that being good enough was adequate. So Magadan knew they’d be receptive to his challenge to control the strike zone.

Even as Colorado's season is slogging toward a sub-.500 ending, Story and Arenado are flourishing. Story homered twice and Arenado homered once -- to join Vinny Castilla as the only players in club history to reach 40 three times -- in the Rockies’ 10-8 victory over the Padres on Friday night at Coors Field.

“This wasn’t our year and obviously we’re out of the playoffs,” Story said. “But these games mean a lot.”

Arenado craved the feedback and information from Magadan, assistant hitting coach Jeff Salazar and bullpen catcher Aaron Munoz, who pitches when Arenado works in the batting cage.

“They showed me the numbers,” Arenado said. “I always told them to be honest with me. ‘You can be better than what you’re doing.' I’m taking their word for it. Lately it’s been working out. There are still times I expand the zone a little bit, but we’ve been doing a good job of slowing the game down.”

Stats over roughly the last month show that getting on base goes hand-in-hand with power:

• In his last 25 games, Story has a .369 on-base percentage -- 15 points above his season mark of .354 he brought into Friday. Over that 25-game period, he has hit five of his 32 home runs as well as seven total extra-base hits. Friday was Story’s 14th game since being moved into the leadoff position, with fellow All-Star Charlie Blackmon (who came off the bench and had an eighth-inning sacrifice fly Friday) dropping to No. 2.

• Arenado entered the night with a .376 OBP for the season, but increasing his acceptance of walks has helped him do more damage. In his past 26 games, he has taken 14 walks and has a .455 OBP -- to go with 13 homers.

Story and Arenado are multi-time All-Stars. Story is hitting .297, Arenado .315. It’s not as if they’re lagging. But the hope is that if some of the best hitters get the message to try to limit swings to strikes that they can hit hard, they can lead the other hitters in adhering to a more patient approach.

“A lot of players are just wired to hit,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “The only way to hit is to swing the bat. But there’s a component of swinging at strikes, taking balls, accepting the walk, passing the baton to the next guy and the next guy does the same thing.

“I’ve sensed that Trevor and Nolan both are understanding that concept and they’re doing it out on the field.”

Both players continued to demonstrate the damage they can do if they concentrate on swinging at strikes. Story finished 3-for-5 with a two-run homer in the fourth off Padres starter Joey Lucchesi and a solo shot in the sixth off Craig Stammen -- right before (also 3-for-5 in possibly his best offensive performance) homered for the fourth time this season and first time at Coors in his parts of two seasons.

Arenado -- who also joined Castilla and Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews and Mike Schmidt as the only players with three seasons of 40 or more homers while playing at least 75 percent of their games at third base -- also doubled and walked twice on a 2-for-3 night. Arenado actually forgot about Castilla, then said, “Don’t tell him that -- that’s my guy … but it’s pretty elite company.”

The meeting with Magadan was more specific to fighting the urge to chase pitches in 3-1 and 3-2 counts. Arenado’s walk on a 3-1 pitch, with two on base, in the eighth set up Blackmon’s sac fly. It was a byproduct of being stingier, not handing pitchers strikes or weak contact on off-the-plate pitches.

Instead of answering with the numbers they’ve already put up, Story and Arenado bought in, with an eye toward bigger numbers in the future.

“That’s why those guys are great,” said Magadan, whose coaching point is the players need to not look for the walk but accept the walk. “They’re easy to work with. They’re always looking for information that’s going to make them better players. It doesn’t matter who you are. You can always improve. It’s our job to give them that information, help them get better and keep building.

“When those guys are swinging at strikes and getting on base, it’s going to be better for the team. They’re very easy to work with.”

Arenado and Story have made the strike zone a more treacherous place now and, the Rockies hope, into 2020.

“It’s a lot easier said than done, but once ‘Mags’ and ‘Sally’ brought the numbers to our attention, it was pretty eye-opening,” Story said. “We didn’t realize how big the percentage was that we were chasing -- 3-2 more so me than [Arenado]. We needed to realize that, force those guys into the zone and take care of our pitch when we get it.”