Tired Story of non-HRs: 'That's baseball, man'

Quality of contact, overall stats yet to align for SS at Coors Field

April 12th, 2021

One of the coolest actions in baseball is the snappy, two-handed bat flick of Rockies shortstop when he knows he has drilled a pitch. Normally, when you see it, you don’t see the ball for long.

Not this year, when not one of those seriously tagged balls has been a home run. According to Statcast, Story has had a Major League-high six balls that would have been out of at least 11 parks in the Majors.

But during the season-opening series at Coors Field, four of those balls went to the deepest reaches and were still classified as outs.

The others were doubles. One went a projected 423 feet for an RBI double instead of a two-run homer -- in a 6-5 loss to the Dodgers on April 3. Another somehow hit the very top of the wall in the left-field corner -- a spot where the Rockies placed a see-through barrier to raise the height a few years ago. And his double to deep center on Sunday against the Giants didn’t qualify as “mostly gone,” but it would have been a homer in one MLB park (Angel Stadium).

It’s almost as if the fickle forces that govern baseball are working against Story and the Rockies, who have begun the season with a 3-6 record.

“It's always frustrating when you get the ball hard, when you do what you’re supposed to, and you don’t get the payout for it,” Story said. “But that's baseball, man. Everyone goes through that.

“I just try to focus on the process. If my process is right, I remove myself from those results and I can feel successful, even though it doesn't show up. I know that’s really hard to do. But that’s truly the way I go about it.”

The numbers are at least starting to reflect the quality of his contact. While the Rockies were swept in three games at San Francisco over the weekend, Story went 5-for-11 with a double and two walks. The series raised his batting average from .226 after his hard-luck season-opening homestand at Coors to .286. Still, Story’s expected batting average and expected slugging percentage are .325 and .641, respectively, per Statcast.

Story getting what he deserves is good. The problem is that the Rockies' offense is getting its just deserts.

For all the time Story was on base in San Francisco, he didn’t score a single run. The Rockies’ 2-for-15 performance with runners in scoring position served as an illustration of the team’s biggest weakness -- an offense full of unproven players.

In Sunday’s 4-0 defeat, the Rockies trailed by two but had a sixth-inning rally brewing thanks to two of their most experienced players -- Story, who hit a leadoff double, and Charlie Blackmon, who singled. But Giants pitcher Anthony DeSclafani struck out Josh Fuentes, who swung over a curve in the dirt, and Sam Hilliard, beaten on a 94 mph sinker, to end the frame.

This isn’t pointing the finger at Fuentes or Hilliard, each of whom is in his third season in the big leagues. If the Rockies perform beyond expectations, it will be a sign that their development has been rapid.

“It’s still early, but we have some guys who are still lesser service time players who are learning how to hit in the big leagues,” manager Bud Black said. “It’s a different ballgame for a number of these guys.

“Their everyday process is there. They’re learning from each and every game. They’re listening. They’re coachable. All these things take time to develop into true big league offensive players.”

That’s where Story stands apart from some of his teammates. The 28-year-old is in his prime, and is also in the final year of his contract, which puts him in line for a huge payday as part of a generational class of free-agent shortstops next offseason. All this means trade speculation will only grow.

But like with his offensive numbers, Story has simply concentrated on what he can control while letting the rest come around in its own time.

“Experience is the best teacher, just being in those spots and learning how to control your mind and control your body, to where you can put together a good at-bat,” Story said. “That's truly the only way to do it, to go through it and, you know, not be successful and then have success and have that balance there.

“There’s little things that ... [we veterans] could share with some of the guys, and I think we have, but, you know, it's different once you step in the box. It's up to each of us to learn from our experiences. That's me included.”