The Pebbles in Rockies Shoes

Stapletonion.com

The Rockies host the San Francisco Giants the week, which means the boys in purple are about to engage in a protracted battled against one of the most prolific Rockie-killers in the league. I’m speaking, of course, about Brandon Crawford.

You expected to read the name Buster Posey? Or Brandon Belt perhaps? Sure, those guys hit a ton against the Rockies, too. We expect to see Posey and Belt hit well when we play them because we know they’re good at hitting baseballs.

Crawford, on the other hand, generally is not. Most days, he’s a defense-orientated shortstop who looks every bit the bottom-of-the-order hitter he is. But when Crawford sees purple, Crawford sees red; and he becomes the third most potent bat in the Giants lineup, laying waste to Rockies pitching at a rate surpassing that of renowned batsmen like Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence.

This, of course, makes Brandon Crawford incredibly annoying. Posey’s gonna mosey about the bases, and Belt’s gonna… well, belt. Those are their jobs. Just like it’s the ticket-taker’s job to take tickets and the concessionaire’s job to take $7 for a $2 beer. Crawford’s job is to suck at hitting, yet when he plays the Rockies, he refuses to do it.

And he’s not the only one. As I found out through a bit of data mining, Crawford isn’t even the worst one. Who is? Well, it’s a name most Rockies fans will immediately recognize for all the same nauseating reasons as Crawford.

First though, a brief note about the process I used to generate this list. In order to qualify, a player must:

  1. Have at least 100 plate appearances against the Rockies. If your neighbor’s Yorkshire Terrier only barked once or twice and then shut up, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But Yorkshire Terriers never shut up. And so it is with Brandon Crawford and his ilk.
  2. Be a below-average hitter. Of those meeting the first criterion, Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman has hit the Rockies the best. Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera (from his Marlins days, mostly), our old friend Matt Holliday, and the aforementioned Buster Posey round out the overall Top Five as measured by career OPS (combined on-base and slugging percentages) against the Rockies. But again, we expect these guys to hit well, so I screened out everyone with a career OPS+ of 100 or greater (A 100 OPS+ equates to league average production).
  3. Be currently on a MLB 40-man roster. I wanted to focus on current players, so that this list could be helpful to Rockies fans who need to know when to avert their eyes during future contests. Although, as a historical note, the player who meets both of the criteria above and would rank first on the all-time list is another former Rockie, Neifi Perez. In 128 plate appearances after leaving the club, he hit .388 with a .997 OPS (.267 and .672 overall) against Colorado. Good for him, I guess.

The list is sorted by career OPS against the Rockies counting down to the highest OPS and most annoying of them all. In addition to Name, Current Team, and OPS against the Rockies, for each player I’ve also listed his tOPS+, which measures the extent to which this split differs from the player’s overall OPS (100 means no difference at all). In this context, the higher that number, the more the player overachieves against the Rockies.

So, without further ado, your Top 10 Most Annoying Players in the league are:

10. Alexi Amarista, Padres .738 OPS, 138 tOPS+
A .738 OPS isn’t anything special, but that 138 tOPS+ is the second highest in the Top 10. What that tells you is that Alexi Amarista is coming from a heck of a long way down just to get to average when he plays the Rockies. He’s pretty much a sure out for every other team. Plus, he hurt Cuddy.

9. Gregor Blanco, Giants .763 OPS, 126 tOPS+
That’s not a huge amount of production – merely above average, and not by much – but keep this in mind: Gregor Blanco has only cracked the .700 OPS barrier once in a full season, and that was four years ago. He’s hitting .140 so far this year with only two extra base hits in part-time action. So, naturally, look for him to put one in the pavilion this week.

8. Cameron Maybin, Padres .778 OPS, 126 tOPS+
Maybin’s true talent level portends better production than he’s shown thus far in his career – a career riddled by injury. I find it difficult to be annoyed by Maybin in general, although I nevertheless find it a bit irritating that only against the Rockies does he even begin to reach his potential.

7. Mark Ellis, Cardinals .814 OPS, 129 tOPS+
and
6. Marco Scutaro, Giants .816 OPS, 125 tOPS+
Alright, we’re back on track now. It’s absolutely fitting that these two show up right next to each other on this list, because their stories are nearly identical. Both were glove-first players whom the Rockies themselves acquired via trade having judged – judged fairly, based on their careers to that point – that each would hit well enough to provide a sorely needed upgrade at second base. Both proceeded to hit worse with the Rockies then they ever had before in any full season (not hyperbole). They both went on to join division rivals – Ellis to the Dodgers via free agency, Scutaro to the Giants via trade – and immediately hit better. Of all that I was very much aware. What I didn’t realize before now was that they both hit against the Rockies so similarly and specifically well. Learning this added no joy to my life whatsoever.

5. Starlin Castro, Cubs .834 OPS, 125 tOPS+
Castro only barely qualifies as a “below average” hitter (98 OPS+) based mostly on one atrocious year dragging down his career numbers. He doesn’t really fit with the rest of the players on this list and isn’t worth discussing too much. Moving along…

4.Casey McGehee, Marlins .836 OPS, 130 tOPS+
McGehee did most of this damage back when he was actually a good player with the Brewers in 2009 and 2010. Since then he’s been bad and then worse and then banished to Japan… until coming back just in time to ambush the Rockies in the opening series this year. He OPS’d 1.434 and drove in eight runs in those four games. Don’t worry, he’s gone back to being below average since then.

3.Gerardo Parra, Diamondbacks .843 OPS, 131 tOPS+
A .843 OPS. You know who has a .842 career OPS? Matt Kemp. So, basically, when Parra plays the Rockies, he’s Matt Kemp. Terrific.

2.Brandon Crawford, Giants .858 OPS, 158 tOPS+
Here’s our man! I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that my muse for this research finished out of first place, though I should point out that Crawford holds the highest tOPS+ in the group, meaning he is the biggest overachiever against the Rockies. .858 was Wade Boggs career OPS, by the way.

1.Scott Hairston, Nationals .889 OPS, 137 tOPS+

Of course it’s Scott Hairston.

As soon as I saw his name sort to the top of my spreadsheet, I realized I should have known all along. The bad memories are numerous and bitter – I won’t recount any here. On the contrary, Hairston coming in Number One allows us to end this piece on a positive note. You see, while two of Hairston’s most notable feats were inflicted upon the Rockies, each of those feats were overcome by the Rockies in games they went on to win. One such feat happened in 2012, when Scott Hairston hit for the cycle… but the Rockies scored 18 runs – including 11 in a single inning – to win anyway.

That was certainly sweet, but nowhere near the best Scott Hairston-related memory. Venture with me back in time to the year 2007. It’s Rocktober, and the Rockies have miraculously forced a 163rd game to break a tie with the Padres for the wild card entry to the playoffs. The game itself was exciting, dramatic, and everything else you’d want a baseball game to be – to this day it’s the best sporting event I’ve ever attended. However, in the top of the 13th, it all appeared to be for naught when, you guessed it, Scott Hairston hit a go-ahead two-run homer. The three runs the Rockies scored in the bottom of that inning to win the game wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without that home run. And just think how empty the world would seem if we didn’t have this.

I don’t know if this makes up for all the aggravation Scott Hairston caused Rockies fans for a solid decade now, but it just might. In the end, I think I’m going to choose to believe that it does, because that means that maybe, just maybe, Brandon Crawford may someday be redeemed himself.

About RyanHammon

I’m just a small town kid from Montana who thinks Coors Field on a sunny summer Saturday night is the best place to be on this or any other plane of existence. Sadly, I’ve given up all hope of making it as a professional second baseman, but take some solace in the opportunities I have to watch and talk about professional second baseman (and other positions, too!). In those fleeting moments when I’m not thinking about baseball, I’m probably camping in the Poudre, laughing with my wife, or chasing my toddler around my unfurnished living room.
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