NLDS Coverage: Rockies Should Bench Hawpe

Despite a rough first game yesterday, the Rockies have a chance to beat the Phillies. However, if they want to give themselves the best chance to win today, they have to put their best team on the field. And their best team does not include Brad Hawpe today.

Hawpe is not an outfielder. The Rockies keep running him out there because they lack the DH option, but sticking a hammer in the oven doesn’t make it a pie. Hawpe’s UZR totals the last three years – -23.5, -37.2, -20.2. With three seasons of data, Hawpe has ran up a staggering total of -80 runs. He’s an abomination in the field.

His bat makes up for some of the defensive problems against right-handers. Against lefties, though? Not even close. His career mark against southpaws is .242/.321/.429. He strikes out in 30% of his plate appearances against LHPs and his walk rate plummets as well.

The combination of atrocious defense and average-at-best offense makes Hawpe a huge liability against southpaws. Yet, in game one, he was out there costing the Rockies runs despite Cliff Lee starting for Philadelphia. The Phillies throw Cole Hamels today, and if Jim Tracy wants to give his team the best chance at winning, Hawpe should begin the day on the bench waiting for a chance to pinch hit.

They have options. Ryan Spilborghs hits lefties and can play defense. Seth Smith hits everyone and can play defense.

Brad Hawpe is a below replacement level player against lefties. You can’t start those guys in a playoff series. If the Rockies want to maximize their chance of winning, Hawpe should take a seat.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

28 Responses to “NLDS Coverage: Rockies Should Bench Hawpe”

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  1. BATTLETANK says:

    shhh. the phils will take any advantage possible

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Here’s to hoping that Tracy plays Hawpe tonight, Hawpe goes 0-for-4, Tracy decides that Hawpe can’t handle the pressure, and Spilborghs starts against Blanton.

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  3. Coby DuBose says:

    Not sure if serious…

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  4. Jerry says:

    “but sticking a hammer in the oven doesn’t make it a pie.”

    Nice. :)

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  5. David says:

    In a single game, Hawpe will get on average 1, maybe 2 balls hit to him where he will have to make a “difficult play” (whatever that means). There is, however, a non-trivial probability that no difficult balls will be hit to him, or he will make a difficult play (after all his UZR/150 is very negative, but it’s not -infinity). The other probability at play is, in an important at-bat, who is more likely to achieve the necessary result – Hawpe or Spilborghs/Smith? I don’t think Jim Tracy can look solely at WAR values to make this decision.

    Now to be honest, I don’t disagree with your conclusion, mainly because the Phillies have a lot of left-handed power, and it’s more likely than not that between Utley, Howard, and Ibanez, they’ll hit a couple balls into the gap in right-center, or down the foul line. But at the same time, I don’t think you can say “this guy has a higher WAR against lefties, therefore he should start”.

    In yesterday’s game particularly, the starter was Ubaldo Jimenez. He faces an average of 4.2 batters per inning (I’m only using this figure because I have no idea how else to estimate # of balls in play). Suppose you expect him to go 7 innings (and also you hope you’re winning at that point, so you can put in a defensive replacement for Hawpe). That’s a total of 29 batters faced. Of those, Jimenez would on average strike out 7 and walk 3. Of the remaining 19 balls in play, 10 of them would be either groundballs or home runs (I think it’s something like 9.5 and 0.5 respectively), and 2 would be infield flies. That leaves 7 balls toward the outfield in an average game – how many of these would be “difficult plays to Hawpe’s zone”? Well I can’t answer that, but surely it’s not gonna be that many in a given game.

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    • Bill says:

      Yeah, but he made an error last game. Already giving free bases.

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    • walkoffblast says:

      That is kind of like saying in 3 at-bats anybody could get lucky so it makes no matter which hitters you put in your starting lineup. The whole point is which lineup gives you the best chance based on all measures you have to look at. Sure you could hide Hawpe for a game with a little luck but the whole point is at some point it will come back to get you and its not worth that chance in the first place given the offense you could reasonably expect out of him.

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  6. phanatic says:

    Hawpe is benched today. as a phillies phan this makes me sad.

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  7. Dave says:

    The Rockies should also bench Atkins in favor of Ian Stewart. Atkins was disgracefully bad all season and his bat speed is gone.

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  8. Bill says:

    This post could also have been written about Jason Kubel yesterday.

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    • lookatthosetwins says:

      But that would have been different. Kubel should be DHing every single day, and Gomez should be in center. It’s obvious. It’s not just when lefties are pitching.

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  9. OK Dave, I need you to quickly write an article about why they should start Iannetta now. Esp v LHP.

    It hurts my brain to think about how well Iannetta hits LHP and yet sits against Hamels.

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  10. BLestz says:

    Nice call, Dave. The argument is further enhanced by Hawpe’s brutal numbers since June ended.

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  11. Steve says:

    Doesn’t Dave’s argument also mean that there should be several AL teams that target Hawpe in the offseason if they have a hole at DH and need help scoring runs? (‘cough’ Mariners ‘cough’). According to WAR, Hawpe is their 3rd outfielder, but Fowler should soon pass him and Hawpe will make $7.5 million next year. That the AL team trading for him will have to eat the $11 million club option (Hawpe gets to void it if traded) should depress his trade value significantly.

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  12. Paul F. says:

    As a longtime Rockies fan, nothing is more frustrating than watching Seth Smith sit on the bench every day while Brad Hawpe marches out into RF. He is truly an awful defender, and looks it, but his strong arm tricks – apparently – Rockies management. His bat is terribly overrated, as well.

    Tracy may have worked some incredible magic in the clubhouse, but oh my does he write out a lot of head-scratchers on the lineup card.

    Free Seth Smith!

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  13. Bluecaboose says:

    I like Hawpe, a lot, and I honestly can’t tell that his defense is that bad from watching him (of course the statistics are obviously predisposed against him, and wholly so that it is impossible to say that Hawpe plays good defense, or even average defense.) I like his bat, although he seemed to really struggle during the last part of the year. Then again I would also like to dump Atkins on the phillies and shoot Clint Barmes into the sun, so take that as you will.

    I would love to see Hawpe traded (dumping him in july would have been preferable when he was still hitting like .325/.400/.580) simply because our outfield is so crowded. Fowler/Smith/Gonzalez all have legitimate cases to start, and Spilly shouldn’t be a fifth outfielder, his talent level is significantly better than that (and he’s a great platoon option with Smith/Gonzalez against lefties. I’m sure there is a remedial outfielder in AAA that can serve as a late game defensive sub for us somewhere down there.

    I however am going to be pissed when Jim Tracy wins manager of the year, just like Joe Maddon. He didn’t do anything special except overmanage our bullpen, and write out questionable at best lineups, yet got carried to a ludicrous record by sheer talent. At the time Clint Hurdle was fired, the Rockies were playing decent baseball, they were just getting incredibly unlucky. I believe they had a fairly positive run diff while Hurdle was managing.

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