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New approach boosts results in two-strike counts

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DENVER -- Simply put, the Rockies are tougher outs this season than last. Manager Walt Weiss and new hitting coach Blake Doyle wanted it that way.

Last season, Weiss felt, the Rockies had too many at-bats during which they chased outside pitches. He and then-hitting coach Dante Bichette preached aggressiveness, but there were at-bats when the hitter was more responsible for the out than the pitcher.

Some of that has to do with the hitters. For example, when hot, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki likes outside pitches and can drive them for home runs.

Some of it was youth, also. But the Rockies are doing better on the outer half this year.

One place that shows statistically is in two-strike hitting, when pitchers often work outside on put-away pitches. After a count reached two strikes last season, the Rockies had a .181 batting average, a .243 on-base percentage and a .274 slugging percentage. This year, the numbers are .222/.280/.349.

Not that this year's numbers sound eye-popping, but consider this: Across the Major Leagues this season, teams are batting .175/.247/.264 in those situations.

"We've gotten a lot better in a few areas when you compare to last year," Weiss said. "Our two-strike approach is considerably better. I think that's been a big factor. Driving in runners from third with less than two outs, and our situational stuff has been a lot better. It's tied to our approach.

"I felt last year we got exposed on the outer half of the plate. Opposing pitchers took advantage of us out there. We had a heightened sense of awareness coming into the season covering away."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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