When I pooled World Series predictions from our writing staff last month, guess how many of our 25 RADIO.COM panelists picked Colorado to qualify for the postseason? Not one. So naturally, the 12-5 Rockies own the second-best record in MLB behind only the Chicago Cubs.
How have the Rockies, a team nobody expected much from in 2020, flipped the switch, seemingly overnight? It’s simple, really. They have Charlie Blackmon and the other 29 teams don’t.
A former batting champ and two-time Silver Slugger Award recipient, Blackmon is no stranger to fast starts. Blackmon cruised to a .330 average prior to last year’s All-Star break, good for fifth-best in MLB behind only Jeff McNeil, Bryan Reynolds, eventual National League MVP Cody Bellinger and former Rockies teammate DJ LeMahieu, now of the New York Yankees. No doubt aided by the hitter-friendly stylings of Coors Field, the four-time All-Star has hit .283 or better every year since 2012, his first full season in the majors (he debuted as a midseason call-up in 2011). But this year he’s upped the ante considerably, entering Wednesday’s action with an even .500 average over 68 at-bats for the NL West-leading Rockies.
Blackmon began the year in an 0-for-9 rut, but he’s been money ever since, contributing an otherworldly .576 average with three long balls and a league-high 20 RBI over that Herculean span. The 34-year-old, who got a late start this summer following a brief COVID bout, has predictably fared better in Denver’s thin air (.556 AVG at home this season), but not by much. He’s been just as ruthless on the road, slashing a monster .438/.500/.656 in 32 at-bats away from Coors Field.
Even left-handers can’t seem to solve the 6’3” outfielder. The left-handed Blackmon has feasted off southpaws in 2020, batting a remarkable .643 in 28 at-bats against them. Teams are still electing to pitch to him (he’s only drawn five walks in the early going), though that won’t remain an option much longer if Blackmon continues his historic pace.
No MLB player has maintained a .400 average over a full season since Hall of Famer Ted Williams, arguably the greatest left-handed hitter of all-time (Barry Bonds belongs in that discussion, though we’ll never how big of an impact performance-enhancers played in his success), in 1941. But in this year’s chaotic, corona-abbreviated slate, such a milestone—though undeniably difficult—may actually be feasible. It wouldn’t be wholly legitimate, but even with a third of the games of a normal year, cracking .400 would still be a monumental feat and a career high-water mark for the former second-round pick.
Of course, it's easy to get caught up in these small sample-size anomalies. Any way you slice it, Blackmon’s road to .400 will be an arduous journey. As baseball insider Jon Heyman relayed Wednesday, the former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket would need to hit .360 (give or take a few percentage points) for the duration of 2020 to join the Splendid Splinter in MLB’s practically non-existent .400 Club.
Possible? Sure. Likely? Not very. Even in hitter’s paradise, Blackmon will need to stay scalding hot for another six weeks to even sniff the elusive .400 mark. That shouldn’t stop the guy from trying. All I’m saying is, don’t get your hopes up.