Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon is quietly having one of the best seasons for an outfielder, but he was not been quiet about giving the business to the Indians during their two-game series in Cleveland.
On Tuesday night, Blackmon took the unhittable Corey Kluber deep to lead off the game, which set the Rockies up to win the game 1-0 until Greg Holland fell apart in the ninth.
Last night’s game went to extras, and in the 12th inning, Blackmon went yard with a big, arcing, 400-foot home run to right for his third hit of the game.
The Indians went home mad, and with the Diamondbacks losing to the Dodgers in Arizona, the Rockies regained possession of the first NL Wild Card slot.
Nolan Arenado and his wildly entertaining defense have gotten top billing for Rockies stars this season—the All-Star Game voting cracked open a big, dumb debate about Arenado vs. Kris Bryant, with Arenado playing third base for the National League while Bryant had a vacation.
But his older, crazier-looking friend has been having the strongest offensive season for the Rock Boys, who are playing their first season with a record over .500 since 2010.
In fact, Blackmon leads the National League in offensive WAR (via Baseball Reference), beating out Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto, and Bryce Harper. He’s amongst the NL’s top-10 in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, and leads the NL in hits, triples, total bases, runs created (Baseball Reference’s formula, again), and... well, you get the picture. He’s still not taking many walks, but he’s leading Rockies starters in on-base percentage so maybe it doesn’t matter? Overall, Blackmon is hitting .333/.388/.616/ with a 142 OPS+. Before you say it, though, here are his splits for home and away:
In 54 games at the Rockies’ ballpark: .398/.469/.815/1.284.
In 58 games on the road: .278/.316/.448/.764.
Blackmon is good! Even when you factor in the Denver ballpark stuff. His OPS+ drops to 142, but that still puts him in the top-10 for offensive production amongst his NL compatriots. Further, in the last calendar year, Blackmon has been the best offensive center fielder in baseball... if you don’t include Mike Trout.
Blackmon’s up there with the best hitters of his league, but, curiously, no one really knows where the 30-year-old discovered all this hitting prowess. It’s not like Blackmon has ever been bad. He’s been good, and overlooked, and all the other things one could say about a guy who keeps a low profile on a usually uninteresting team. But he’s been coy about his approach at the plate and his recent success.
Blackmon told the Denver Post in May: “Hitting is difficult to talk about. Because hitting is difficult.”
“Do I feel good? I don’t feel bad,” Blackmon said. “Sometimes I feel bad. But I haven’t felt consistently bad. I feel competitive, which is really what I want. That and: Why don’t they throw me fastballs over the plate?”
Still feel like you don’t have a good sense of Blackmon’s philosophy?
“I look less at the result and more at how I got there,” Blackmon said. “I want to give away very few at-bats. If I make an out, I want them to make multiple good pitches to get me out. Most of the time I just want to swing at good pitches and take good swings. If I can do both of those things, I can be good at baseball most of the time.”
Was Charlie Blackmon like this before he arrived in Denver? Or do the city’s chill vibes eventually do this to every transplant?
Anyway, plate approach insight or not, Blackmon will be a fun presence in the postseason. He’s well-acquainted with the Diamondbacks, who as of right now are duking it out with the Rockies for home-field advantage in the NL Wild Card game. The baseballs will be popping in either Denver or Arizona, but boy, if the Rockies keep their shit together well enough to host the game, we’ll have a good-ass time watching the Charlie Blackmon Show.