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  • Writer's picturemjdietz17

Can Charlie Blackmon hit .400?

The Rockies All-Star Outfielder has started off the truncated 2020 season white hot.

With 43 games remaining in the 2020 regular season, Rockies OF Charlie Blackmon has his batting average sitting at an even .500 and has most of the baseball world asking if he can become the first MLB player since Ted Williams to hit .400 over the course of a championship season. We all know that hitting .400 over a 60-game slate will not be viewed the same as a 162-game one, but to even have a shot at the elusive mark in a short season is still impressive in this day and age. Blackmon has done exactly what anyone who was going to have a shot at it would have needed to do: get off to a blistering fast start at the plate. But can he sustain it?

By my math, Blackmon would need to hit .350 or better the rest of the way to have a legit shot at .400. That seems doable on the surface, but hitting .350 over 43 games is not a cakewalk. Yet, Blackmon does have a few things working in his favor which leads one to think .400 is a realistic possibility. Notably, as a member of the Rockies, he plays his home games in Coors Field where hits fall like apples from a tree and the thin air prevents opposing pitchers from using their best breaking stuff. Blackmon has made great use of Coors' spacious outfield over his career and is one of the best hitters at home in all of pro baseball. It should also be noted, MLB players have shown the ability to hit .400 over a 60-game stretch as recently as 2017 when Jose Altuve managed to do so. And if you don’t believe the 2017 Astros were on the up-and-up, Joey Votto (2016) and Andrew McCutcheon (2012) have proved it’s possible recently in the National League as well. In an age where strikeouts are way up and seemingly every pitcher throws 95 mph, it’s worth considering players have managed to do it, albeit in very limited numbers.

But that’s about where the factors working in Blackmon’s favor end, unfortunately.

Sure, having your batting average sit at .500 over 17 games is heckuv impressive. But when you start to look at Blackmon’s expected outcomes, one begins to realize he’s been awfully lucky to start the season. Blackmon’s ‘expected batting average’ is still third in all of baseball behind Corey Seager and Jose Iglesias, but his mark of .397 is a far cry from his actual BA of .500. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) sits at a wholly unsustainable .534 meaning at some point or another, regression is likely going to come hard. Blackmon is also hitting .429 on ground balls so far this year, another unsustainable number. You can’t hit a home run on a ground ball, so typically MLB batters see their lowest BA in this category. At some point, a fielder will be standing where you hits the ball and that BABIP and xBA will even out.

Additionally, Blackmon has kept his strikeout rate relatively in check, K-ing only eight times so far on the season. But that too looks very difficult to maintain. Through 17 games, Blackmon has managed to hit .583 after getting down 0-2 in the count, which is insane productivity for a batter. But I wouldn’t bet on that kind of success rate holding. MLB pitchers are simply too good to continue to allow even great hitters to accumulate base hits over 50% of the time when down 0-2. Expect Blackmon to begin to strikeout more in line with his career norms as pitchers make adjustments when they are ahead in the count. That’s going to have an impact as well.

But maybe the most prescient reason Blackmon won’t keep this pace up and likely see his average fall below .400 sooner rather than later is that the Rockies are going to start playing in notoriously tough hitters parks soon. In the NL West, they have to travel to San Diego, San Francisco and Dodger Stadium. As well as Houston in inter-league play. Blackmon’s best stadiums in his career have been Seattle, Coors and Oakland where he’s combined to hit .352. Guess where Colorado has played all but three of their games so far in 2020?

Every remaining Rockies road game will come at ballparks where Blackmon has hit .265 combined at this point in his career. So even if he is able to maintain his ridiculous home batting average (which he won’t) he’ll need to hit nearly 75 points above his career batting average at these road parks to keep his overall BA north of .400. That’s an incredibly tough ask, especially when you start factoring in the fatigue of playing a season with very few off days. At some point or another Blackmon is likely to hit an 0-10 type slump and in a short season, that could be a killer. If that 0-10 streak hits tonight, Blackmon would see his average drop 65 points.

Hitting .500 through 17 games in impressive, but when a few "ground balls with eyes" or "Texas Leaguers" fall in, they can inflate the batting average quite significantly. Those things do even out over time and right now, Blackmon has been incredibly fortunate in terms of BABIP luck as well as getting to play nearly all of his games at stadiums he’s had a ton of success in over his career. Unfortunately for those hoping a .400 season could happen, the schedule is going to force Blackmon to have to hit in stadiums he hasn’t had much success in and the regression monster looks likely to pop up and take a huge bite out of his BABIP if he continues to hit as many groundballs as he has so far.

Charlie Blackmon is a good professional hitter and he’s a great hitter at Coors Field. But he’s still a long shot to hit .400, even in a shortened 60-game season.

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