The Colorado Rockies face a tough task as they look ahead to the 2014 season. They have to find a way to replace iconic first baseman Todd Helton. Although you could argue that they have been faced with that dilemma for the last number of years as Helton has not been the same Todd Helton of the past.
What might have been lost in the tears and the celebration of the last month after Helton announced his retirement is the fact that first base is a huge hole for this team and has been for a couple years now. If the Toddfather could have mustered the goods to produce like he did in August and September over the course of a full season at age 38, that would be one thing. Unfortunately that just wasn’t the case. That is strictly a discussion about production, by the way. Those last weeks were so special that we know with great certainty that there will be no replacing Helton the man.
So we know that, file it away, appreciate the opportunity we had to honor Helton and everything he has meant to the franchise, and then shift our focus to what can reasonably be replaced: the production.
Helton’s overall numbers for 2013 were solid, but certainly not spectacular: .249/.314/.423 with 15 home runs and 61 RBI. He saw a significant spike in power over the last couple months, perhaps fueled by the adrenaline of his final plate appearances, as he cracked eight of those home runs and drove in 27 of those runs. But you have to also mention the low batting averages: .234 in August and .241 in September. It’s impossible to comprehend that low an average for Helton, and along with his .249 mark for the year, these numbers serve as cold reminders that the Rockies need to get more on offense from their next first baseman.
Where Helton was outstanding, and where he will be sorely missed, was in the field. He’s not exactly quick; as the cliche goes, “he doesn’t get to much, but he catches everything he gets to.” So maybe the next guy at first will be more athletic, but I’ll be darned if he scoops as many throws and saves his infielder on as many tough plays at the base. For the 2013 season, Helton posted another outstanding fielding percentage with a .998 mark. That puts him at .996 for his career, in case you were interested to know.
If you’re asking me to actually give Helton a “grade” for the season, I’m going to give him an A++. Yes, this final season was about much more than a batting average or any other statistic. The numbers only need to be considered insofar as they remind us what the Rockies need to find to build a good lineup moving forward.
I don’t know what that will look like, but what I do know is that they will never find another Todd Helton.