Colorado Rockies: Chuck keeps getting Naztier and Naztier
Charlie Blackmon has been one of the faces of the Colorado Rockies for a few seasons now. Today, we look at the evolution of Chuck Nazty.
25. 32. 76. 171. 176. 187. 213.
3. 4. 7. 31. 46. 43. 65.
1. 8. 17. 27. 31. 35. 35.
0. 0. 2. 3. 9. 5. 14.
1. 2. 6. 19. 17. 29. 37.
9. 15. 35. 82. 93. 111. 137.
8. 9. 22. 72. 38. 82. 104.
Charlie Blackmon is not a consistent player.
That strange semi-linear display above shows Charlie Blackmon’s year-by-year totals for hits, walks, doubles, triples, homers, runs, and RBI. To call these numbers consistent would not just be inaccurate, it would be an injustice. Almost every single category goes up in every single year, charting one of the most remarkable evolutions in the baseball world. That’s part of the reason why Rockies fans love him so much, as you can see by this tweet from our colleagues at the Purple Dinosaur Podcast last year.
The only thing consistent about the artist known as Chuck Nazty is his improvement at the plate, which is a truly underappreciated phenomenon. To improve so consistently requires not just the skill and athleticism required to put up these numbers, but also the learning ability, the commitment to conditioning, the focus, and, frankly, the luck that goes into getting better and better in every facet every season.
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If he missed significant time with injury, he doesn’t put up those numbers. Had he required more rest after playing center field night after night, he doesn’t put up those numbers. Any prolonged slump, any streak of hard line drives that just happen to be right at fielders, any regression due to age, and he doesn’t put up these numbers.
When Blackmon signed his 6-year, $108 million contract this offseason, it elicited a range of emotion from Rockies fans. There was, of course, the initial joy that came with knowing that we were going to be keeping one of our homegrown superstars. There was also the paranoia that followed: Does this mean that we won’t be resigning Nolan Arenado?
But there was also the big question of whether the contract was paying for production in the past or in the future. Did Blackmon just extract peak value for himself, signing a new deal after a career year, or somehow, improbably, is there still more to come?
It would be truly remarkable if this improvement continues. Charlie turns 32 this year, which in a post-steroids world is when most players start to slow down. Through approximately a third of the season, Blackmon’s numbers are slightly down from last year. He’s ticked downward slightly in some categories, and others, such as RBI he seems unlikely to be able to repeat. You never know though; if anything, I’ve learned that one thing you never do is bet against Charlie Blackmon.
There remains, of course, one more aspect to Charlie’s game that has evolved that I have yet to mention. I speak, of course, about the beard.
As Blackmon’s whiskers have gone from non-existent to hangover scruff to professional lumberjack to wild man from the back country, so too has Blackmon morphed into bench player, to starter, to all-star, to MVP candidate. One can only assume a correlation.
It’s hard to look at pictures of that fresh-faced fourth outfielder that came up through the Rockies’ system and see the same person as that guy that’s out there starting in center field today. Almost as tough as it is to look at Blackmon’s stat line for 2011 and think it’s the same guy that put up those 2017 numbers.
The one surety of sports is that at some point, regression will happen.
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What’s remarkable about Charlie Blackmon is that so far he has faced almost no regression in any capacity; he’s only worked hard to make himself a better ball player, year after year, in every way. Now the big question that remains: can Chuck Nazty keep getting even Naztier?