The Colorado Rockies’ decision to let DJ LeMahieu walk away this winter has been analyzed and criticized all season long, compounded by the All-Star’s MVP-caliber season with the New York Yankees. It’s not hard for people to want to blame DJ’s departure for the Rockies’ disappointing season but, in reality, that likely has little to do with the Rockies’ 2019 struggles.
Obviously, the Colorado Rockies‘ lineup would look better with DJ LeMahieu at second base and Ryan McMahon at first, but it’s doubtful that would make up for the real reason the Rockies can’t win in 2019 … their pitching. Right now, all five starting pitchers who opened the season in the Rockies’ rotation are on the Injured List and, even when they were healthy, they were nowhere near as effective as they were last season, save for Jon Gray and German Marquez at times.
As much as the rotation has struggled, the bullpen has been far worse, single-handedly losing several games.
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All that’s to say, offense has hardly been the problem this season and the Rockies likely would have lost with or without LeMahieu. Letting him walk away was a hard decision, but it’s not the reason the wheels fell off for the Rockies in 2019. People often react to the Rockies second-base situation as if everything the team did blew up in their face, though I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. The most disappointing part of the Rockies’ infield plans have been at first base, not second.
The Rockies’ second base strategy was never to produce an MVP at the position over the course of a single season, but instead to give an opportunity to McMahon and, at some point, Brendan Rodgers so that these players could develop into potential superstars in the future. Rodgers’ slow start and season-ending injury mean we’ll have to wait to see him get full playing time, but McMahon has quietly had a really good first full season in the Majors.
There’s a good chance he will finish the season with 20-plus home runs and 80-plus RBI. Those are great numbers for a first-year second baseman and he’s actually been very impressive with his glove as well. LeMahieu is a great hitter and arguably the best second baseman in Rockies history, but it’s worth noting that McMahon has already collected more home runs (18) and RBI (69) this season than LeMahieu ever did in a single season with Colorado.
McMahon’s batting average (.262) could be improved but this is his first full year in the big leagues so it’s safe to assume all of his offensive numbers will improve in the future. For comparison, in their first seasons, Nolan Arenado hit .267 and Trevor Story hit .272 … and both players now regularly hover around the .300 mark. Even DJ as recently as last season hit .276, which isn’t too far off from McMahon’s current mark.
Currently, McMahon is third among NL second basemen in home runs and RBI and he is only one home run away from tying for second. There’s no doubt that LeMahieu is having a better 2019 than McMahon, but McMahon is closer than you think to becoming a superstar in this league. The most exciting part is RyMac is probably still waiting for his breakout season. When it comes, the Rockies are going to have yet another homegrown superstar in their infield.