After his first season-long stint with the Colorado Rockies, second baseman Ryan McMahon said it might be time for a little break.
"“Oh I’m taking a breath, man. This is my first time doing 162, I need a breath,” he told Rox Pile in an exclusive interview."
That includes spending a little time at third base – his old position – at season’s end.
"“It feels the same, the only thing that felt weird was like the diving plays, I couldn’t remember how to dive properly out there. But it was fun, it was fun heading back over there,” McMahon said."
The 24-year-old looked like he needed some time off down the stretch, as the team dutifully finished out the schedule and McMahon went cold at the plate (he batted just .195 in September).
"“I think I got a little tired and got back into some bad habits toward the end of the season. I’ve gotta clean that stuff up and find a way to fight through that, because we’re gonna be hoping for a postseason run next year,” he said."
But take the whole season into account, and McMahon performed admirably as the replacement for DJ LeMahieu. He finished with a slash line of .250/.329/.450 with 24 home runs and 83 RBI. The .779 OPS is substantial improvement over the .683 OPS he amassed in 91 games in 2018.
During July and August, McMahon showed his prowess when he’s locked in at the plate. He slashed .276/.356/.541 for an .898 OPS, hit 12 home runs and was second on the team in wRC+ with 116, behind Trevor Story (125). Seeing McMahon rake was one of few reasons to tune into Rockies games during the dog days of summer.
McMahon’s next leap as an offensive player will be reducing the strikeout percentage, which was 29.7% in 2019 (and 31% in the season’s second half), 10th-worst in the National League. According to FanGraphs, McMahon was swinging at pitches outside the zone 29.2% of the time – around league average – but his contact on those swings was 54.5%, about 11 percentage points below league average. His contact rate for pitches in the zone was 78.3%, about nine percentage points below average.
The main culprit was the fastball. McMahon spent much of the year struggling to catch up to high heat, and his fastball-hitting was below league average according to FanGraphs’ pitch value statistic (at -4.8, which I’ll admit doesn’t mean much without the definition). But McMahon made up for it by raking against breaking balls, where he was well above average.
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Despite his fair share of web gems, McMahon also had too many fielding mistakes – his 16 errors was tied for fifth in the NL. But we can chalk a lot of that up to inexperience. Rookie sensation Fernando Tatis Jr. committed 18 (and in just 83 games) for the San Diego Padres, and no one is concerned about his future in the infield. No need to waste any energy worrying about McMahon’s fielding skills.
So, the first 162-game grind of McMahon’s career is in the books. What are RyMac’s takeaways?
"“I did learn a lot, man, and I think Daniel Murphy puts it the best way, I just have all these experiences to pull from now going forward. I’ve been in a lot of different situations now, I’ve faced a lot of different kinds of pitchers,” he said.“There’s obviously still room for a lot of improvement. … I’ve got some stuff to work on, some things to clean up, but I’m excited about it.”"
Rockies fans hope the 2019 season will be McMahon’s launching pad for an exciting career in purple pinstripes.