Charlie Blackmon of the Colorado Rockies started the year chasing immortality alongside Ted Williams. Then, a slump occurred and the roller coaster has created a Baseball-Reference page worth discussing.
Oddity lies in every sport.
In football, players have to go through car-accident-level impacts for an entire game, only to do it all over again a week later. Basketball has offenses now which place two players in corners and run schemes for the sole purpose of trying to create a 3-point attempt for them.
Baseball is simple. A pitcher gets a ball, chucks it at another guy, and a hitter tries his darndest to alter the exchange. Charlie Blackmon has made life miserable most of the year for hurlers, but the way it’s affected the record books is as unusual as baseball is usual.
One scroll down the splits of Blackmon’s 2020 season reveals the most atypical part of his year.
The logic often goes that opposite handed pitchers tend to favor hitters. When Blackmon steps into the left-handed batter’s box, and stares out at a right-handed pitcher, he’s supposed to get a tingly, Christmas-like feeling in his chest.
Sliders, one of the league’s most common pitches, and curveballs will both come in towards him, rather than dipping away. Fastballs will do the same, albeit without much of the movement. The only real pitches which may dive away from an opposite-handed hitter are sinkers, two-seam fastballs, and changeups. Few pitchers in the league throw a truly devastating changeup or sinker.
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Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado fit the mold. In each of their careers, they’ve hit nearly .050 points higher against opposite-handed pitchers. Heck, Story’s slugging percentage goes from .502 to .628, simply when the handedness of the pitcher changes.
Blackmon doesn’t, though. Not in his career, and especially not in 2020.
The outfielder’s accrued almost identical numbers, regardless of pitcher, in his career. His average against righties and lefties is within .010 points. His on-base percentage is separated by a mere .001.
This year, Blackmon’s hitting only .260 against right-handed pitching. He’s slugging .452 and has been only slightly above league average in adjusted on-base plus slugging (107; 100 is league average).
Everything changes against southpaws.
In 59 plate appearances, Blackmon’s hit .444 and gotten on base in nearly half his chances. His adjusted OPS of 184 against same-handed pitching is the same tally as Mike Trout this year.
Hitting league average against one side, while looking like a Most Valuable Player against the other isn’t uncommon. Doing it via opposite splits is.
Some of the results could be up to chance.
Blackmon faces double the number of right-handed pitchers due to the abundance in the league. A hitter is likely to take roughly 7-of-10 at-bats in any given series against right-handed pitchers. The news is welcome, usually for Blackmon, and also for the left-handed elites across the league like Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, and Juan Soto.
Reverse the trend in the league, introduce more lefties and the results may skew some.
The impact of reverse splits can be huge on a lineup. David Dahl’s injury has played a role too.
Arenado, Story, Garrett Hampson, and Matt Kemp have been arguably the Rockies’ most valuable hitters, outside of Blackmon. The four share a positive impact on the lineup’s result, but also all slide into the right side of the batter’s box.
The Rockies, therefore, are great against left-handed pitching. Their five best hitters, arguably, are all better against left-handed pitching – at least on average. Hampson has reversed his splits to a degree this year as well.
Through 42 games, the Rockies, as expected, have been a completely different team depending on the pitcher’s handedness.
Against left-handed pitching, they’ve hit .284 and scored 74 runs in 500 plate appearances. Compare that to their 131 total runs in 1101 total chances against right-handed pitching and the difference is vast.
In a perfect world, Blackmon would hit well against both right and left-handed pitching and give the Rockies a way to break up their lineup. Instead, he’s brought to light even more the thin margin of error for the club. Outside of their top three hitters, consistency has been hard to come by.
Now, every time the Rockies face a right-handed starter or reliever, their results are bludgeoned even more.
Blackmon’s splits this year have been unusual. The impact on the lineup has been huge.