On one hand, the veteran lefty was the most feared hitter in the sport for a significant stretch and a national conversation started around the question of whether or not he would be able to hit .400 over the entire–albeit shortened–season. But for another significant stretch, he hit worse than he has in his entire career.
Overall, Blackmon’s 2020 numbers don’t look terrible. He only hit 6 home runs but did manage to drive in 42 in only 59 games and his 12 doubles was a solid mark. Because of the decline in his power numbers, both his OPS (.804) and OPS+ (103) took a hit, but were above average, even if they weren’t what we’ve come to expect from Charlie.
But those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Through the first 17 games of the season, Blackmon was on fire, hitting .500 with 3 home runs, 20 RBI, and a 1.248 OPS. As a side note, the Rockies were 12-5 through those 17 games.
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Without those 17 games, Blackmon’s season statistics would look terrible. In the final 42 games of his season, Charlie put together a nearly identical 3 home runs and 22 RBI while hitting an abysmal .216 with a staggeringly-low .610 OPS. Colorado was 13-29 in those games–like Blackmon, securing the same number of wins in 42 games as they had in 17.
Blackmon actually had MORE hits in his first 17 games (34) than he did in his final 42 (33). It’s hard to say what caused this unusual split. Had Blackmon started the season off as poorly as he finished, we could attribute it to age, and assume he’s just lost bat speed or vision or something. But were that the case, he could have never stayed so hot for such a long stretch. Did the entire league adjust to him and he never figured out how to counter?
The day after he reached the .500 mark, his slump began and it lasted through the end of the season. The team’s performance likely didn’t help and the apathetic attitude that seemed to permeate most of the club also contributed to his poor performance. Even Nolan Arenado (84 OPS+) had a bad season–not just a bad season for a player of his caliber, but a bad season for any player.
So what should we expect from Chuck Nazty in 2021? Last season makes it pretty hard to figure out. We know he won’t hit .500 and we can hope he won’t hit .216, but will he hit .300? Will his power make a comeback? In 2015, Carlos Gonzalez hit a career-high 40 home runs one year after hitting only 11 with a .238 batting average and .723 OPS in an injury-shortened season a little longer than Blackmon’s 2020 season.
We can be sure Blackmon worked all offseason on getting back to form and his hot stretch to start the season should give fans hope that his days of terrorizing opposing pitching aren’t over yet. But did 2020 show us the beginning of the end? That’s a question we won’t know the answer to until the 2021 season gets underway.