In a season with not many bright spots for the Colorado Rockies, Ryan McMahon has quietly started to outperform his breakout 2021 season. Dependent on whether you look at FanGraphs or Baseball Reference, he’s either the best or second-best Rockies’ position player in terms of WAR.
Yet the perception this season had been that Ryan McMahon has taken a step back for the Colorado Rockies.
McMahon came in with newfound expectations after signing a six-year, $70 million extension in March. He started off the season nicely with a 122 wRC+ in 69 plate appearances in April. Then, over the next few months, much like the rest of the Rockies’ hopes for 2022, he underperformed with some very underwhelming stats at the plate (72 wRC+ in May, 71 wRC+ in June and 81 wRC+ in July).
Perhaps that’s when the perception of RyMac’s regression had kicked in the most, fading him and the rest of the Rockies’ season away into the background like 30 seconds off the play-clock on a 4th and 1 where Nathaniel Hackett’s indecisiveness takes over yet again (oh wait, I’m supposed to be talking about the Rockies here).
But while eyes shifted to Dove Valley for the fall, McMahon started to turn on the burners and propel himself into a position where he’s actually starting to surpass his 2021 season in quite a few key areas.
He hit for a 130 wRC+ in August and 117 so far in September (heading into Monday’s game). That’s brought his wRC+ up to 96, a couple ticks above his season-long wRC+ of 94 in 2021.
Regression? Nah. From a full season perspective, he is, at the very least, comparable to where he was at last season when spirits were high on his future. Below is a comparison of his 2021 and 2022 stats:
2021 fWAR: 2.5
2022 fWAR: 2.8
2021 bWAR: 4.0
2022 bWAR: 3.0
2021 wRC+: 94
2022 wRC+: 96
2021 wOBA: .334
2022 wOBA: 327
2021 xwOBA: .325
2022 xwOBA: .336
2021 BB%: 9.9%
2022 BB%: 10.8%
2021 K%: 24.7%
2022 K%: 26.3%
So for the most part, Ryan McMahon is performing pretty similarly in 2022 to where he was in 2021. That difference in bWAR is some apparent defensive regression from DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) but, per Statcast, he’s still in the 96th percentile in Outs Above Average, so there’s likely not as much regression as DRS says.
The biggest worry for McMahon going forward is certainly going to be his drop in power numbers, specifically home runs. He’s at 17 on the year after having 23 last season and, should he continue to get better as a hitter, this is a big opportunity for him offensively, especially since he’s in the upper echelon when it comes to hard hits and exit velocity.
In regards to homers, he’s still hitting for a similar HR/FB% as he did last season (15.6% this season vs 16.0% last season). But he’s hitting 5% fewer fly balls and all of that 5% has gone to ground balls. I discussed last season how McMahon greatly improved his production by hitting the ball in the air more (and how it could help Raimel Tapia), so this is a bit of a worry for RyMac that he should work to correct next season.
When all is said and done, though, he’s providing the same amount of value this season as he did last season with opportunity for improvement going forward. A 3+ WAR player doesn’t often come around for the Rockies and McMahon gives them that value. The worries from earlier this season shouldn’t bother Rockies fans much. McMahon will continue to bring value to this team for years going forward and, for now, is one of the lone bright spots in a murky 2022 season.