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This Week in Purple: Is it time to worry about Charlie Blackmon?

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What was good and bad this week in Rockies baseball

Being a baseball fan sometimes requires a short memory. In this, as in other aspects of life, you can feel that short memory in your gut. For instance, right now, I feel great about the Colorado Rockies. Four game winning streak? Glimpses that this year’s rotation just might be even better than last year’s? Nolan Arenado homering in three straight games? Ryan McMahon and David Dahl returning from the IL on the same day, and McMahon hitting two home runs during his first game back? Each of those is an erasure of weak fly outs and terrible defense that characterized the eight game losing streak that ended last Sunday.

But short memories and good feelings can’t, unfortunately, erase those damn losses. On Monday, I wrote an article titled “How bad is it?” (I also talked about it on the Affected by Altitude podcast.) I wanted to understand the Rockies start in the context of other playoff teams during the Wild Card era. I found that other teams have started about as poor as the Rockies and made the playoffs and that other teams have had just as poor or worse 16 game stretches during playoff seasons. But I also found that in order for the Rockies to reach that 90 win threshold that will probably be needed to make the postseason, they’ll need to play the best baseball they’ve ever played for the remainder of the season.

I found the good and the bad in the Rockies start — or, the hopeful and the hopeless. But that’s in the past, and the Rockies are adding to what will end up being the story of the 2019 season. Here’s what else was good (and bad) this week.

What was good

The Rockies haven’t lost a game since Saturday! The Rockies four game winning streak has come at exactly the right time, not only to get rid of the bitter taste of that awful eight-game losing streak, but also because the Rockies were in danger of banking too many early season losses to come back from. The Rockies aren’t out of the woods yet though. At 7-12, they still find themselves at the bottom of the National League West standings. I’ll feel much better once the Rockies reach and eclipse the .500 mark.

What was bad

There’s a caveat. While the Rockies climb back to .500, the rest of the NL isn’t sitting idly by. In fact, the NL is looking as strong as people thought it would. Four teams in the NL East are either at or above .500, and it looks like that division will be a dog fight, with the Braves, Phillies, Nationals, and Mets all realistic competitors for the division title and the two Wild Card spots. The NL Central is about the same, as the Pirates, Brewers, and Cardinals all sit above .500, with the Cubs, at 8-9, not far behind. The NL West, at least, is probably not as strong. The Giants and Diamondbacks are probably not going to stay above water for long, and the Padres may have been overperforming to start the season. I still think it’ll be a two-horse race for the NL West between the Dodgers and the Rockies, but a look around the rest of the NL suggests that competition for the Wild Cards will be pretty fierce.

What was good

The starting rotation has been fantastic. German Márquez’s near no-hitter on Sunday was one of the best pitched games in Rockies history, but it was just one of several great performances throughout the week. Antonio Senzatela allowed just one run in 6 23 innings pitched in his start, which hopefully was enough to earn him a permanent spot in the rotation. Kyle Freeland had his best start of the season on Thursday and, perhaps most notably, Jon Gray had yet another strong start, as he allowed one run over 7 innings against the Padres. The Rockies need a really strong rotation to be competitive this season, and this past week showed what that looks like.

What was bad

Has anyone taken notice of just how bad Charlie Blackmon has been? And if anyone’s noticed, has anyone acknowledged it out loud? In the past 7 days, Blackmon has hit .172/.200/.207. One might call that bad! For the year, Blackmon has hit .221/.274/.299.

It’s not just results, either. Here are some of the “peripheral” aspects of Blackmon’s game that are causes for concern:

  • Blackmon’s walk rate is down two and a half percentage points from where it was last year (6% compared to 8.5%).
  • Blackmon’s line drive rate is at 19.7%, which would be a career low; his career line drive rate is 23.7%
  • He’s swinging more, and he’s making less contact, both in and out of the zone.
  • Blackmon has a 0% HR/FB ratio — in old school baseball terms, Blackmon has yet to go yard in 2019

The Rockies already have one offensive non-contributor in the outfield. They might not be able to afford another one. Blackmon’s one to watch in the coming weeks.

What else was good

I won’t be able to watch the Rockies the next two nights, but that’s because I have friends in town visiting. That means for the next two days I won’t think much at all about losing streaks, or winning streaks. Another positive of the short memory of fandom is that I can just forget all that and focus on which cocktails I want to mix up tonight.

What was good for you this week?