We know that 2020 is going to be weird, a shortened season in which baseball finds itself in a sprint, not the usual marathon. This raises two questions. First, historically, what have been the best (and worst) 60-game stretches for Rockies hitters on the 2020 roster? Second, based on this knowledge, is it possible to set some benchmarks for this team?
FanGraphs has a new tool that’s pretty neat. It allows for researching 60-game stretches. (And if you don’t support FanGraphs, an essential baseball resource, please consider becoming a member or making a donation. You can do that by going here.)
Because they have not yet played in 60 MLB games, Sam Hilliard, Brendan Rodgers, Dom Nuñez, and Josh Fuentes have not been included in this analysis.
What are the 2020 Rockies’ best 60-game stretches?
Here’s what we know:
First, of the current roster, Charlie Blackmon has had the best 60-game stretch, which happened in 2017. Second, Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story had their best runs last year. Hopefully, that carries over to 2020. (And if Arenado’s showing at Summer Camp and in the first exhibition game against the Rangers are any indication, he’s ready to pick up where he left off in 2019.) Third, Ryan McMahon may be poised to have a terrific 2020, assuming we see late-2019 RyMac and not early-2019 RyMac.
In terms of WRC+, the majority of the Rockies’ 2020 roster has had 60-game stretches above average, with four having periods that were well above average. On the other hand, there are players (Wolters, Butera, and Tapia) had below-average showings, even in their best 60-game stretches.
To be fair, there are limitations to the data. Because players like Blackmon, Kemp, and Murphy have been in baseball for so long, they’ve had more opportunities to have good 60-game stretches. In addition, relatively new players, like Garrett Hampson and Raimel Tapia, have had fewer opportunities, both to get practice and to play in MLB games.
Based on what we know from these players’ past histories, at least for the power hitters, 20 home runs is a realistic goal, though it would mean Blackmon, Arenado, Story, and Kemp would have to exceed their best seasons—and perhaps in a shortened season with less travel in and out of elevation, they will be positioned to do that.
A big question is Drew Butera, who has had a career of being, at best, marginal at the plate. His strongest offensive 60-game stretch was in 2014 when he hit three home runs. Perhaps that’s changing. He hit at least two homers in Summer Camp intrasquad games, so maybe he’s poised to improve in 2020.
What are the players’ worst 60-game stretches?
Brace yourselves because it’s not good.
Matt Kemp’s ability to rake at Coors Field is well established. But on the flip side of that, when he was bad, it was very bad, as in -1.5 fWAR. In fact, the three players the Rockies signed in 2020 to improve the team (Kemp, Elias Díaz, and Chris Owings) have the worst fWAR in 60-game stretches.
To contrast, Nolan Arenado has never had a negative-fWAR 60-game stretch. This is also true of David Dahl. Drew Butera’s offensive mediocrity is, well, consistent, so it does not have a significant impact on his fWAR. It’s also worth noting that Wolters, Tapia, and McMahon had some bad periods in 2019.
And then there’s Garrett Hampson. Most Rockies fans would agree that Hampson only began finding himself at the plate at the end of 2019, but he also looks to be a remarkably consistent player.
So, what does this all mean?
Data analysis is not my strong suit, so I’ll turn this over to folks with more expertise. But for me, it reinforces the point that the Rockies have the potential to have a strong 60-game season, and the Rockies’ 5-1 win over the Rangers last night has everyone feeling hopeful.
Bring on Friday.