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Despite another down year, Blackmon still comes up clutch

Chuck Nazty posted a negative WAR for the first time since 2011, but still led the team when batting with RISP

Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.

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No. 33, Charlie Blackmon: -0.2 rWAR

For the first time in Charlie Blackmon’s career since finishing with a -0.7 WAR in his 2011 rookie season when he played in 27 games, the four-time All-Star finished with a negative rWAR in 2022. His -0.2 mark was a significant drop from his 0.9 in 2021, which put him at No. 13 in our rankings, and his career-high 5.5 mark in 2017.

Blackmon turned 36 this season and his average has dropped from .303 in 2020, to .270 in 2021, to .264 this season — the lowest since his rookie campaign. He revealed a bit more power with 16 homers compared to 13 in 2021, but another reduction from his 32 home runs in 2019. His slugging percentage went up from 2021’s .411 to .419 with three more homers and two more triples, but also hit three fewer doubles.

The designated hitter entered the NL at a perfect time to try to extend Blackmon’s career. He played 131 games this season, 80 of which were at DH with the other 51 in right field. He hit better when he played DH, as Purple Row’s Renee Dechert documented in detail in August. Despite his offensive and defensive drop-offs, Blackmon still recorded the highest batting average for the Rockies with runners in scoring position at .336 and on-base percentage at .384. He also posted the second-most RISP RBI behind Cron at 58. Despite a down year, Blackmon still finished in the top three overall on the Rockies in hits (140, tied second), RBI (78, second), and triples (six, first).

Blackmon’s season ended early when the team announced on Sept. 28 that he was headed to the IL after tearing his left meniscus. He appears to have hurt the knee a week earlier, but tried to play through. Instead, Blackmon was forced to leave the final road trip early to return to Denver and have surgery, but he should be healed up and ready to go for Spring Training.

In 2022, Blackmon hit many career milestones, including notching 10 years of service time, which is an achievement fewer than 10% of MLB players ever reach. He also surpassed the 200-homer mark and ranks seventh in team history with 207 long balls. In 2022, Blackmon also took over as the team’s all-time triples leader with 58 (five ahead of Dexter Fowler), he ranks third in doubles at 286, third in runs scored at 880, and is second behind Todd Helton in several categories like total bases (2,613), games played (1,404), hits (1,590), and stolen bases (138 – behind Eric Young Sr., not Helton). He’s seventh all-time in position player rWAR at 19.3 and No. 5 in offensive rWAR at 26.7.

In terms of his role moving forward, the Rockies traditionally favor veterans and Blackmon is the top vet and a fan favorite. With lots of young players coming up the ranks, Blackmon is a valuable role model and the clear leader in the clubhouse, even if he’s more of a lead-by-example type of guy.

It’s clear, and has been for some time, that Chuck Nazty’s best days are behind him. In 2018, he signed a six-year, $108 million deal including player options for 2022 and 2023. He’s already announced his plan to exercise that option. Blackmon will earn $15.33 million next season, tied for second-most on the Rockies payroll with Germán Márquez, behind only Kris Bryant’s $28 million.

Entering the twilight of a career — one where the Rockies 2008 second-round draft pick has long been the bearded face of the franchise — Charlie Blackmon will go down as one of the best Rockies of all-time. The 2023 season could be the final chapter as he’ll be a free agent when the season ends.

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