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. 3, Ryan McMahon: 3.1 rWAR
Coming off a 4.0 rWAR season in 2021 where he set career highs in batting average and RBI, as well as receiving his first career Gold Glove nomination, Ryan McMahon looked set to take the next step in 2022. After signing a six-year, $70 million contract in the offseason, he wasn’t able to exceed his 2021 in most categories but did maintain, providing as a solid contributor for the Rockies — 3.1 rWAR, slashing .246/.327/.414 with 20 HR and 67 RBI for a 95 wRC+. He also was nominated for his second-straight Gold Glove, only to be beat out again by his former teammate.
RyMac split time defensively between third and second in 2021, but with Brendan Rodgers’ breakout season at second, he spent most of this year at third. The added time only enabled him to solidify his position as one of the best defensive third basemen in the game. Despite leading the majors in errors at his position, McMahon ended up third in defensive runs saved (DRS) behind his fellow Gold Glove nominees Ke’Bryan Hayes and Nolan Arenado. And yes, the eye test backed up what the numbers asserted.
Where his 2021 was a Swiss Army knife defensively, his 2022 was the offensive equivalent for the batting order. He hit from every spot in the order during the season, and started at least one game at each of the spots other than the nine-hole. He spent no more than 1⁄3 of the season starting games in any position of the batting order, which speaks mostly to the streakiness of his 2022.
McMahon’s OPS+ and wRC+ both finished slightly under league average in 2022 (98 and 95, respectively) but his season was characterized by extended times over each mark. Consider his stretch from August 2nd to August 20th. During those 16 games, he went hitless in just three of them and slashed .364/.417/.636.
Under the hood, RyMac was a more selective hitter than he’s been in the past. He posted Z-Swing% and O-Swing% numbers of 63.3% and 24.8% — both below-league-average and the former being a career-low. That selectiveness paid off: he posted contact numbers of 83.1% in the zone and 51.4% out of the zone, both career highs of qualified seasons and above the major league average.
An interesting aspect to McMahon’s 2022 and career as a whole is how it is viewed by the opposing WAR calculations. Baseball Reference’s rWAR has McMahon’s 2021 and 2022 at 4.0 and 3.1, respectively. The former is his career-high. Fangraph’s fWAR has McMahon’s 2021 at 2.5 and 3.1 for the same years — now the latter is his career-high. fWAR uses wRC+ (McMahon’s 2021 wRC+ was 95) and rWAR uses OPS+ (McMahon’s was 98) in their calculations for WAR, so that’s where the discrepancy comes from. OPS+ and wRC+ are normally very closely correlated, but they do weight their values differently, so that’s a discussion for another time.
Ryan McMahon was a significant contributor to the Rockies in 2022, but maybe not one who you’d expect to be allocating $9, $12, $12, $15, and $15 million to over the next five seasons. His glove maintained itself, proving again to be one of the finest in the league, but he remained near a league average hitter — not exactly what you want from an offense-heavy position like the hot corner. However, he maintained his power stroke and when he was hot, he was hot, giving the Rockies another piece in the infield to build on in the future.