A common theme for the Rockies heading into the 2022 season was the search for more power. Over the past couple of seasons, we have seen their power numbers decrease, despite the stereotypical conception that the Rockies will always hit home runs and put up big numbers.
In his search for power, Bill Schmidt has added Randal Grichuk and Kris Bryant to his outfield with the hope that both will add some offensive spark lacking for the club and complement his current sluggers C.J Cron, Ryan McMahon, and even Charlie Blackmon. In a way, it looks like Schmidt is trying to harken back to the early days of the Rockies and build his own version of the Blake Street Bombers.
The big free-agent addition, Kris Bryant is something akin to Larry Walker for these new Bombers. He isn’t likely to reach the levels of production of Walker in his Colorado heyday, but he brings the high-end potential to become a new leader in the clubhouse and on the field as Walker did. A look at both players' stats prior to joining the Rockies shows some interesting similarities in their production and results.
Bryant and Walker Prior to Rockies
Bryant has one more season than Walker outside of the purple, resulting in more games and a stronger bill of health, but overall both players enjoyed plenty of success before coming to Colorado. We know for Walker that he continued to explode into a bonafide star in Colorado, ultimately leading to the franchise’s first MVP award recipient as well as their first Hall of Famer. In his first season with the Rockies, Walker blasted a then-career-high of 36 home runs with an OPS+ of 131. We also saw a healthy Walker hit over 30 home runs three more times as a Rockie. Could we see Bryant reach a similar boost in Colorado?
Just like Vinny Castilla, Ryan McMahon will be the Bomber holding down the fort at third base. McMahon has already proven himself as a superior defender, but if he is going to contribute as a new Blake Street Bomber, he will have to unlock his true potential at the plate to reflect Vinny Castilla.
First Five Rockies Seasons for Castilla and McMahon
McMahon has had two full seasons in which he hit over 20 home runs (2019 and 2021), and with his new six-year extension with the Rockies, he will have plenty of time to try and unlock consistent power. Now that McMahon will be playing in his third 162 game season as a full-time starter, he has a chance to get into a groove offensively just as Castilla did. McMahon has the power potential, but he will need to make consistent contact to hit for average and get on base, while reliably hitting the long ball. He won’t average the 40 home runs a year that Castilla did from 1996 to 1998, but he could easily shoot for at least 30 a year.
This comparison for our new Bombers works out perfectly because Randal Grichuk was able to work with Dante Bichette during his last couple of years in Toronto. Under the tutelage of Bichette, Grichuk was able to lower his strikeout rate in 2021 and improve his two-strike approach. While 2021 was a bit of a down year for Grichuk, his move to Colorado could reflect Bichette’s first season with the Rockies as a baseline.
Age 29 Seasons For Bichette and Grichuk
Like Bichette, Grichuk could see mass improvement with his power numbers, batting average, and on-base percentage. The move to Coors Field will be critical to this improvement. In his first season at Coors Field in 1995, Bichette hit 40 home runs and saw both his average and on-base percentage rise over the .340 mark. Those kinds of results can only bode well for Grichuk and the number of dingers he can bring to the Rockies.
C.J. Cron’s emergence as an offensive force in 2021 was a wonderful surprise for the Rockies. He led the team in home runs and was one of the most consistent players in the lineup the whole season. His reflection of Andrés Galarraga will be key to these new Blake Street Bombers. Galarraga was a pivotal piece of the Bombers prior to Walker’s arrival, and the addition of Coors Field in 1995 helped the aging veteran maintain quality production.
Cron and Galarraga’s First Season with Coors Field
Cron was a dominant force at home in 2021 and his power bat could easily reach nearly 30 home runs as he did last season. He has an age advantage over Galarraga when it comes to spending a few years at Coors Field, and with the addition of the designated hitter, Cron can have plenty more opportunities to stay fresh and put up big numbers over the course of his two-year contract.
Our final member of our new Blake Street Bombers has been with the team the longest and might be a forgotten member, just like Ellis Burks. Yes, Blackmon’s power was depleted in 2020 and 2021, but we can’t forget that from 2016 to 2019, Chuck Nazty was one of the best hitters in baseball. Burks wasn’t as dominant as Blackmon was during that four-year span, but overall they are still reminiscent of each other in their roles with the team.
Four-Year Stretch for Blackmon and Burks
Despite the somewhat down year in 2021, Blackmon is still a top-of-the-line hitter and will easily put up double-digit home runs like Burks did most of the time. He may not reach the 40 homers that Burks did in 1996, but he will provide plenty of opportunities for his fellow bombers in the lineup.
Bill Schmidt’s Blake Street Bombers
The Rockies have five quality hitters in their lineup with the gentlemen listed above. No, they will never be the Blake Street Bombers of old, but they can reboot the philosophy and offensive prowess the Rockies enjoyed in the past. With the way the game is played today, Bill Schmidt is relying on this core of offensive players to carry the team to victory, and they might just surprise us all and actually do it.
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In what was a somewhat shocking development, the Rockies announced that Kyle Freeland would be the Opening Day starter against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Many assumed that Germán Márquez would likely get the nod, but instead, the Rockies will turn to the hometown kid to open the season at home and hopefully find some magic he did in 2017 for the home opener and his stellar Opening Day start in 2019. Freeland himself was quite shocked to get the news but remains excited about the opportunity.
Peter Lambert was scheduled to start on Saturday, but due to some concerns about his arm, he was scratched, and appears that he will face an extremely limited innings workload this year. Lambert hopes to pitch deep into the season and when the innings are more meaningful, but the Rockies will look to massage him back into full action.
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Things looked like a certain victory for the Rockies until a six-run bottom of the ninth by the Oakland Athletics resulted in a tie Saturday afternoon. Connor Joe continued a hot spring training with his second home run while Dom Nuñez had a three-hit performance, including a grand slam in the fourth inning. Jake Bird struggled in the ninth, allowing six runs on five hits without recording an out.
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