Remember the Cron Zone? It was this amazing feeling that Rockies fans got to experience every time C.J. Cron stepped up to the plate. With his rigid, upright stance, the 6-foot-4 slugger thrilled fans as much as he intimated opposing pitchers.
Through his first 88 at-bats of the season over 23 games, Cron smashed nine homers. That averaged out to one homer per 9.78 at-bats. For context, Aaron Judge is averaging one homer per every 9.37 at-bats this season.
Back on May 18, I was watching the Rockies battle the Giants and preparing to write the game recap for Purple Row. They were trailing 3-2 it wasn’t looking good. In the eighth inning, the Rockies had tied it up 3-3 and C.J. Cron walked up to the plate. At the time, he’d gone 55 at-bats without a homer, which felt like a lifetime.
That’s when I told myself that if Cron just hit a homer right then, I would buy a Cron Zone T-shirt from Breaking T (a custom T-shirt company that makes great shirts and Purple Row gets a small portion of the proceeds that usually go to the Opening Day Breakfast in LoDo and other social media giveaways). Cron graciously complied and sent a two-run shot 454 feet to give the Rockies a 5-3 lead, which ended up being the final score.
Cron went on to have a mile-high first half, earning his first All-Star bid in his ninth season in the league. At the break, he was third in the NL in RBI and slugging percentage at 69 and .552, fifth in the NL with 21 homers. Through 90 games, he was hitting a home run every 16.47 at-bats.
After the All-Star game, Cron’s powerful presence at the plate followed its namesake, the Twilight Zone, and entered another dimension. A dimension not of homers and doubles, but of a .178 batting average. It’s been a depressing journey into a slug-less land of stagnation. It’s the Slump Zone.
Cron Zone Disappearance
|Apr 8 to Jul 17||90||346||55||103||21||2||21||16.47||69||24||2||100||6||10||.298||.350||.552||.902||–|
|July 22 to Aug. 18||25||101||9||18||5||1||2||49||11||8||2||28||0||3||.178||.239||.307||.545||–|
|Career Totals (9th year)||943||3,284||417||862||180||10||169||19.43||545||240||14||827||67||83||.262||.323||.478||.801||2.5|
I still love my shirt and Cron has been a phenomenal pick-up by the Rockies of finding discarded talent and inking them to a minor league deal that only cost $1 million in 2021. Cron’s success last year earned him a 2-year, $15.5 million deal through 2023, which isn’t too bad for an All-Star.
However, this slump is getting serious. What’s making the 32-year-old plummet so badly?
It’s not strikeouts. Before the All-Star break, Cron was striking out in 28.9% of his at-bats, well above league average. Since July 22, he’s striking out 27.7% of the time. It’s not much of an improvement, but it’s been even better since Aug. 6.
He’s also not hitting the ball much differently when it comes to average exit velocity.
Even Cron’s launch angle remains above MLB average and is higher now than it was in his first 90 batted balls of the season.
There is one noticeable difference for Cron: His hard-hit percentage has been on a steady decline since July 26, but he also cratered earlier in the season. The difference was back in May and early June, it was two weeks. The current freefall is entering three and a half weeks.
Even though his average exit velocity is about the same, Cron is not as frequently hitting those 110-plus mph balls that puts him in the top tier of the league when it comes to hitting. He remains in the 97 percentile, but that’s mostly because of the extremely hard-hitting first month he had.
On the bright side, Cron has come out of slumps before. He’s a 32-year-old veteran that knows how to handle the roller coaster that is a MLB season. Hopefully, the Rockies coaches and R&D team are helping Cron find his way out of the funk, but with the Rockies offensive struggles across the board, it’s hard to hold your breath on this one.
Cron is one of those players that could have had a lot of value for contenders before the trade deadline. Since the Rockies held firm, they have put themselves in a tight spot with having talented prospects like Elehuris Montero and 24-year-old Michael Toglia waiting in the wings as first basemen. Montero has the advantage of also being able to play third base, his more natural position. Thankfully, the DH and the Rockies use of it on rotation, is allowing Montero more playing time. Toglia was just moved up to Triple-A Alburquerque on Aug. 9, but his readiness for an MLB roster spot is quickly approaching.
There are 42 games remaining this season, which could be enough for the Cron Zone to return and allow Cron to beat his single-season career-best mark of 30 homers in a season (2018 with Tampa Bay). If history is any indicator, Bud Black and the Rockies will stick with the veteran. If the Cron Zone returns, it could give Rockies fans something to cheer for in September. If not, maybe it will be time to turn to a new first baseman.
★ ★ ★
This lengthy feature about Triple-A Alburquerque Isotope first baseman D.J. Peterson is worth your time. MLB.com reporter Anthony Castrovince dives into the hype surrounding Peterson when he was compared to Kris Bryant in the 2013 draft and the Mariners picked him at No. 13. However, only 25 games into his MiLB career, he was hit in the jaw with a fastball, knocking out a tooth, puncturing his gums, and giving him a concussion. After numerous surgeries, he returned to the field a few months later, but couldn’t shake the jitters. He was signed by and cut by multiple teams until he signed with the Rockies in 2022.
★ ★ ★
On The Farm
The Isotope bullpen collapsed on Thursday night, giving up six runs to the Rainiers in the final three innings to blow a 5-3 Albuquerque lead. The Isotopes exploded for four homers on the night, unfortunately, all of them were solo shots. Alan Trejo and Sean Bouchard hit theirs in the third inning to tie the game at 3-all, Bret Boswell hit his in the fourth to give Albuquerque a 4-3 lead, and Michael Toglia added insurance in the fifth with his homer. Toglia finished the game 4-for-5 with two RBI. Zach Neal left the game with a 5-3 lead after five innings, but PJ Poulin surrendered two runs on three hits in the sixth for the blown save, Riley Pint gave up one run on two hits in the seventh for the loss, and JD Hammer gave up three runs on two hits and two walks in 1/3 of an inning in the eighth.
Despite being down 2-1 midway through the fifth, the Yard Goats rallied back with a three-run fifth inning and added two more runs in the sixth to snap a three-game losing streak on Thursday. Kyle Datres went 2-for-3 and scored a run, Brenton Doyle singled and scored two runs, and Grant Lavigne doubled, scored a run, and drove in another. Mike Ruff picked up his first win of the year after holding the Fisher Cats to two runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts through five innings. Even though Stephen Jones gave up a two-run homer in the ninth, he fended off a New Hampshire comeback attempt.
Mateo Gil hit a three-run homer, which was sandwiched by solo shots from Hunter Goodman and Trevor Boone in a six-run Spokane second inning en route to a victory Thursday night. Colin Simpson added a solo shot to give the Indians four homers in the game, and also hit a double, along with Goodman and Boone. Every starter in the Spokane lineup got at least one hit and Eddy Diaz added two RBI and a double. Chris McMahon got his first win of the year after giving up four runs (three of which came on two homers) on six hits with four strikeouts and no walks in five innings.
With the game tied at 8-8 going into the ninth inning, the Grizzlies played small ball and got some luck to score two runs in the top of the frame and held on for the win on Thursday night. Thanks to a single and stolen base by Juan Guerrero and two walks to Braxton Fulford and Listher Sosa, Fresno loaded the bases with only one out. Yorvis Torrealba then grounded into a force out, but Fulford scored what turned out to be the game-winning run. Torrealba then stole second base, inducing a throwing error (Visalia had three errors on the night), which allowed Guerrero to score an insurance run. Felix Ramires then threw a scoreless, hitless ninth with one strikeout for the save. Benny Montgomery went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, Guerrero went 2-for-4 with three RBI and two runs scored, and Bryant Quijada had two hits and scored a run.
★ ★ ★
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