It’s been a strange year for baseball. Nobody will deny it. Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon missed the opening days of Summer Camp due to a mild COVID-19 encounter. Others have had worse cases, and some have tested positive with no symptoms at all.
The Rockies are in the middle of the NL West pack at 17-17. Despite his pre-season illness and the mediocre team record, Blackmon is having a stellar year at the plate. His average is .362, and some think he could break the .400 mark. This could push him toward the title of “best Rockies player ever,” competing with Nolan Arenado and Todd Helton.
Charlie Blackmon before 2020
The 34-year-old left-hander has been playing in the Majors since 2011. He was drafted by the Rockies in 2008 and has spent all his years, thus far, with the organization. He is four times an All-Star, has two Silver Slugger Awards, and was the 2017 National League batting champion, a year in which he batted .331, according to Baseball Reference.
As of Aug. 30, Blackmon has hit 176 home runs, batted in 539, and has 129 stolen bases. And while we naturally focus on his time at the plate, Blackmon also covers the field well. In 2017, he told MLB that he loves Coors Field’s spacious outfield.
“Blackmon, 30, lives for center field, despite the wear of his home park, where it seems he is constantly on a dead sprint for balls his corner outfielders might handle in other ballparks,” MLB’s Thomas Harding wrote in May 2017.
Oh, to break .400
As of mid-August, nine current MLB players have a batting average of .300 or better. They include Miguel Cabrera, Jose Altuve, Joey Votto, Mike Trout, DJ LeMahieu, Robinson Cano, Mookie Betts, and Buster Posey, who opted out of the 2020 season, as well as Charlie Blackmon.
But, Blackman urges fans and critics not to expect a .400 batting average for 2020. “Don’t get your hopes up,” he said as reported by the LA Times. It has been nearly 80 years since a major leaguer has done it; that was Ted Williams in 1941 with a .406 average.
The New York Times‘ Tyler Kepner looked back into the history books to find the highest batting average record in the MLB. That was .440 in 1894 by Hugh Duffy, playing for the Boston Beaneaters. In mid-August, Blackmon briefly held a .500 average.
“Conditions couldn’t be more conducive for an assault on .400, with baseball declaring all 2020 records valid even though the usual 162-game grind,” Kepner wrote, “perhaps the biggest obstacle to hitting .400 — has been replaced by a pandemic-shortened, 60-game sprint.”
“Yeah, but then again it’s not a full season; it’ll be an asterisk,” Blackmon said. “Even so, I don’t think I’m going to hit .400 for 60 games. Statistically speaking, it’s not very likely.”
But, Blackmon’s manager, Bud Black, disagrees. “I think there is some legitimacy to this, I really do,” Black said on a recent video call. “There is competition from Game 1 until Game 60.”
2020’s second half
As baseball gears up for the rest of the shortened 2020 season, Charlie Blackmon and the Rockies must bring even more to their game. Once at the forefront of the NL West, it’ll take a lot of work for the Rockies to make headway, including getting a lot out of its pitching staff. But, it can be done.
Certainly, Blackmon having a .400 season would help. He is, after all, one of the best hitters in baseball. Blackmon is currently in the third year of his six-year contract with the Rockies and remains a star of the team and one of baseball’s best hitters. But, he doesn’t think the hitting average stat of .400 is doable.
“I don’t think .400 is a realistic mark for today’s game,” he said on a call with reporters, according to ESPN. “The pitching is too good. The stuff is too good. There’s more specialization. I don’t think it’s something that will happen. It’s just too far away from the average.”