If anyone did hit .400 since 2011, when Charlie Blackmon made his debut, it probably would have been him. However, he hasn’t come close. He hasn’t even hit .350 in a season. But he profiles as an excellent choice to accomplish the feat.
First, he plays in Coors Field. Say what you will about the Mile High ballpark, it boosts hit probability. The league hit .298 in Coors, .028 points higher than the runner up, Globe Life Park in Texas, in 2019. No two ballparks ranking consecutively are that stratified. Coors Field encourages hits of all types – not just home runs (an understated distinction), yielding 200 more hits than Globe Life Park. Again, no other two consecutive parks had even a 50 hit gap between them.
He’s motivated to drive in runs. And when you’re motivated to move runners, you collect hits. Across his career, Blackmon’s OPS is 5% better with runners on base. With runners in scoring position, he turns it up a notch yet again, his OPS soaring 14% better than the baseline. Why is this important? Colorado leads MLB in runs scored. Sure, a big part of that is Charlie and the thin (and dry) Colorado air. But it’s also his fellow batsmen who provide lots of opportunities for Blackmon to step up to the plate in situations he’s historically excelled in.
Charlie Blackmon is also lucky. Since the start of the StatCast era, Blackmon’s batting average has sat above his expected batting average. And in nearly every season he’s played his batting average on balls in play has been considerably above league average. Almost all of this is a result of playing up to 81 games at Coors Field, so he’s lucky to be playing in Colorado. But regardless of the reason, Charlie achieves a lot more hits than he should – and we should expect that to continue.
|Season||Batting Average||Expected Batting Average||BABIP|
|2011 (102 PAs)||.255||–||.270|
|2012 (121 PAs)||.283||–||.319|
|2020 (74 PAs)*||.500||.397||.534|
Coors Field considered Charlie Blackmon has managed to produce at a league-leading level for a decade. He’s ranked among the top 10 percent in hits, batting average and expected batting average for much more than half his career. He’s even dominated in ways that aren’t relevant to the journey to .400. He’s consistently hit for extra bases, putting up strong slugging and on-base percentages as well as elite weighted on-base averages. He’s a valuable player batting average and beyond.
While many players rely on specific niche situations or skills to succeed Charlie Blackmon simply adjusts to what is presented to him. That’s why going into this year he’s never been shifted more than 52.8% – all in vain. The shift hurt Charlie a little in 2018, but otherwise, it hasn’t slowed him even a bit. And when you see his spray chart, how can it? Blackmon hits all fields and well, really well.
|Season (Charlie Blackmon)||Total Plate Appearances||Shift Percentage||wOBA vs. Shift||wOBA vs. Standard Alignment|
The final element of Blackmon’s game that makes him such a great – if not the best – candidate to hit .400 is his approach to each plate appearance. His strikeout rate has never ballooned above 20%. In that respect, he’s always been better than the mean. Not only does that allow him to take advantage of a strong BABIP and the Coors Field effect more frequently, but it also indicates he’s doing a great job of battling off poor pitches and staying competitive deep into each plate appearance. Charlie’s 80th percentile whiff rate in 2019 shows just how frustrating an out he is for pitchers, a ranking that has become the norm for Blackmon.
|Season:||Strikeout Rate (Percentile)||Whiff Rate (Percentile)|
Nobody questions Charlie Blackmon’s abilities. He’s an elite ballplayer. But so is Mike Trout. Charlie Blackmon is a perfect storm, possessing a skill set that lends itself to collecting hits, stretching our notions of the limits to batting average. He’s unpredictable. He’s undefendable. And he plays in the right ballpark. Charlie Blackmon is an exciting ballplayer. And with a .472 start to the 2020 season, he’s about to get a whole lot more exciting.
All data sourced from baseball-reference.com, fangraphs.com and baseballsavant.mlb.com.