Cargo Passes Torch to Blackmon

Charlie Blackmon

After the final out of the regular season was registered, and the Rockies players walked around the warning track at Coors Field to say a special thanks to the fans for their support, the players gathered in the clubhouse to toast Charlie Blackmon’s claiming the NL batting title. Then Blackmon got a glance at his locker, where the ultimate stamp of approval for his accomplishment was hanging.

Carlos Gonzalez

Carlos Gonzalez’s Game 162 jersey was hanging, the Rockies right fielder having autographed it, and on the No. 5 there was an inscription that acknowledge what Blackmon had accomplished over the course of the season.

“It’s a tradition,” said Gonzalez. “When I won the batting title in 2010 I came into the clubhouse and hanging in my locker were autographed jerseys from (Todd) Helton, (Troy) Tulowitzki and (Jason Giambi) congratulating me.”

So it was, Gonzalez took off the jersey he wore on Sunday, added the inscription and hung it in Blackmon’s locker.

“I did it last year with DJ (LeMahieu),” he said. “The jersey for Charlie is clean. I didn’t play today. DJ’s has some green across the front. I made a diving catch (last year).”

The hanging of the jersey is a relatively new tradition, but winning battle titles is nothing new for the Rockies. In their 25-season existence, nine Rockies players have won 11 batting titles, including Larry Walker, who won three. Four Rockies have claimed the NL batting title in the last five years.

Year Name Avg.
1993 Andres Galarraga .370
1998 Larry Walker .363
1999 Larry Walker .379
2000 Todd Helton .372
2001 Larry Walker .350
2007 Matt Holliday .340
2010 Carlos Gonzalez .336
2013 Michael Cuddyer .331
2014 Justin Morneau .319
2016 DJ LeMahieu .348
2017 Charlie Blackmon .330

Blackmon was more than a batting champion. He was an lead-off hitter who was a major factor in the offense. He did not just get on base and score runs. He was a big-time run producer. He set a Major League record with 103 RBI as a lead-off hitter, hit 37 home runs, which rank third all-time for a lead-off hitter, and set a record for a lead-off hitter with a .602 slugging percentage from the top spot.

Player Season RBI   Player Season SLG   Player Season HR
Charlie Blackmon 2017 Col 103 Brady Anderson 1996 Bal 0627 Alfonso Soriano 2006 Was 39
Darin Erstad 2000 Ana 100 Charlie Blackmon 2017 Col .602 Alfonso Soriano 2002 NYY 38
Alfonso Soriano 2002 NYY 99 Hanley Ramirez 2007 Fla .596 Charlie Blackmon 2017 Col 37
Nomar Garciaparra 1997 Bos 98 Paul Molitor 1987 Mil .588 Brady Anderson 1996 Bal 35
Jacoby Ellsbury 2011 Bos 97 Alfonso Soriano 2006 Was .588 Bobby Bonds 1973 SF 35
Brian Dozier 2017 Min 93 Rickey Henderson 1990 Oak .579 Alfonso Soriano 2003 NYY 35
Johnny Damon 2004 Bos 91 Alfonso Soriano 2007 ChC .579 Brian Dozier 2017 Min 34
Grady Sizemore 2008 Cle 90 Bobby Bonds 1975 NYY .566 George Springer 2017 Hou 34
Craig Biggio 1998 Hou 88 Curtis Granderson 2007 Det .565 Grady Sizemore 2008 Cle 33
Johnny Damon 2000 KC 88 Mike Trout 2012 LAA .564 Alfonso Soriano 2007 ChC 33

The season was a struggle for Gonzalez, who is a pending free agent. As late as Sept. 4 he was hitting .241 with only eight home runs and 41 RBI. In the final weeks of the season, however, he regained his presence as an impact player in the Rockies lineup, and a critical part of the Rockies late-season rebound to claim the first post-season berth since 2009, the fourth in the franchise’s 25-year history.

He was the most impactful player (minimum 86 plate appaerances) on the roster in September.

Player R H 2B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG
Carlos Gonzalez 22 29 12 6 16 .377 .484 .766
Nolan Arenado 18 31 4 7 19 .330 .439 .596
Jonathan Lucroy 12 24 1 1 8 .320 .441 .427
Charlie Blackmon 17 31 7 5 20 .290 .387 .495
DJ LeMahieu 15 32 5 1 8 .286 .344 .411
Trevor Story 14 29 10 6 22 .269 .298 .565
Ian Desmond 13 21 3 2 8 .244 .320 .349
Mark Reynolds 8 18 4 2 10 .231 .302 .359
Gerardo Parra 5 17 4 0 9 .205 .244 .277

“I wasn’t going to call it quits, and shut down,” said Gonzalez. “For me there was too much to be done. It was not about being a free agent or hitting 30 home runs. It was about the special group of guys behind me. It was about staying focused on what we were trying to do as a team. I didn’t do anything differently.”

Well, nothing “differently” in terms of his approach to the game, but he did make changes in his approach to hitting. He regained a focus on using the entire field, getting away from a pull-heavy approach he had slipped into earlier in the season.

“That had been my approach, using all the field, but I got into some bad habits,” he said. “I stopped using the whole field and (with the overshift that teams were using) I would hit a ball up the middle, but the shortstop was standing behind second base and it was just an out.”

Gonzalez said the problem wasn’t a secret. There were constant conversations about his need to regain that opposite-field approach. It was a matter of him being able to go to home plate and carry out the plan. And finally, in September everything clicked.

“I got hot at the perfect time,” he said.”For me, this is my best season because I dealt with the struggle, and we made the post-season. That’s what is important, making the post-season.”

It was definitely a September to remember. His .377 average for the month was 98 points higher than nay other month this season.

Monthly AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
Apr 88 11 19 5 2 6 9 19 .216 .283 .341
May 98 13 25 7 2 11 10 23 .255 .318 .388
June 58 12 10 1 2 3 10 16 .172 .294 .293
July 63 6 16 3 0 6 4 16 .254 .309 .302
Aug 86 8 24 6 2 15 8 21 .279 .333 .419
Sept 77 22 29 12 6 16 15 24 .377 .484 .766
Totals 470 72 123 34 14 57 56 119 .262 .339 .423
Nolan Arenado

The emergence of Gonzalez allowed manager Bud Black to slot him into the cleanup spot at times against right-handed pitchers and provide protection for Nolan Arenado. Arenado took another step forward in his career. He hit .300 for the first time, and became only the sixth third baseman in history to hit .300 with 30 home runs and 35 home run, the second Rockies third baseman. Vinny Castilla reached the totals in 1998.

Player Season R H 2B 3B HR RBI AVG
Eddie Mathews 1953 Mil 110 175 31 8 47 135 .302
Vinny Castilla 1998 Col 108 206 28 4 46 144 .319
Al Rosen 1953 Cle 115 201 27 5 43 145 .336
Ken Caminiti 1996 SD 109 178 37 2 40 130 .326
Nolan Arenado 2017 Col 100 187 43 7 37 130 .309
Matt Williams 1999 Ari 98 190 37 2 35 142 .303

 

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