Charlie Blackmon Could Set a Hitting Record. Would It Be Legitimate?

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The plaque for Hugh Duffy on the Baseball Hall of Fame all however certifies his standing because the premier single-season hitter in main league historical past. “He compiled a batting average in 1894 which was not to be challenged in his lifetime,” it states — and Duffy lived for six many years after his achievement.

Duffy, an outfielder for the Boston Beaneaters, forefathers of the Atlanta Braves, hit .440 in that 1894 season. Indeed, no person has come near his report, not even Ted Williams, who batted .406 in 1941. No one has come inside 12 factors of Williams since.

Which brings us to Charlie Blackmon and the curious case of 2020. Blackmon, the Colorado Rockies’ proper fielder, is so scorching that he couldn’t solely hit .400 this season, he may simply problem Duffy’s historical report.

After going three for four on Tuesday in opposition to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Blackmon was batting .500 (34 for 68), making him simply the fifth participant within the final 50 years with a .500 common by his workforce’s first 17 video games. The others embrace three Hall of Famers — Tony Perez in 1970, Rod Carew in 1983, Larry Walker in 1997 — and Barry Bonds, in 2004.

Their seasons all lasted 162 video games, in fact. This season — with opening day delayed till final month due to the coronavirus pandemic — will cowl solely 60. Baseball has declared that each one information would depend nonetheless, however Blackmon, a profession .304 hitter earlier than this season, doubts he’ll set one.

“No, I don’t really think .400 is a realistic mark for today’s game,” he mentioned earlier than Tuesday’s sport. “The pitching is too good. The stuff is too good, there’s more specialization. I don’t think it’s something that will happen. There’s maybe some scares, but I think .400 is just too far away from the average. I don’t think it’s something that will be done. I’m not like, expecting to hit .400 for a season. I don’t really think that’s a realistic goal.”

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Credit…Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports, by way of Reuters

Before Wednesday’s video games, main leaguers had been batting simply .235, worse than their lowest collective mark for a season: .237 in 1968. For a person, although, .400 appears believable — Donovan Solano of the San Francisco Giants was additionally on tempo to beat Duffy’s mark, with a .458 common by Tuesday. In 2017, when Blackmon gained the National League batting title with a career-high .331 common, he hit .374 throughout 60 video games from July 1 by Sept. 9.

He might conceivably hit .400, proper?

“Yeah, but then again it’s not a full season; it’ll be an asterisk,” Blackmon mentioned. “Even so, I don’t think I’m going to hit .400 for 60 games. Statistically speaking, it’s not very likely.”

Last season’s main hitter, Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox, was batting .424 after the workforce’s first 17 video games. By Game No. 60, his common had dropped to .323, a lot nearer to its season-ending .335. That appears to be a extra possible path for Blackmon.

Then once more, breaking information is by no means possible. Blackmon, who principally hit leadoff prior to now, has thrived within the No. three spot this season and helped lead Colorado (12-5) to the highest of the N.L. West. An prolonged pursuit of .400 can be a speaking level this season and would absolutely elevate his stature. Blackmon, 34, is a four-time All-Star however has by no means completed larger than fifth in voting for most precious participant.

“Charlie deserves recognition as an elite hitter, and if he gets over .400, it’s a great milestone for his career and for a season that needs great stories,” mentioned Ryan Spilborghs, a Rockies tv analyst who performed for his or her 2007 World Series workforce. “But I don’t think it would be recognized the same way that we look at Ted Williams.”

Spilborghs mentioned Blackmon separates himself from friends by by no means gifting away an at-bat, a pure product, he believes, of the persistence and drive he wanted to forge a profession on the plate. Blackmon began faculty as a pitcher, however turned to hitting in a summer time league with encouragement from his coach, the previous main leaguer Rusty Greer. The Rockies drafted him within the second spherical from Georgia Tech in 2008.

“Physically and mentally, he’s as strong and tough as anybody I’ve ever been around,” mentioned Rockies Manager Bud Black, who has spent greater than 40 years in baseball. “And what he’s doing this year is a result of not only his overall talent, but what he does to get ready for a game and what he does post-game.”

Blackmon has accomplished all this regardless of contracting Covid-19 earlier than the season. Blackmon had been figuring out earlier than summer time coaching camp in Denver after which contracted the virus on a visit home to Georgia. Though his signs had been delicate, Blackmon curtailed his coaching for some time and has needed to adapt.

“It’s been difficult to ramp up to the capacity that I need to be able to play Major League Baseball,” he mentioned. “It wouldn’t be so hard if I just had to play for three hours a day, but there’s a lot more that goes into what it takes to be on the field for three hours. You’ve got to keep all your baseball skills sharp, you’ve got to work out, you’ve got to recover, and then you’ve got to do that day after day after day — at altitude, at sea level, back to altitude. That’s the only lingering effects that I’m seeing from the virus.”

While the spacious outfield and skinny air assist hitters in Denver, the fixed changes for highway video games are taxing on our bodies and batting averages. Blackmon has a .352 profession common at home and .264 on the highway, figures that underscore the significance of context, which is extra important in 2020 than ever.

Credit…Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

The shortened schedule makes this season a historic outlier, however a lot else has modified because the days of the .400 hitter. The majors have been built-in. Pitchers have perfected an array of choices past the fastball and curve. Hitters are much less conversant in the arms they see — Williams confronted solely 73 pitchers in your entire 1941 season; Blackmon has already confronted 41 in 2020.

“The season’s the season, and I think there’s enough integrity to 60 games — 200-plus at-bats, more than likely,” Black mentioned. “I think there is some legitimacy to this, I really do. There is competition from Game 1 until Game 60.”

To Blackmon, although, the dialog is moot. He mentioned he had been “pretty lucky” thus far, with floor balls slipping by the infield and floaters dropping safely within the outfield. He is extra involved with the Rockies’ success than his personal.

In any case, Blackmon is not going to spend a lot time considering his season or what it might imply in historical past — particularly not on Thursday, the Rockies’ solely open date of the month. What will he do all day?

“I don’t really know,” Blackmon mentioned, “but there’s going to have to be a lot of rest involved.”