Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon is by and large the most dynamic leadoff man in baseball right now. He boasts the skill set of a traditional leadoff hitter whose job is to get on base to set the table for the rest of the order; however, Blackmon also has the ability to flip the switch and become a hitter with an abundance of power and the ability to drive in runs.
The power production Blackmon is putting forth is surpassing that of Rickey Henderson, the former Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees great who is widely considered the most dynamic leadoff hitter of all time.
So far this season, Blackmon is hitting .321 with 11 home runs and leads all Rockies in hits, RBIs and batting average. The prolonged tear Blackmon has been on this season has helped carry the Rockies to the National League’s best record of 31-17.
Like Henderson, Blackmon can hit two ways. Already in the 2017 season, Blackmon has demonstrated his complete hitting arsenal. From triples to RBIs, Blackmon ranks among the top of the leader boards in major offensive categories, similar to Henderson back in his prime.
With Tuesday’s victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, the Rockies became the first team to crack the 30-win mark in the National League; however, the biggest storyline stemmed from Blackmon, who officially set a new standard for all leadoff men in the RBI department in the game.
Blackmon went 2-for-4 with four RBIs in the win to put him at 40 on the season through 47 games, all from the leadoff spot. That number stands at 42 after another solid night on Wednesday.
Blackmon became the quickest leadoff man to reach 40 RBIs since Major League Baseball started recording the official stat back in 1920. Ian Kinsler and Mookie Betts shared the previous record for earning 40 RBIs in 52 games, per Rockies PR via Elias Sports. Now, that’s a step ahead of Henderson.
— Rockies PR (@RockiesPR) May 24, 2017
Blackmon has revived the duel-threat leadoff man with his performance at the plate this season. At this point in time, Blackmon leads all of baseball in hits (63) and triples (6), as well as RBIs (42).
The best part of Blackmon’s game this season has been his ability to deliver in crunch time. Blackmon is hitting a magnificent .465 with RISP, which has been a big difference-maker for Colorado this season.
Time and time again, Blackmon has produced, whether he’s leading off the game in the first inning or coming to bat in the ninth. He has been the most dynamic leadoff hitter in baseball this season, capable of producing in any situation.
Although he does not walk as much or steal as many bases as a prototypical leadoff hitter, his production is unwarranted and an essential part to the Rockies lineup complexion.
That’s the biggest edge Henderson had on Blackmon were his walks and steals. Henderson was a superb talent that possessed raw power, but was also lightning quick on the basepaths and smart at the dish. Henderson averaged 115 walks and 74 stolen bases per 162 games in his career, a feat that is significantly better than Blackmon’s 36 and 26 averages.
Blackmon won’t ever challenge Henderson for the all-time stolen bases record, but his per 162 games power numbers are actually slightly better than the Hall of Famer’s. Henderson averaged 16 homers, three triples and 27 doubles with a .820 OPS per 162 games. Blackmon comes in at 21, six and 32 with an .826 OPS per 162.
While Blackmon has been red hot so far this season, his impressive play can be traced back to last season. Dating back a year, Blackmon has played in 160 ballgames, cranking 37 home runs and 108 RBIs in that span, per HighHeatStats. Like Henderson, Blackmon has been able to establish a level of sustained success over a prolonged stretch of play. Blackmon has managed to hit over .280 in five consecutive seasons and is on track to do so again this season which would be double that of Henderson.
Blackmon has always been an effective hitter, but this season it seems as if Chuck Nasty has managed to flip the switch and take his offensive game to another level. All in all, Blackmon’s production is crucial at the leadoff position, and something the sport of baseball has not seen consistently since Henderson’s heyday. For a leadoff man to possess the raw skills and intangibles to be a great all-around hitter is rare, and something the sport may not see again for some time.