Why Kris Bryant might break a Colorado Rockies curse

Apr 8, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Rockies left fielder Kris Bryant (23) takes to the field before the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a truly fascinating first seven games in a Colorado Rockies uniform for Kris Bryant.

The former MVP, Rookie of the Year and World Series champion brought with him a myriad of intrigue ranging from pure cynicism at the very idea that he would choose Colorado to rampant speculation about his true reasons for doing so.

After recognizing the obvious facts that this is a beautiful place to live and he is getting paid handsomely at 7-years, $182 million, the most obvious reason for a player of his caliber to choose a franchise with such a dearth of success in their past is that he will have an extraordinary opportunity to pad his stats.

While the details and nuances are often lost in a sea of nonsense, it remains nonetheless true that Coors Field is a hitter’s dream and one of the most offensively friendly environments in the history of baseball. 

A vast outfield, thin air, very little foul territory, and pitches that behave differently than elsewhere; they all lead to the perfect storm for a hitter like Bryant.

When he signed, as surprised as pundits may have been, almost all universally agreed that it was going to be fun to watch one of the best hitters of the last decade plant his flag at 20th and Blake.

And in his first seven games clad in purple, he hasn’t disappointed.

He has hit safely in all of them, has multiple hits in four of them, has hit three doubles, driven in a pair, and scored six runs. One thing you may notice is missing from that list is the home run. Also, only two RBI for a guy who has always been a run producer.

This makes Bryant an interesting microcosm of the Rockies in general right now: He’s been quite good and yet there is still a very clear path for improvement.

Obviously, he won’t reach base in every single game he plays this season. That would be a record.

But his career .376 on-base percentage placed on top of his new environment means that his current .406 OBP isn’t quite as unsustainable as it may feel. An over/under of .390 seems reasonable.

Bryant will have his days when he goes 0’fer but he will also have his days where he goes 3-for-4 with four runs driven in. And, of course, he is as safe a bet as anyone to hit over 30 dingers this season.

The biggest remaining piece of the puzzle that will determine whether Bryant has a good or truly great season will be how he handles the hangover. Colorado has played just two road games thus far, winning them both, but it will be the long trips to California that test the slugger as they have tested all that have come before him.

It is a curse. Is he the cure?

His consistent approach at the plate means he has almost no home/road splits throughout his career. This is going to change. But something about his process these first few games suggests he may truly have the tools to deal with this problem as well as anyone.

If you have watched each game in 2022, ask yourself this question: Have you seen Kris Bryant take a bad at-bat yet?

Sure, he has struck out a few times. He has left men on base. This is baseball. Hitting is incredibly hard. All of those things happen to everyone. But when was the last time you saw him take an ugly swing? Have a three-pitch strikeout? Extend himself on more than one pitch in the AB?

Bryant is the definition of a professional hitter. He has power to all fields and has no problem taking the walk if the pitcher is afraid to challenge him. The primary reason he is getting hits right now but not home runs is that pitchers haven’t made a ton of mistakes but he doesn’t need mistake pitches to pepper a double into the gap or shoot a single the other way.

Like all players in this game, he is going to go through slumps. Also, the Hangover Effect is very real and can become a mental opponent as much as a physical one very quickly. He has barely begun that battle.

What we have seen so far, though, is a relaxed hitter who carries the same solid approach at home, on the road, during the Opening Day circus, and when his former ballclub brings another madhouse of attention to town. 

Through it all, the new face of the franchise has found it fit to flash his signature smile, speak highly of everyone around him, go beat out a few infield singles, smack a few liners into the gap, and set the stage for the real show.

Because the best is yet to come.

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