Rockies' leadoff hitter, third baseman rewriting record books
By Manny Randhawa
DENVER -- Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon are in the thick of the conversation for the National League MVP Award, and the Rockies teammates are making quite a case for themselves, particularly after what they accomplished in a 16-0 win over the Padres on Saturday night at Coors Field.
Blackmon doubled and homered to drive in four runs and raise his RBI total to 93 this season, 92 of which have come out of the leadoff spot in the lineup, an NL single-season record. He passed Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, who had 88 for the Astros in 1998.
Blackmon also has 82 extra-base hits from the leadoff spot in 2017, setting another NL single-season mark by surpassing Jimmy Rollins' 80 from 2007.
Arenado, meanwhile, singled in the third inning to drive in his 125th run of the season, making him the first third baseman in Major League history to collect 125 or more RBIs in three consecutive seasons (133 in 2016, 130 in '15).
"Wow, I didn't know that," Arenado said. "That's very cool. I'm humbled. And to do it on the same night as Charlie [set his records] is great. He sets the table for me. If it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't be driving in all those runs."
Blackmon and Arenado have made quite the tandem for Colorado this season, but when considering park-adjusted statistics that factor in the thin mountain air of Coors Field, there are detractors when it comes to their MVP candidacies.
Blackmon's home OPS entering Saturday was 1.247, and 23 of his 35 homers have come at Coors Field. On the road, Blackmon's OPS is .792. In 2016, Blackmon actually had a nearly identical OPS on the road (.926) as he had at home (.939), with 39 of his 69 extra-base hits coming away from Coors Field.
Although park adjustments can be measured, there are detriments involved with playing home games at altitude that haven't been quantified.
"I think what you don't see is people talking about how much harder it is on your body," Blackmon said. "We had a conversation about it last night; I think there's 20 percent less oxygen here than there is at sea level."
The resulting effect, Blackmon said, isn't something a player gets over after a game or two on the road.
"I don't think you adjust to it and now you're 100 percent. I think you just deal with it all the time," Blackmon said. "Over the course of the season, an extended period of time, you're exposed to less oxygen, so it's going to wear down on you over the course of the season and you're not going to recover."
Arenado has improved his home/road splits from last season but still has a much higher OPS at home (1.025) than on the road (a career-best .902). He's hit as many homers away from Coors Field (17) as he has in Denver. Last season, his home OPS was 1.030, and his road OPS was 70 points lower, at .832.
"It's been that way for years," Arenado said of the MVP caveats for Rockies players. "It was like that before I was here. It was the same for Todd [Helton], [Troy Tulowitzki], but that's just the way it goes. I don't let that consume me. I know I can hit on the road, and I know I can hit at home."
As the Rockies near the final two weeks of the regular season in control of their playoff destiny, leading the race for the second NL Wild Card spot by 3 1/2 games over the Brewers, Colorado's two MVP candidates continue to show why they merit serious consideration.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.