DENVER -- Tell Rockies leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon that on-base percentage is crucial for a leadoff hitter, and he's fine with that. But the theory that walks are a primary route to the bases?"That's the worst idea I've ever heard," Blackmon said. "There's only a handful of guys that walk.
DENVER -- Tell Rockies leadoff hitter Charlie Blackmon that on-base percentage is crucial for a leadoff hitter, and he's fine with that. But the theory that walks are a primary route to the bases?
"That's the worst idea I've ever heard," Blackmon said. "There's only a handful of guys that walk. The only guys that can walk are guys that can hit the ball over the fence. Trying to get on base via the walk makes it harder to get hits."
No. 2 hitter DJ LeMahieu doesn't homer like Blackmon -- he has three this year, Blackmon 16 -- but he also doesn't "ever go into an at-bat saying I want to walk."
So they present a challenge, but also a clear strategy for opponents: Challenge them, knowing that they have a penchant for strikeouts (69 for Blackmon, 45 for LeMahieu), but risk Blackmon homering or LeMahieu using his bat control to foster a big inning.
Blackmon entered Thursday with a .324 batting average, .375 on-base percentage and .601 slugging percentage, while LeMahieu was at .304/.364/.385. And if it means strikeouts, so be it.
Some in the game believe solid top-of-the-order hitters have an OBP 60-70 points above the batting average. Blackmon isn't there, but no one is going to scoff at an OBP above .350 -- from someone whose slugging percentage in leadoff plate appearances is more than 80 points higher than the next-highest leadoff man. LeMahieu has a nice 60-point BA-OBP split and is trending up -- .360/.389/.442 in June before Thursday.
So Blackmon was leading leadoff men in strikeouts and LeMahieu was fourth among No. 2 hitters. They do plenty to make up for that, so pitchers can challenge away, as far as the Rockies are concerned.
"That's just who they are as hitters; those guys are doing their thing," manager Bud Black said.
Here's how the approaches of the top two hitters work:
• In wins, Blackmon entered Thursday with a 1.071 OPS (on-base plus slugging). With Blackmon excelling, Nolan Arenado's OPS was 1.115 and Mark Reynolds' 1.087. In losses, Blackmon's OPS was .803, Reynolds' .679 and Arenado's .591. In theory, Blackmon's run production and on-base percentage enhanced the power hitters' performance.
• LeMahieu actually had a higher OPS in losses (.796) than wins (.726). But according to the Elias Sports Bureau, which tracks efficiency in opportunities for productive outs, LeMahieu was 18-for-44 (.409) in wins and 8-for-28 (.296) in losses, so he was more efficient in more chances.
"I don't feel pressure that the only way we're going to score is if me and Charlie do it," LeMahieu said. "But at the same time, if we can get things scoring we have a really good chance to score. Charlie has good at-bats, and I feed off that. So does whoever is back there [in the lineup]."
Blackmon entered Thursday with 42 extra-base hits, second in the NL to Arenado's 46, and opened the bottom of the first Thursday with a homer to right-center off D-backs starter Zack Godley. Let's say the walk wasn't foremost on his mind.
"You can't walk a double," he said, "and you can't really walk runs across the plate."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb and** like his Facebook page**.