McMahon hopes to unleash potential with power-sharing plan

March 15th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- New Rockies hitting coach Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens said something to Brendan Rodgers one day that Rodgers relayed to . It has stuck in McMahon’s mind ever since, and it may be a key to why he’s hitting .333 this spring after launching his third Cactus League home run in Tuesday night’s 5-2 win over the Cubs at Sloan Park.

“Bam Bam told him that there’s 100 percent [in terms of power] out there,” McMahon said. “Let the pitcher supply 50 percent of it.”

When former Major League slugger Rafael Palmeiro, who belted 569 home runs with a smooth and seemingly effortless swing from 1986-2005, was brought up, McMahon immediately chimed in with his thoughts on Palmeiro’s swing path.

“It’s just short, right?” said McMahon, who has hit 20 or more homers in each of his last three full seasons (sans the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign), and yet hasn’t truly tapped into all the power that the Rockies believe is in his bat.

“When it’s shorter, you’re stronger. As soon as there’s a longer path -- like think about if you’re pushing something heavy, right? It’s fastest in the short beginning; if you’re trying to make it full-speed all the way out there, it’s gonna be tough.”

Let the pitcher supply the power, be short to the baseball.

McMahon has already shown his defensive bona fides -- he nearly won a Gold Glove Award with his stellar play at third base in 2021, and he’s shifting back to second following a shoulder injury that will likely cost Rodgers the entire ’23 season. McMahon has been very good at second as well.

But after the Rockies signed him to a six-year, $70 million contract extension during Spring Training last year, will 2023 finally be the year he puts it all together at the plate?

Let the pitcher supply the power, be short to the baseball. Now add a third ingredient.

“I need to trust myself, not be afraid to trust my eyes,” McMahon said. “If I think it’s going to be a good pitch to hit, swing -- instead of being so selective and so picky. [In the past], maybe I was firing a little late, just not being aggressive enough. That’s been a focus this spring and this whole offseason.”

McMahon has had a tendency to fall behind in the count, 0-1. Of 195 hitters who saw at least 1,500 pitches since 2018, when McMahon made his MLB debut, only seven had a higher percentage of first pitches seen that ended up as strikes -- whether by taking a strike, swinging through a pitch or fouling it off -- than McMahon’s 53.1 percent.

Let the pitcher supply the power, be short to the baseball and don’t miss your pitch early in the count.

“Mac can potentially have 30 homers and 100 RBIs,” manager Bud Black said. “Can it happen? Yes. Is this the year it happens? I don’t know. That’s why we play. But is he capable of hitting 30 homers? Yes. Easy.”

Easy is going to be what McMahon continues to focus on with his swing -- the stroke has always been smooth, but it’s time he let the pitcher do his part in the equation.

Only time will tell whether this will be McMahon’s breakout season. But if it materializes, we’ll have some idea as to why things were different for him in 2023.

Márquez sharp vs. Cubs

One of the biggest keys for the Rockies in 2023 will be their starting rotation, and perhaps no individual on the pitching staff will be under the microscope as much as , who struggled through a long rough patch from the second half of the 2021 campaign through the entire ’22 season.

His biggest problem? Missed location. But Márquez and the Rockies think they may have figured out what was causing him to miss his spots so often last year, which often resulted in heavy damage inflicted by opposing hitters -- particularly at Coors Field, where Márquez’s ERA was 6.70 in 2022.

“I’ve been working a lot on my delivery, staying behind the ball,” Márquez said after throwing four scoreless innings with no walks and seven strikeouts against the Cubs. “I feel like I had been dropping my fingers a little bit.”

Overall, Márquez has thrown six innings over two Cactus League outings (he got a late start due to a hamstring injury early this spring), and he has yet to yield a run while walking one and striking out nine.