Remember back in April when the Colorado Rockies were 12-9 and an .078 batting average defined their young second baseman?
Flash forward four months and 112 games later.
The Rockies and Brendan Rodgers couldn’t have possibly flipped positions any more.
Colorado has gone 44-68 and Rodgers is looking like the next star of the franchise it seems he’s been destined to become.
B-Rod has a slash line of .298/.344/.455 since May 1 with 27 doubles, three triples and 11 home runs. His 59 RBI are most among National League second basemen in that time.
Rodgers’s remarkable resurgence following an awful April is not unprecedented. It may end up that way.
In 2015, Shin-Soo Choo batted .096 over the first month of the season before finishing with the highest batting average (.276) of any player to hit below .100 in April.
He peaked at .288 in August and is sitting at .274 entering Sunday’s doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds.
Rodgers is also one of five players to record four RBI on five or more occasions this season. The others are all MVP candidates: Pete Alonso, Paul Goldschmidt, Aaron Judge and José Ramírez.
On the defensive side, B-Rod made his share of errors in the early going. He’s been charged with 10, most in the NL at the keystone position, but a simple statistic like defensive errors can be misleading.
A more nuanced number like defensive runs saved suggests Rodgers has actually been the best at fielding his position. His 16 DRS is even tied for fourth among all infielders.
Baseball Savant’s Outs Above Average suggests he’s somewhere in the middle, conversely.
Regardless, Rodgers is still learning the position after a lifetime on the other side of the bag and his growth has been observable with each inning and opportunity hit his way.
The 26-year-old has more than made up for a tortoise-like start to the year as he now leads the team in Baseball Reference’s wins above replacement (3.4).
That’s a worst-to-first you love to see.
Patrick Lyons: Brendan, the defense has been on point for you lately. Particularly on those diving plays. You work a lot with Stu Cole on ground ball drills before games, but what’s the difference for balls hit outside of that short range? What’s the key to making those big, athletic defensive plays?
Brendan Rodgers: I would say it’s a combination of first step – it’s your prep step. It’s (an) instinctual reaction to what you see the hitter doing, where you see the pitch being thrown. And then angles. Whether it’s (a batted ball) on my left or my right, if it’s harder hit or softer hit. It’s a lot of angles and timing that goes into it. It’s hard to practice diving because you don’t want to practice diving and hurt yourself. You want to save those bullets for the game. I work on different angles stuff with Stu during my normal regular ground balls that carry over into it diving plays. I’m pretty good with knowing when and when not to dive. Just trying to know the runner and know the situation, but it’s something I do work on.
Lyons: I’m curious about that transition from shortstop to second base. Maybe 90% of the skills or mechanics at shortstop are the same at second base. So, it seems like an easy transition. Would you call learning the angles and other elements you’re working on that final 10%, so to speak, to really nail down second base?
Rodgers: I think shortstop definitely helped me with being able to create angles at second. It’s a completely different look. It’s a completely different throw. Double play turns, everything’s pretty drastically different. So it was a little bit of a learning curve. I’m still obviously trying to get better and do what I can. We get a lot of ground balls here at Coors Field. That’s how our pitchers are taught to throw. So I’m expecting a ground ball from pretty much every batter. I’m always just trying to be as locked in as I can and then be ready for anything.
Lyons: How much are you enjoying watching your locker mate, Elehuris Montero, play right now?
Rodgers: It’s been fun, man. We just kind of threw him in the middle of the lineup and he’s been raking. He’s got a simple approach. He’s got power to all fields. It’s been pretty fun to watch for pretty much the first time seeing him in my career other than the highlights in AAA. He’s a good kid and he’s fun to watch.
Lyons: You haven’t been teammates with him before this past spring. And yet he’s said he’s been able to lean on you for support.
Rodgers: He understands where I’m coming from when I try to help him whether it’s defense or movement, shift-wise or what the pitcher’s got, things like that. So, I try to keep him involved and engaged as much as I can.
Lyons: You said the magic word there. Engaged. You stay engaged in every at-bat, no matter the situation. Albert Pujols preaches that a lot. Seems like every time you have three hits and get another at-bat, you get your fourth hit. Is that really your approach to every game?
Rodgers: That’s a huge thing. I try not to throw at-bats away. You never know when it’s going to be your last. If you have two hits or three hits in a game going into those later at-bats, your confidence is higher. I don’t care what anyone says, you’re locked in no matter who you’re facing. So, I think that confidence plays a big big part.
Lyons: We saw (Sam) Hilliard get rid of his beard after a slump. Same with Connor (Joe). And it worked. You had that rough April, but held onto the beard and it ended up working out. How close was that decision for you?
Rodgers: I wouldn’t say it was close. I might have trimmed it down a good amount, but I definitely would have had a little something still. A lot of people think doing little things like that change. I’m not gonna lie. Some things I do think about like that. Maybe mix it up, wear the same shoes or whatever you’re gonna do. But it was early still, you know. It was a month, not even a month, into the season. I wasn’t trying to add more pressure to myself or overthink anything. So I just let it ride out and see where it took me. And it turned out so far, so good.
Lyons: That’s right. And the beard is still here.
Rodgers: Yep. The beard is here.