Death, taxes, and Nolan Arenado mashing baseballs on a nightly basis…those are the only three guarantees in life. Except for the first month of the 2019 MLB regular season.
The Colorado Rockies’ latest franchise cornerstone and newest $260 million man got off to an uncharacteristically slow start to his age-28 campaign. But when we say “slow”, we mean it was slow for him and not too shabby for anyone else.
Through the third baseman’s first 129 plate appearances, he slashed .271/.318/.500 with six home runs and 21 RBI. While those are more than respectable numbers, they sussed out to a 94 wRC+, which is much lower than we’re used to seeing from Arenado by the end of April. His career March/April wRC+ is 121, and he’s been above that number each year from 2016-18 (160, 132, and 134).
The perennial Gold Glover made up for lost time during the past month in an effort to make that slow start (for him, at least) a distant memory as the calendar prepares to flip to June.
The Crazy Production
When someone goes off as much as Arenado has this month (he’s one of baseball’s best hitters in May heading into Wednesday’s action when looking at wRC+) it’s always worth peeking at the side-by-side comparison. Just look at how much he outperformed his March/April numbers in fewer plate appearances.
And he still has three games left this month (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) to distance himself from the March/April production even more. This incredible performance has boosted his season-long statistics to levels we’ve become accustomed to seeing from Arenado, too.
Through 234 plate appearances, he’s slashing .333/.380/.629 with 15 home runs and 46 RBI, good for a 143 wRC+ and 2.3 fWAR. Since the regular season just passed the one-third mark, Arenado is well on the way to his fifth consecutive year of 35-plus homers and 110-plus RBI, along with his fourth straight 5.0-plus fWAR performance.
After a disappointing 13-17 start as a squad, it’s not surprising that Colorado has enjoyed a winning month of May and is on the brink of getting back to .500 with the veteran third baseman leading the way.
The Peripherals to Prove It
With such a drastic change in offensive production, you better believe that some of Arenado’s peripheral stats look ridiculous when compared to one another. His BABIP has gone from .252 in March/April all the way up to .405 in May heading into Wednesday’s games. That’s obviously unsustainable for the long term, but his batted-ball profile has proved he’s earned it more than you’d originally think.
This complete about-face at the plate has basically brought each of these numbers to the same neighborhood as they were last year on a season-long level. Something that has made a noticeable change throughout each month is an improved strikeout rate.
Arenado is one of those power hitters that doesn’t strike out a ton — he owns a career strikeout rate of 15.1% — but he went down on strikes at a career-worst 18.1% clip in 2018. Thus far in 2019, though, this number is all the way down to 10.3%. Even if we drill down to just his strikeout rate in May (12.4%), that’d be the lowest it’s been since 2014.
No Huge Coors Field Effect Right Now
As with any Rockies hitter, Coors Field has to be brought into the conversation. And like most Colorado hitters, Arenado has been much better at home (130 wRC+) than on the road (110 wRC+) throughout his career, but he’s still an above-average offensive producer.
While the third baseman’s home OPS (1.103) is significantly higher than his road OPS (.931), they’re still both incredibly good. Plus, there’s not a huge difference in wRC+ when looking at this specific split (150 at home, 139 on the road). He actually has a slightly higher ISO away from Coors at the moment, with nine of his 15 homers coming on the road.
The Rockies have struggled on offense as a team over the last couple years, so it’s important for guys like Arenado, Trevor Story, and Charlie Blackmon to carry the load. The organization’s third baseman didn’t dominate like usual in April, and they likely struggled part because of it.
He’s back now, though, and Colorado is reaping the benefits as they attempt to stay in the playoff hunt and reach October for the third consecutive season.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book and created an online class about how to get started as a sports blogger. Check those out and more helpful tips on sports blogging at his website.