Nolan Arenado is no slouch and writers have taken to his new ability to walk at close to a 10-percent clip. The rise to prominence started in his first season when he won a Gold Glove. Then he proceeded to win three more at third base, a position loaded for years to come.
Arenado’s dazzling defense defined him. He simply could not walk. Per FanGraphs, Arenado’s swing percentage outside the zone in 2013 was 41.6 percent. The Rockies third basemen was 5th highest in the league with the previous number. In 2014 the percentage decreased to 37.3, but moved north again in 2015 to 39.6. During these three years of play his walk rate was around five percent, which was in the bottom 30 walk rates in the league over the three years. In 2016, the swing percentage outside the zone change drastically. What happened to his approach?
Long story short – Arenado stopped swinging as much. Across the board, he swung 48.8 percent of the time, lower than his previous averages of 55.6, 52.6, and 54.1. The patience allowed him to walk almost twice as much and keep his strikeout rate around his career average of 14.6 percent.
The chart above lists the amount of balls, strikes, pitches, and pitches per plate appearance (PA). In 2016 we see an uptick in pitches per PA, which falls in line with the drop in swing percentage from the perennial all-star.
Every year since Arenado entered the league, there’s been improvement in offensive ability. The most obvious change in the power numbers in a very team-friendly home ballpark of Coors Field. This spike in homeruns coincided with a change in approach from him. His pull percentage rose from 35.4 his rookie season to 45.7 in 2016.
UZR is not as bullish on the improvements on the defensive side, including a remarkable drop-off from 20.7 in his freshman season to 5.3-6.2 over the next three seasons. This is not to say that his defensive ability is deteriorating, but his rookie season was a spectacular display on defense.
Where will Arenado’s next improvement come? We’ll check back during the 2017 season to see if he’ll continue his upward path to greatness in this game we all love.
And if you aren’t sold on the changes made on the field by Arenado, maybe you can enjoy some of his antics with his brother and cousin.
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