Nolan Arenado may have received the Nationwide League Most Invaluable Participant award final yr, although he misplaced out to teammate Paul Goldschmidt, who gave chase to the Triple Crown and completed with the extra eye-catching conventional stats (however barely decrease fWAR and bWAR). However whereas Goldschmidt has been equally productive this yr amid the Cardinals’ dreadful begin — certainly, his three homers on Sunday helped finish the group’s eight-game dropping streak — the identical can’t be mentioned for Arenado, who’s off to an uncharacteristically dangerous begin.
Between compiling their worst file via 35 video games in half a century and making the puzzling resolution to maneuver marquee free agent Willson Contreras off of catcher, the Cardinals are such a large number that I discussed Arenado solely in passing on Monday. He’s nowhere close to the group’s largest downside, but on the similar time, the 32-year-old third baseman is hitting simply .232/.282/.326 for a 69 wRC+ to date. His 82-point drop from final yr’s 151 wRC+ is the majors’ second-largest amongst gamers with a minimum of 400 plate appearances final yr and 100 this yr:
Largest wRC+ Drop-Offs from 2022 to ’23
|Identify||Staff||AVG||OBP||SLG||wRC+||AVG 23||OBP 23||SLG 23||wRC+ 23||Dif|
Minimal 400 plate appearances in 2022 and 100 plate appearances in ’23.
Arenado, whose 207-point drop in slugging can also be the majors’ largest at these cutoffs, isn’t the one MVP-caliber participant struggling. Decide, the reigning AL MVP, hasn’t come near replicating final yr’s astronomical numbers, although he’s nonetheless an above-average hitter. Machado, who completed between Goldschmidt and Arenado within the NL MVP voting (and edged each in WAR), is scuffling almost as badly as his fellow third baseman. A number of latest All-Stars moreover these gamers (Benintendi, Giménez, Marte, Rodríguez, and Springer) are represented above as nicely. That’s baseball, Suzyn.
To have a look at Arenado’s stats is to play “What’s Unsuitable with This Image?” as a result of a complete lot of his numbers are out of whack relative to final yr and his longer observe file. The overarching theme that emerges upon nearer inspection is that he’s dropping the battle to manage the strike zone, and his contact is the poorer for it. Swing charges begin stabilize to at 50 PA, so it’s noteworthy that he’s providing at 51.9% of all pitches, his highest price since his 2013 rookie season, and up from 48.4% final yr. Likewise relating to his 40.2% chase price, up from 36.1% final yr. His 11.4% swinging-strike price is his highest ever, up almost three factors from final yr’s 8.6%, and two factors above his norm.
All of that matches into the sample of a participant who’s urgent. That wouldn’t be stunning beneath the circumstances, which on this case embrace a reigning division champion that even amid a two-game profitable streak — the second of which Arenado sat out on Monday evening — owns the NL’s worst file at 12–24.
Pitch-wise, Arenado’s whiff charges are notably elevated in opposition to four-seam fastballs (20.7%, up from final yr’s 13.3%), changeups (34.6%, up from 23.2%), sliders (33.8%, up from 25.6%), and curves (26.3%, up rom 20.6%), which collectively account for about 72% of the pitches he’s seen. General, his 20.8% strikeout price is the best of his profession, six proportion factors above his profession price and almost double final yr’s 11.6% price. In the meantime, his 6.7% stroll price is his lowest mark since 2015, and down 1.7 factors from final yr.
So, he’s making contact much less, and when he does, it’s not nice. Arenado is hitting the ball on the bottom greater than ever, and his common exit velocity, barrel price and hard-hit charges are the bottom of his profession:
Nolan Arenado Batted Ball Stats
I’ve solely gone again so far as 2019, however the knowledge covers some peaks and valleys, beginning with that 41-homer season, then a tough and sad 2020 that was marred by his enjoying although an AC joint damage. His 2021 was a partial rebound, with 34 homers however only a .312 on-base proportion and 113 wRC+, down 18 factors from his 2017–19 run. Then got here final yr’s stellar marketing campaign, through which he hit .293/.358/.533 and set profession bests with a 150 wRC+ and seven.3 WAR.
The one different time moreover this season through which Arenado has ever had a groundball price above 40% was in his 2013 rookie season; enjoying half his video games in Coors Discipline, he rapidly discovered the benefit to getting the ball off the bottom and into the skinny air. He’s had just one different season with a groundball-flyball ratio above 1.0, and that was in 2018 (1.03, with a 39.9% groundball price).
By way of the years, Arenado’s Statcast numbers have typically been fairly middling. Other than final yr’s barrel price, which positioned within the 53rd percentile, he hasn’t had an exit velo, barrel price, or hard-hit price within the fiftieth percentile or above since 2019. Even in the most effective of instances, he makes a variety of dangerous contact — balls that Statcast classifies as weak, topped, or beneath however which can be considerably elusive of their precise parameters. Through the Baseball Savant Pitch Highlighter hyperlink (beneath Visuals from the primary Baseball Savant menu — I share this as a result of I can’t discover it with out breadcrumbs), you will get a really feel for them by way of these fancy interactive radial graphs, the place rollovers illustrate every kind of contact and the way the hitter has carried out inside that class. For instance, listed below are screenshots for his topped balls — these with low exit velocity and largely unfavorable launch angles — for 2022 and ’23:
For those who squint on the stat traces close to the underside, you’ll be able to see that he’s hitting extra of these as a proportion of his batted balls, and that his batting common on them has fallen by almost half. Certainly, balls within the weak, topped, and beneath buckets not often go for hits. Final yr, these accounted for 60.4% of Arenado’s batted ball occasions, on which he hit .103 and slugged .155; for 2015–22, they make up 60.8% of his batted balls, with a .136 AVG and .194 SLG. This yr, they make up 64.8%, his highest price save for his dismal 2020 (71.1%), and on these, he’s hitting and slugging simply .087; he’s really a bit unfortunate on these, given his .124 xBA and .155 xSLG. That’s contributing to him falling wanting his general anticipated numbers for the primary time within the Statcast period:
Nolan Arenado Statcast Anticipated Stats
I’ve solely proven the the previous 4 seasons plus this one right here, however the pattern goes again to 2015. I don’t know if that’s a Coors Discipline factor or if Arenado has lived a charmed life, however each single yr, he outdid his xBA, xSLG, and xwOBA, a pattern that continued to St. Louis. 5 instances in eight seasons, his slugging proportion was a minimum of 81 factors larger than anticipated. This yr, for the primary time, he’s lagging behind his anticipated stats, and so his 91-point year-to-year drop in xSLG turns into the aforementioned 207-point drop in precise slugging proportion.
Even with that in thoughts, Arenado is struggling as badly as he ever has when it comes to energy. Right here’s his rolling xSLG over 75 PA:
Arenado has taken among the blame for the group’s sluggish begin and vaguely acknowledged points together with his swing. Via the St. Louis Publish-Dispatch’s Lynn Worthy:
Arenado’s timing has been out of whack on the plate, and he has been making an attempt to type via points together with his swing and described himself as “a bit disconnected” mechanically.
“It’s unlucky,” Arenado mentioned. “I believe if we have been profitable, I in all probability wouldn’t be apprehensive about it a lot. However the truth that we’re dropping, it feels quite a bit worse as a result of I’m not enjoying my half. That comes with the territory, I assume. I anticipate to repair it. I’m working exhausting on it, and hopefully at present is an effective day.”
On the timing notice, the slugger’s efficiency in opposition to four-seam fastballs notably stands out and likewise factors again to the SLG-xSLG hole:
Nolan Arenado vs 4-Seam Fastballs
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
Arenado’s slugging proportion in opposition to all four-seamers has fallen off by 201 factors relative to final yr, but his xSLG in opposition to them is down solely 31 factors. His normal performances in opposition to the pitch have assorted, usually out of step with the remainder of his traces (notice the robust 2020 in an in any other case weak yr, adopted by a drop-off in what was in any other case a a lot stronger marketing campaign). A peek at his performances in opposition to heaters 95 mph or larger reveals extra constant work from 2019 to ’22, with a drop this season that will simply owe to pattern measurement. He’s really whiffing much less in opposition to these pitches, and his xSLG on them is definitely larger, all of which brings to thoughts Ben Clemens’ Abreu-flavored investigation into year-to-year correlations (or the dearth of them) once we get this granular. Brief model: whiff charges on four-seamers of 95 mph or extra correlate moderately nicely from yr to yr, however run values — which summarize the standard of contact in addition to the swings-and-misses — don’t.
All of which is to say that I don’t assume that is the start of the tip for Arenado. He’s in a foul droop that will owe one thing to the self-induced strain of not producing as his group hits the skids, however that’s to not recommend he received’t get out of it. I’ll exit on a limb and recommend that fixing his swing remains to be in all probability simpler to do than remaking a lackluster rotation that’s scapegoating the brand new catcher.