Colorado Rockies: The debate for and against Nolan Arenado

DENVER, CO - JULY 08: Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies throws out Melky Cabrera #53 of the Chicago White Sox in the first inning at Coors Field on July 8, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JULY 08: Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies throws out Melky Cabrera #53 of the Chicago White Sox in the first inning at Coors Field on July 8, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /
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Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies
DENVER, CO – JULY 08: Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies throws out Melky Cabrera #53 of the Chicago White Sox in the first inning at Coors Field on July 8, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

First things first. Marty, thanks for clarifying some of your earlier comments from your tweet. I appreciate your thoughts and candor … and your perspective from outside the Mountain time zone.

I hope you’ll appreciate mine as well. I’m lucky enough to get to watch Nolan play in person. I have watched him play in person since he was at Double-A Tulsa. I’ve seen first-hand his progression from a kid with a lot of potential to starting the All-Star Game at third base.

I agree completely that there is a wealth of talent at third base today in Major League Baseball. But so many people equate Arenado to “Coors.” Every debate about Nolan Arenado (or any other member of the Colorado Rockies lineup) always starts with some diatribe about Coors Field. It’s an old, worn-out and inaccurate argument. It’s time it takes its place alongside the “earth is flat” and “a hot dog is a sandwich” theories.

Did any of those “Coors theory” folks happen to check out this great article from MLB.com that actually discusses which parks are statistically the easiest places to hit home runs? Coors Field isn’t even in the top five. Minute Maid Park in Houston is the top place so shall we start dissecting how bad the Astros offense really is because of the park they play in?

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What makes Arenado special is that he not only provides an offensive spark for the Rockies day after day after day but he also is a wizard on defense. Four Gold Gloves, one for every season he’s started the year for the Rockies at third base.

OK, so this argument isn’t about just defense. I get that. If it were, anyone could certainly look at his all-time fielding percentage at third and see that it ranks fifth among all third baseman in the history of the game. Manny Machado ranks 16thon the list. Josh Donaldson is 108th.

From 2015-current, Arenado leads all MLB third baseman in DRS (defensive runs saved) with 54. Next after that? Adrian Beltre with 34.

But hey, you don’t want to talk just defense. Otherwise, Nolan wins. Fine. Let’s dive into some of the offensive numbers.

First, if you’re only using WAR to compare players to each other, you’re missing out on a lot of the picture. It’s the same trap Keith Law and others have fallen into when it comes to measuring a player.

There is no one statistic that can sum up the worth of a player. Sorry. There isn’t. One of my favorite lines about WAR from FanGraphs is this, “Given the imperfections of some of the available data and the assumptions made to calculate other components, WAR works best as an approximation.”

It’s a statistic that works best as an approximation. OK then.

Let’s see if we can find some other findings that might be a little more concrete.

How about starting with another award? Arenado has captured the National League’s last two Silver Sluggers at third base. Silver Sluggers are awarded based on “several offensive categories in selecting the winners, including batting averageslugging percentage, and on-base percentage, in addition to ‘coaches’ and managers’ general impressions of a player’s overall offensive value.'” In other words, Arenado was given the award for the top offensive player over league MVP Kris Bryant, Anthony Rendon and Justin Turner for the last two years.

He has more total bases over the last two seasons than any other Major League player. Not just third baseman. Any other Major League hitter.

Not concrete enough for you?

Marty, you mention walks in your argument. In 2015, you’re right, Arenado wasn’t very patient, with just 34 walks all season. That number jumped to 68 in 2016 and he has 27 walks at the break this year. It’s something he has worked on and improved.

Oh, and his strikeouts went down during that span as well, dipping from 110 in 2015 to 103 in 2016.

Arenado is becoming a more patient hitter. That should scare all Major League pitchers.

The bottom line is this … every player in Major League Baseball has to be judged by his complete worth to the team. That includes offense and defense. Players shouldn’t be just one-dimensional. If they are, they can join David Ortiz and Edgar Martinez in the designated hitter club.

Next: Nolan is tops, but where do the other 39 Rockies rank?

I don’t want a player on my team who can just hit and not play the field. I don’t want someone you have to hide in the lineup so his defensive weaknesses aren’t exposed or someone who comes in as a defensive replacement. I want someone like Nolan Arenado, a guy who plays with emotion, can hit for power, knock in runs in clutch situations and can field anything that’s hit to him and make it look easy. I don’t need advanced metrics to tell me that’s not only a top five third baseman but also a guy who could be a cornerstone of any Major League team playing in any park at any altitude in the nation.

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