How lucky are Colorado Rockies hitters actually getting?

DENVER, CO - JULY 15: Ryan McMahon #24 of the Colorado Rockies is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a seventh inning solo homer against the San Francisco Giants during game one of a doubleheader at Coors Field on July 15, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JULY 15: Ryan McMahon #24 of the Colorado Rockies is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a seventh inning solo homer against the San Francisco Giants during game one of a doubleheader at Coors Field on July 15, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /
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Nolan Arenado: True

Your average fan is going to look at the gap between Nolan’s wOBA and xwOBA, notice that it’s a full 59 points apart (fifth-highest in MLB) and tell you that’s all you need to know about whether he’s getting lucky or not and whether Coors is affecting that. Well, given the width of that gap, it’s hard to argue. But there are a few things that need to be pointed out before appropriately understanding that gap:

Colorado Rockies
Colorado Rockies /

Colorado Rockies

First, his wOBA of .398 leads all Rockies hitters. His xwOBA of .339 ranks second for the Rockies. His Hard Hit Percentage of 42.1% ranks 3rd on the Rockies and is 4.1% above the league average of 38.0%. His Barrels per PA % is 6.0%, right at league average. And his wRC+ sits at 128, so everything he’s done has been fairly effective.

What may help Arenado too is his approach against the shift. Per FanGraphs, his BA jumps up to .342 against the shift (normal BA of .316) and according to Baseball Savant his wOBA vs the shift is .476 while he has a wOBA of .391 against traditional defensive positioning. The weak contact finding its way through holes may play into how xwOBA is calculated, thus hurting him more than it should.

A lot of Arenado’s stats are true to their numbers and he’s probably getting penalized by taking a smarter approach against the shift. He’s honestly lucky teams continue to shift against him for whatever reason. That helps to explain a bit of the gap between wOBA and xwOBA. And while that gap is fifth-largest in MLB, it’s misleading to assume he’s lucky because of it. The underlying numbers show more that Nolan’s true to his stats. And if you try to look at his park adjusted splits to say he’s the hitter he is because of Coors, you’ll be disappointed when you find out he has a wRC+ above 100 both on the road and at home, showing he can be just as effective wherever he’s hitting.

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