LOS ANGELES -- Forgive Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado for angrily splintering his bat on the Dodger Stadium dugout floor after a seventh-inning strikeout during Monday night's 2-1 Rockies victory. He hasn't had opportunity to hit much of anything hard during an odd two weeks.In the 14 games before Tuesday
LOS ANGELES -- Forgive Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado for angrily splintering his bat on the Dodger Stadium dugout floor after a seventh-inning strikeout during Monday night's 2-1 Rockies victory. He hasn't had opportunity to hit much of anything hard during an odd two weeks.
In the 14 games before Tuesday night's matchup against the Dodgers, Arenado was homerless with just four RBIs. In the 29 games through May 5, Arenado had eight homers and 21 RBIs.
Still, it can be argued he has been hitting better. His batting average and on-base percentage are up -- from .321 and .407 through May 5, to .333 and .429 since. He struck out in 21 percent of his plate appearances before the homers stopped, 17 percent after.
"Statistically, people say it's my best offensive year," Arenado said. "Mentally, I don't feel that way, because I'm used to driving in runs and hitting the ball out of the ballpark. That's what I want to do."
But pitchers realize this, too, and are finding new ways to avoid Arenado -- one of few Rockies hitters scaring anyone.
According to Statcast™:
• Pitchers are avoiding the strike zone with increased regularity against Arenado. After putting 53.3 percent of the pitches out of the zone last year, when Arenado hit 37 home runs and drove in 130 runs, they've missed the zone 55.4 percent this year.
• Pitchers have increased the rate of pitching off the plate inside -- 16.4 percent last year, 19.6 percent this year.
• Lately there has been a change. Since his last home run, have gone away more -- specifically low and away. The rate of pitches off the plate low and away has risen from 23.4 percent through May 5 to 27.9 percent since. Essentially, if they're going to make a mistake, it's going to be away.
Arenado adjusted. The four-game series in San Francisco was an illustration. He went 8-for-18 with a double, two walks, two RBIs and zero strikeouts. He fouled off a couple of pitches that he often drives, but he consistently made contact.
"He's taking his hits, taking his walks." Rockies manager Bud Black said. "What he has to guard against is when they make a mistake, be ready for it. Pitchers are not robots. They can't continually throw pitches on the outside corner. There's going to be a mistake here and there. He's got to be ready to hit every pitch."
Monday's blowup after Dodgers righty Walker Buehler struck him out for the second time on an 0-for-3 night was an indication that he wants a little more.
"Beuhler did a good job. He blew that one by me," Arenado said of his frustration boiling over. "It was nothing against him. It was just that -- I don't want to say what it was -- let's say I had a mental approach breakdown.
"Part of it is the pitching, part of it is the swing. There are things I need to fix in my swing. At the same time, in years past I fixed it with a couple of mistake pitches over the plate. They weren't afraid. Now, I really have to do it on pitches that they're making, on pitchers' pitches."
• Second baseman DJ LeMahieu (left thumb sprain and small fracture) played catch from about 50 feet Tuesday, and caught balls with his glove. He said "swelling has gone down quite a bit." He has hasn't hit yet but was practicing holding the bat.
• Right-hander Antonio Senzatela, optioned from the Rockies' bullpen to Triple-A Albuquerque on May 4 to build his pitch count, hasn't pitched in seven days because of a slight right groin injury suffered during a throwing session. Black said the injury is not considered serious and he will be back on the mound within a week. Senzatela is 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings over three starts, and has topped out at 83 pitches in Triple-A.
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.