DENVER -- Nolan Arenado is awakening to the territory that comes with being one of the game's most revered power hitters, particularly now with five seasons of scouting reports on him.Arenado entered Wednesday without a home run since Opening Day, and with the Rockies' collective struggles on offense, he's only
DENVER -- Nolan Arenado is awakening to the territory that comes with being one of the game's most revered power hitters, particularly now with five seasons of scouting reports on him.
Arenado entered Wednesday without a home run since Opening Day, and with the Rockies' collective struggles on offense, he's only had 12 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. He was hitting .318 with a .404 on-base percentage, which -- acknowledging the wildly small sample size -- would both be career highs, but his slugging percentage sits at .500, well below the floor of .570 he's hit each of the past three seasons.
So what's causing the power drought?
"I think there's an adjustment right now where I'm not getting a whole lot to hit," Arenado said. "Listen, these teams know. They don't want to let me beat them. They're being smart. I've got to be able to make those adjustments also. I've got to be smart also with my at-bats and find a way to help this team win by getting on base."
Arenado has walked seven times this year, thrice with runners in scoring position, which he says feels uncharacteristic, but in a positive way. However, he's admittedly "antsy" about being Colorado's primary run producer. In '17, Arenado hit .385 with RISP and led MLB with 98 RBIs in such situations. The challenge through 12 games is the lack of opportunity: Most around him have struggled.
The Rockies entered Wednesday with 80 wRC+ (a park-natural metric measuring how position players compare to average, which is 100), seventh-worst in MLB. Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Desmond, who hit after Arenado, have been hot and cold, and a true cleanup hitter hasn't emerged, though the Rockies have been experimenting Trevor Story there against lefties.
"When we get going as a group, when everyone is hitting, I'll start to get better pitches because they're not going to want to walk me or they're not going to want me to just take a knock here," Arenado said. "So they're going to try and find different ways. So, I think as a collective group, when we really get going, I'll start to see better pitches."
Arenado makes no reservations that he is most lethal pull side. Each of his National League-high 42 homers in 2015 landed straightaway center or left, according to Statcast™, and only two of his NL-best 41 in '16 went to the opposite field. Per Statcast™, 40 of his homers in that span were on pitches on the edges or outside the strike zone, an MLB-high, and most were on the hands.
Gif: Arenado heat map
His opposite-field outbreak last year took many by surprise. In '17, Arenado launched 34.5 percent of his batted balls to right, which ranked 16th among 68 righties who put at least 400 in play. For context, DJ LeMahieu, a notoriously opposite-field hitter, led MLB righties at 52.6 percent. Arenado says his uptick was largely dictated by where pitchers were throwing to him.
"I can drive the ball that way, but I'm not as consistent driving it that way as I am pull side," Arenado said. "But like I said, I've just got to try to take my hits, take my knocks. I know why they're pitching me there."
"They're pitching him tough," Rockies manager Bud Black said. "Again, I think Nolan will ultimately take his walks, get on base and have a high on-base percentage if they continue to pitch him this way. It's going to be imperative for the guys behind him to knock him in, to do some damage for the walk that might be happening to Nolan."
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @dkramer_.