Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Colorado Rockies

news

Rockies News

Arenado capitalizing on spacious home park

Rockies slugger's stats show evolving hitting approach at Coors Field
MLB.com @MannyOnMLB

DENVER -- In a season during which more home runs were hit across Major League Baseball than ever before, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado hit 37, four fewer than his National League-leading total in 2016, and five fewer than his NL-leading total in 2015. Yet this past season was the best offensive campaign of Arenado's career: He posted a career-high 132 OPS+ and had a career-high 355 total bases.

While Arenado wasn't an NL Most Valuable Player finalist, his season was remarkable in that his hitting approach at Coors Field continued to evolve to take better advantage of its most hitter-friendly quality: the size of the outfield. That adjustment could be telling when it comes to what we might see from him in 2018.

DENVER -- In a season during which more home runs were hit across Major League Baseball than ever before, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado hit 37, four fewer than his National League-leading total in 2016, and five fewer than his NL-leading total in 2015. Yet this past season was the best offensive campaign of Arenado's career: He posted a career-high 132 OPS+ and had a career-high 355 total bases.

While Arenado wasn't an NL Most Valuable Player finalist, his season was remarkable in that his hitting approach at Coors Field continued to evolve to take better advantage of its most hitter-friendly quality: the size of the outfield. That adjustment could be telling when it comes to what we might see from him in 2018.

Arenado used more of Coors Field's acreage than ever before this past season. Of his 48 extra-base hits at home, 17 (35 percent) were hit to right field or right-center field. In 2016, that figure was 12 (24 percent). In 2015, it was nine (19 percent). Meanwhile, Arenado homered once every 15.5 at-bats at Coors Field this season. The season prior, he homered once every 12.5 at-bats at home.

In that sense, Arenado is becoming a bit more like teammate DJ LeMahieu -- using the large gaps of the Coors Field outfield to put the ball between defenders, particularly in right-center. And if your home ballpark has one of the largest outfields in the game, why wouldn't you approach it that way?

"I know I'm not the best hitter [in the league], but I feel like I've made adjustments and I'm getting better," Arenado said during the season, before using an unintentional pun. "There's a lot of room to get better, and I think I'm proving that [by doing it]."

Further evidence of Arenado taking advantage of his home ballpark more in 2017 is the gap between his expected weighted on-base average per Statcast™ (formulated using exit velocity and launch angle of balls in play, as well as walks, strikeouts and times hit-by-pitch) and his actual wOBA at Coors Field. In 2017, his actual home wOBA was 62 points better than his expected wOBA, the highest differential for Arenado since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015.

On one side of the coin, this could be called "luck." But on the flip side, it could be explained as a hitter understanding the benefit of a park he plays in 81 times during the regular season. Arenado's gap between xwOBA and actual wOBA at home has steadily increased, from 42 points in 2015, to 56 in '16, and 62 this past season.

When Arenado put the ball in play at Coors Field in 2017, his batting average was .354, 55 points higher than his BABIP there in 2016.

Meanwhile, Arenado put together his best season away from Coors Field, posting an .886 OPS with 18 of his 37 homers coming on the road.

What could this all mean for Arenado in 2018? Potentially a higher batting average (he upped it from .294 in 2016 to .309 last season) and a higher on-base percentage (career-high .373 in 2017), without a drop in slugging.

Arenado's approach at home to take advantage of Coors Field's dimensions isn't reflected in park-adjusted stats, but if it helps the Rockies win, he doesn't sweat it.

"That's out of my control," Arenado said of how his offensive statistics are viewed. "At the end of the day, my goal is to drive in runs. I feel like I've done that the last three years at a high level.

"Those talks are for other people."

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Nolan Arenado