Nolan Arenado is coming off yet another stellar season. He posted a triple slash line of .293/.358/.533 to go along with 30 home runs and 103 RBI’s enroute to finishing 3rd in the NL MVP voting. Arenado’s analytics were strong as he graded out as one of the best defenders in baseball, yet again and was well above average in major hitting categories. Although, his below the surface stats do not match the ones of someone who finished 3rd in the MVP voting that season. In fact, there are some slight concerns overall that I have about his 2023 production based on his 2022 numbers.
Arenado’s expected numbers were all significantly lower than his back of the baseball card stats. His xBA of .265 which was in the 78th percentile in baseball last season but was .028 points lower than his actual batting average. His xwOBA of .339 finished in the 78th percentile last season, however it also was significantly lower than his actual wOBA of .381. Lastly his xSLG of .445 was in the 78th percentile, although once again it was significantly lower than his actual slugging percentage as there was almost a .100-point difference between the two. For the high-end spectrum players their analytics are traditionally lower than their actual stats, as few players are able to have 2022 Aaron Judge like seasons where their high-end numbers actually match their expected metrics.
Those three numbers aside there were some other concerning stats for Arenado. His average exit velocity of 88.7 MPH was below average sitting in the 43rd percentile. The former Rockies slugger has never been a high exit velocity type of player, more so relying on his bat to ball skills to produce a better triple slash line. This is showcased by his well above average strikeout percentage of 11.6 percent which is in the 3rd highest percentile of baseball.
Arenado also struggled against the changeup last season for the first time in his career. In 2020 he posted a -3.2 RV/100 against changeups, but he had an xBA of .367 and xwOBA of .470 against them. That is the COVID shortened season though, so those numbers do have to be taken with a bit of a grain of salt. In 2021, he dominated them posting a RV/100 of 6.5 to go song with an xBA of .348 and xwOBA of .439. Those numbers took a major step back in 2022 however as he had a RV/100 of -1 against them to go along with a .256 xBA and .348 xWOBA. Now when judging how a player did against a single pitch over the course of a season it does have to be kept in mind that it is going to produce a relatively small sample size, especially on a pitch like a changeup. But regression of that size is always something that has to at least be discussed.
Additionally, Arenado’s pop-up percentage problem continued to get worse this season as it sat at 14.3 percent this year, a 3.2 percent uptick from 2021.
The 7 time All Star also became a less disciplined hitter at the dish this season seeing his chase rate go from 29 percent to 32.6 percent which fell into the 26th lowest percentile last season.
Now the statistics discussed above are not intended to cause panic for Arenado’s 2023 season nor I am trying to infer the third baseman is going to struggle next season. However, I bring these numbers up because I think the Cardinals cannot bank on Arenado being as dominant in 2023 as he was in 2022. They should at least consider further deepening the lineup a bit more in case he does regress. It is more than possible St. Louis brought in Willson Contreras with this in mind, but bringing in 1 more bat would certainly help ease some concern.