Nolan Arenado got what he wanted … and today, he plays for the NL’s worst team
May 4, 2023, 1:11 AM | Updated: 1:37 am
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Remember, Nolan Arenado wanted this.
Even as he continued to man third base for the Colorado Rockies, he looked away to a future he hoped wouldn’t include 20th and Blake. We learned this from longtime St. Louis Cardinals stalwart pitcher Adam Wainwright on a Zoom call with media two years ago.
“The last year or two, he would send me videos when he was trying to get traded over here,” Wainwright said in 2021. “He would say, ‘Show this to Mo (Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak).”
So, whatever happens within a stone’s throw of the Gateway Arch, know one thing above all:
This is what Arenado desired.
And when he drives to his home park for a matinee Thursday, he’ll suit up for the worst team in the National League.
That dubious distinction doesn’t belong to the Colorado Rockies. Yes, their season-long form remains subpar, even in the midst of their first 3-game winning streak of the season.
But with an April 30 win over Arizona and 3-2 and 7-1 wins over the Brewers to open May, the purple warriors of the South Platte eked their way out of the NL cellar at 11-20.
Meanwhile, Arenado’s Cardinals took up sole residence of the basement.
The almighty Cardinals. The best-fans-in-baseball (Just ask them!) Cardinals. The holier-than-thou Cardinals, who are to playoff appearances what the Rockies are to losing between 87 and 98 games, something Colorado has done in nine of its last 11 full seasons.
This morning, the Rockies awaken with their purple flag flying higher than the St. Louisans’ red standard.
And Arenado is a huge reason why.
A 2-for-3 night Wednesday inched Arenado’s batting average to .244. But his OPS remained a meager .623. That isn’t just the lowest of his career at the 31-game mark of his team’s season; it’s the worst by a massive amount. Arenado’s previous first-31-games low was a credible .776 during the pandemic-altered 2020 season.
His strikeout rate rose from 11.6 percent last year to 21.6 percent so far this season. His walk rate is down.
But it goes deeper, as the data reveals.
Arenado’s exit velocity of 86.1 miles per hour is down 2.7 MPH from last year. His launch angle dropped like a stone in the Mississippi River, from 21.7 degrees last season to 14.5 so far this year. His ground-ball rate soared as a result.
Arenado’s hard-hit percentage dropped from 38.9 percent last season to 31.1 this year; it’s never been below 33.7 percent.
The result is depressed power production. His slugging percentage so far is just .328; in his previous 10 seasons, it was never lower than .463 through 31 games of the season.
Arenado’s 2 home runs are also the fewest of his career to this point in the season — even fewer than the 3 he had as a rookie, when he’d played in just seven of the Rockies’ first 31 contests.
But Arenado is far from the Redbirds’ only problem. Which is why he can put together his first multi-hit performance in 14 games — in the previous 13, he went a ghastly 5-for-50 — and yet trudge back into the clubhouse defeated.
The blame Wednesday fell to reliever Giovanny Gallegos, whose ninth-inning woes led to a 6-4 loss to the Angels that left most of the Busch Stadium throng singing a chorus of boos.
Mike Trout gives the Halos the lead in the 9th 🐐🤯@Angels | #GoHalos pic.twitter.com/soumLLfx1D
— Bally Sports West (@BallySportWest) May 4, 2023
Despite this, the Cardinals still have a 25.8 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FanGraphs. The Rockies, a game better, have the Blutarsky odds: 0.0 percent.
But that is just a projection. A prediction.
Meanwhile, there is Arenado’s reality. Mired in the worst start of his career, he sits in precisely the spot he wanted so desperately to escape: staring up with longing eyes at the contenders of the National League.