If you walk up to the average sports fan and ask him/her who they think the best MLB players in the world are, you might hear some popular names thrown out such as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado or Kris Bryant. Don’t get me wrong, these players are superstars of our generation and deserve the impressive accolades each have accumulated so far. But what if I told you that there is a player who consistently puts up better numbers every year and yet has come no better than 4th in the MVP voting? Remember this name: Nolan Arenado. The Rockies studly third baseman and franchise player has driven in more runs than anyone in baseball over the past three seasons and during that time span averaged 35-plus homers a season. He is the only infielder in history to win a Gold Glove award in each of his first five seasons in the league, and is widely considered among the best defensive players in the game. So why in the world isn’t he talked about as often?
The Coors Effect
One reason why Arenado is overlooked is because of the ballpark he plays in. The slugger is on the Colorado Rockies, which means he plays at Coors Field; a virtual launching pad for home runs. The high altitude causes more fly balls to leave the park than any other stadium, and people often attribute offensive success to this factor. And this claim is warranted; the Rockies have had the most disproportionate home/road splits since 2010. Troy Tulowtizki is living proof of the Coors Effect.
A 4-time all-star in Colorado, Tulowitzki looked like he was on track for an incredible career before getting traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, where he has failed to hit over .255 every season he’s been there. Obviously, the dude is a good baseball player and we can’t blame all of his struggles on his environment, but he does fit the bill as far as having astronomical splits on the road compared to playing at Coors. Perhaps fans have noticed this, and have dismissed the ridiculous stats Arenado has produced over the years because of it. So what do Nolan Arenado’s splits look like? Well, he definitely hits better at home, but his road numbers are still very solid. Last year, in 2017, he hit 19 homers at Coors and 18 away from home, almost identical numbers. His batting average was significantly different, .336 at home and .283 on the road, and he slugged over 100 points higher in Colorado. However, it turns out most sluggers naturally hit better at home than on the road, and some have even greater splits than Nolan has. For example, Giancarlo Stanton during his MVP season a year ago hit .298 at home and .268 on the road. There was a 100 point difference in slugging percentage and his OPS was much higher at Marlins Park. Frankly, this kind of talk needs to stop. Coors Field isn’t the only hitters ballpark and we need to recognize that Arenado is a terrific player no matter where he is.
Name the last time you saw the Rockies on national TV. I’ll wait. Mountain time games are usually later at night if you don’t live in the region, and this means that nobody really watches teams like the Angels, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. That could be the main reason the best player in the world, Mike Trout, isn’t even recognizable by most casual fans. Unless you’re the Dodgers, teams out west simply don’t get the kind of exposure teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Cubs do. It’s not just because of time zones, either. It’s no secret that MLB and national TV networks are biased towards big market teams with winning track records. They’re trying to make money and get the best ratings, so it makes sense. It’s a downright shame, though, because Nolan Arenado is must-see TV whenever he steps on the field.
What might be the craziest part of Nolan Arenado flying under the radar is that he may end up being the best third baseman of all time. Yes, you heard that correctly. Arenado is on such a historic pace that if he were to keep it up for years to come he would have superior numbers to any third baseman that’s played the game. Some even say he’s already the greatest ever at his position. Walt Weiss, former Rockies manager called Arenado the “best third baseman I’ve ever seen.” You may be thinking so what, it’s his manager and he is totally biased. How about being crowned the greatest of all time by the actual GOAT? Mike Schmidt, widely considered the best third baseman in league history, said this in January of 2018: “In my opinion, Nolan Arenado is going to be the heir apparent to the all-time greatest third basemen. He puts up numbers that I never even dreamed of. I don’t think George Brett did or Chipper did, either. His numbers are crazy, and he hasn’t won an M.V.P. yet, which is really crazy.” Very crazy indeed. He’s the only third baseman to have three seasons of 30 plus homers and 130 RBI’s. His defense is unreal. The only thing I can say is go google his defensive highlights. That is, if you’re in the mood to have your mind blown. The scariest part of all it might be that at just age 27, the best could still be yet to come.
The Bottom Line
Arenado is in the midst of another spectacular season, batting .312 with 23 bombs, 63 runs and 68 RBI at the end of the first-half. He was the starting third baseman yet again for the National League in the 2018 All-Star Game. If Arenado keeps his level up, I have no doubt that he will get the elusive MVP award he should already have won. In the mean time, we all need to help out and show him the love he rightfully deserves.