Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado has been on a ridiculous roll lately. And by lately, we could really mean all of the past three years.
But speaking in the more immediate, Arenado is batting .357 so far in 2017 with six home runs and 11 RBI. And in the even more immediate, he had five hits in his last seven at-bats, all of them for extra bases, before striking out in the seventh inning of last night’s 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Arenado En Fuego.
Additionally, according to Baseball-Reference’s definitions of clutch and high leverage, of which you can find definitions here, Arenado has simply been measurably fantastic when it comes to driving in runs when doing so is likely to swing the outcome of a game.
Ten of Arenado’s 11 RBI have either tied the game or given the Rockies a lead. Only his fifth inning solo home run against the Dodgers last night could be classified as relatively non-clutch. And even that one was only less than clutch based merely on its timing as the Dodgers made a late comeback attempt and one run ended up being the difference in the game.
In high leverage situations, he is batting .571 and slugging 1.714 whereas, in low leverage situations, he is hitting a paltry .174 and slugging .478. Of course, those come in very small sample sizes — as do all stats this time of year — but they are also extremes his career numbers. Since being called up to MLB in 2013, Arenado is hitting .303 and slugging .558 in high leverage situations; just .259, .463 in low leverage situations.
Arenado is currently playing a particularly intense rendition of his favorite theme, but it is a variation on the theme all the same. Like when metal bands cover classical music.
We’ve been highlighting his clutch abilities since the offseason and would be remiss if we continued to fail to mention the role his glove plays in that conversation. The very first game of this season was won on a diving double play by the four-time defending Gold Glove third baseman. One could write Greek love poems that wouldn’t do justice to what Colorado’s star player can do at the hot corner, but it’s still worth pointing out that with the game on the line, there’s no defender a pitcher would rather have on his side.
He can win you a game with glove or bat at any given time, as long as the score is close.
The Rockies are tied for the best record in MLB right now but have a negative run differential. They’ve accomplished this feat by being 6-0 in one-run games. While it’s true that this has been done mostly without the club’s signature offense — relying heavily on the pitching, especially the bullpen, and defense — the final piece of that puzzle is timely hitting. You can’t win baseball games with zero runs. Colorado may have a negative run differential, but they also have a lights out bullpen and a third baseman who can put runs on the board and keep them off when it matters most.
The Rockies have 10 wins and Arenado has 11 RBI all of which have mattered to the outcome. He has zero RBI in losses.
Whether you are looking at simple metrics like batting average with runners in scoring position or slugging percentage with men on base, or you want to look at the hard math that weighs a player’s performance against league average and home ballpark — or even against himself — no matter how you look at it, Arenado has been remarkably clutch. You just have to actually look at it.