Larry Walker will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday. This got me thinking about Nolan Arenado.
It took Walker to his 10th and final time on the ballot to cross the 75% threshold and vote in Cooperstown. He said he hopes his election will open the door for other Rockies players. Specifically, he was talking about Todd Hilton and the stigma of playing at Coors Course.
“The year I won MVP (1997), I thought it was a great thing for the Colorado Rockies players as well and it cleared up that mess about playing there and the negatives that go into it,” Walker told me last November. “Hopefully this works for Todd. He’s obviously very Hall of Fame worthy.”
But what about the Arenado? The third baseman is now wearing Cardinals red, not Colorado purple. But, for some, Coors Field will always misrepresent his resume.
However, Arenado’s mile-high numbers certainly didn’t bother Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt when I asked him about Arenado two years ago.
“Nolan is, without a doubt, the third best baseball player in baseball, both defensively and offensively, and he’s been for several years,” Schmidt said. “If his success continues at this current rate for another 10 years, he will join us in Cooperstown. I hope to be there to hear his speech.”
Schmidt, of course, set the gold standard for the third rule. He was a 12-time All-Star, winning 10 Gold Gloves and six Silver Slugger Awards. He won the National League Player of the Year in 1980, 1981 and 1986. Velez won the World Championship in 1980 and was the best player. He finished his 18-year career with 548 home runs, 908 OPS and 106.8 WAR.
Arenado, 30, would never match those accomplishments, even if he ended up playing until age 39, as Schmidt did. Still, the Arenado’s numbers are impressive: 264 homers, .882 OPS, 43.8 WAR and 8 Gold Gloves in a row. He’s a six-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger winner.
The glove work at Arenado is some of the best and most glamorous of all. His Hall of Fame argument was bolstered by social media and ubiquitous video replays, allowing baseball fans to watch his “I can’t believe he did that” moments from coast to coast.
However, I was very interested in seeing how Arenado would perform in his first season away from Colorado. In general, he played well in St. Louis, but not very well.
His batting rate dropped dramatically – 0.257 compared to .293 during his eight seasons in Colorado. The current OPS with the Cardinals is 0.817, a few ticks less than the .882 OPS with The Rockies.
With that said, Arenado has a 29 home run on his way to 32. He has an 88 RBI and is on his way to 105. Plus, he was great in the clutch. He scored 336 with the runners in scoring, beating his run mark of 0.325. With two competitors and two runners in the scoring position, he hit 0.333, the highest in his career of 0.316.