Exit Interview 2021: Nolan Arenado

As is tradition around these parts after the season is over, we’re taking a look at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.  That’ll range from someone that didn’t record an out to someone that played almost every inning.  Treat it like they are stopping by the manager’s office (umm, also imagine this was before the managerial change) on their way home for the winter for a performance review.  Stats listed are ones generated during their time with the Cards and the grade is based not only on their performance but on the expectations for them going into the season.  As he has the past few years, the legend that is cardinalsgifs has provided our excellent header image!

Player: Nolan Arenado

Season stats: 157 G, 653 PA, 81 R, 34 2B, 3 3B, 34 HR, 105 RBI, 2 SB, 50 BB, 96 K, .255/.312/.494, 121 OPS+, 4.2 bWAR, 4.0 fWAR

Statcast: .310 xwOBA, 6.7 barrel %, 89.0 exit velocity, 37.5 hard hit %, 14.7 K %, 7.7 BB %

Best Statcast category: Outs Above Average (96th percentile)

Worst Statcast category: Sprint Speed (21st percentile)

Hero/Goat: Hero 24, Goat 12

Grade: A

Positives: Put on the uniform of the St. Louis Cardinals after years of rumors….hit a game winning home run in his first home game at Busch Stadium….had a .931 OPS in 129 plate appearances against left-handers….dominated in May, hitting .302 with a .949 OPS….hit .279 with 20 homers away from Busch….hit 17 home runs in both halves of the season….hit eight home runs in September, more than any other month….had seven home runs when leading off an inning….hit .261 with 21 homers hitting fourth in the lineup….25 homers came after he took the first pitch in the at bat….had a 1.128 OPS when the count ran full….had a 1.039 OPS when ahead in the count….had 15 two-out homers….slashed .329/.413/.571 with runners in scoring position….had a 1.098 OPS when there were two outs and runners in scoring position….18 of his home runs came in a tie game….put up a .992 OPS in the first three innings….took it to the Reds, putting up a 1.012 OPS against Cincinnati….had the third lowest K % of his career….after a slow start defensively, played like the legend that was expected and won another Gold Glove.

Negatives: Hit .228 at Busch Stadium….hit only eight doubles in the second half….had his worst OPS (.711) in August….had a .569 OPS when the pitcher was ahead in the count….posted a .756 OPS when the bases were empty….with one out and a runner on first, only mustered a .399 OPS….his worst inning was the seventh, where he had a .587 OPS….hit .219 from the fourth inning on….only had a .623 OPS against the Cubs, though he hit three homers against them.

Overview: It’s appropriate that we start off this series with Nolan Arenado because the trade that acquired him kicked off the year with a bang.  Was Arenado everything we dreamed about when he was wearing the purple of the Colorado Rockies?  That might be a little bit in the eye of the beholder.  It’s true that the overall stats weren’t as great, though there was the combination of leaving Coors, playing in Busch Stadium, coming off the pandemic, and many other factors.  It’s also true that he tied the team record for most home runs by a third baseman, provided a punch with Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill that we haven’t really seen since the MV3, and still played eye-popping defense, even if the metrics weren’t always kind in that regard.

I’ve been an Arenado fan for a long while so I can’t say that I’m completely unbiased about his time in St. Louis, but for me it was definitely worth the wait to have him in Cardinal red.  He did seem to try to be too anxious at times, especially at the plate with a chance to come up big, but I chalk that up to be a little too eager to win.  However, he did come through a lot of times and that defense….oh my.  That was something special to watch.  So I’ll cop to a little bias on this one.

Outlook: Arenado has already told John Mozeliak he’s not opting out for 2022 and I would be very surprised if he exercised his option to opt out for 2023 either.  As much as he embraced the city, as much as (I believe) he had a hand in making sure St. Louis was his destination, I would be very surprised if Arenado ever wore another uniform, trading in the birds on the bat for a red jacket at the end of his career.  We’ll see him next year likely batting fourth and continuing to impress.

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