Something that I’ve learned over the years, at times painfully, is that every time you open your mouth, you give ammunition to the critics.

Until recently, Nolan Arenado didn’t have many critics.

Why should he?

Seven consecutive Gold Glove Awards, three straight Platinum Glove Awards, five All-Star Game appearances in as many year and five top 10 finishes for National League MVP.

Sure, there were and are plenty of folks, particularly national baseball fans and media, who underrate him because they don’t have the pleasure of watching him every day. For the most part, it has been understood as consensus that he is among the best of the best in baseball.

Then, before last season, his bank account finally caught up to his production level.

Though he started slow and put up the worst month of his entire career in July – terrible timing considering it coincided with the implosion of the entire team and destroyed any chance of the club getting help at the trade deadline – he actually ended up putting up the best offensive averages of his career.

While that infamous 3-12 start to 2019 and the ultimate collapse of the team lined up perfectly with his slumps, you’d be hard pressed to lay the blame for the disappointment squarely at his feet.

As for 2020, that may be different story.

There are plenty of places to point the finger when asking how Colorado coughed up their early cushion.

The bullpen is comprised of a parade of question marks. The bottom part of the lineup spent the first two weeks trying to remember what hitting the baseball felt like. And now, even individual blowups from the starting pitching have cost them games.

But if you are going to be a superstar player and want to be treated and paid like a superstar player – and make demands like a superstar player – the responsibility falls on your shoulders to deliver the goods.

And right now, Raimel Tapia has a substantially better OPS on the season than Arenado, which is something that simply cannot happen.

Over 108 plate appearances so far, Arenado’s seven home runs and low strike out rate (7.4 percent) are the lone bright spots on his resume at the dish. He’s hitting .224/.269/.469 for a wRC+ of 74. For reference, Ryan McMahon has recovered enough from his horrid start to be sitting with a solid wRC+ of 94.

What’s also concerning is a decrease in hard hit balls, down to 34.4%, the lowest since becoming the face of the franchise. His exit velocity is indicating a decrease of nearly 2.2mph, also a low. All of which is why his home runs per fly ball is down to a percentage not seen since he was 23 years old.

The eye test doesn’t do Arenado any favors either as anyone who has watched each at-bat will tell you. There has been an inordinate number of them that have been noncompetitive.

He’s taking unconfident swings, has looked skittish in the box, and has struggled to generate productive outs at a decent rate when given the chance.

It is always the case but especially so in a 60-game season that no small-to-mid market team can compete if their most important player turns out well-below-average numbers.

Colorado is getting good-to-great starting pitching about 80 percent of the time this season, which has helped keep them out of the NL cellar. It is the offense that has cost them winnable games and there has been no bigger culprit than Arenado’s empty at-bats from the cleanup spot.

Of course, the good news for Rockies fans is that his resume and ability suggest this won’t last. For the Colorado Rockies, and for Arenado himself, it needs to end as soon as possible.

In a way, he may be illustrating something he was getting at in his offseason comments of frustration. If he was on the Dodgers or Yankees, there would be other superstars around to mitigate this stretch and take the pressure off to give him time to literally get back into the swing of things.

But if he can’t get it going, he loses leverage to make demands against the GM. It’s hard to insist others pick up the slack when you’re leaving so much.

Drew Creasman
Author

Drew E. Creasman was born in Grand Junction, Colorado and currently resides in Boulder, CO. He is a full time Rockies beat writer managing editor of BSN Rockies and a member of the Baseball Writer's Association of America. Follow Drew on Twitter - @DrewCreasman 

>
X