Nolan Arenado is cruising on a highway towards Cooperstown.
Eight consecutive golden gloves to start his career, five All-Star Games, three times the leader of the National League home run… the hall of fame is piling up. And he won’t turn 30 until April.
Third baseman’s only major roadblock? Coors Field, the tarnish on the reputation of any Rockies player who sets dazzling numbers in the Mile High City, but more like a mortal strikes the road.
However, Arenado could have the chance to prove himself to another team if Colorado trades him in off-season in an attempt to salvage a massive contract. This raises a number of important questions. How good would Arenado be if he stopped calling Coors Field home? If a team took over Arenado’s huge contract ($ 199 million left over six years), would it be worth the investment?
Not to worry, said Matt Holliday, the seven-time all-star outfielder who proved there is life after LoDo.
“Nolan is going to hit wherever he plays, I have no doubt about that,” said Holliday, who has become Arenado’s friend, mentor and occasional training partner.
The hot, but baseless rumor early in this off-season is that the Rockies will ship Arenado to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. Should that happen, Holliday thinks Arenado would do just fine.
“Look, Nolan will hit between .285 and .300 – a little higher in a good year, a little lower in a bad year – no matter where he plays,” Holliday said. “I would say he will hit between 28 and 40 home runs, depending on his injuries and how steady he is that season.”
For the record, Arenado’s slash in Dodger Stadium is .251 / .312 / .473 with a .785 OPS and 16 home runs in 266 at bats.
Holliday’s career is a great example of what can happen when a talented hitter leaves Colorado. When Holliday played in the Rockies from 2004-2008, his home OPS was an astronomical 1.068 and he hit .319. In his more than seven seasons with St. Louis (2009-2016), Holliday’s OPS at Busch Stadium was a solid .985, hitting .296.
Holliday was not intimidated by the thought of producing outside of Coors Field. But he did say, “There was a safety net in the knowledge that you would play half of your games at Coors Field.”
“Even when I had a tough road trip, I always felt good about coming home,” said Holliday. “I was confident that I could get back on track. But I think almost everyone feels and hits better in their home park. “
Holliday also noted that Coors Field is not hitter-friendly just because the ball carries so well there, or because of the spacious outfield that drops balls for hits, but because players see the ball so well there.
“The hitting background is very good and the lights are good… it’s just a comfortable place to hit,” he said. “Players will tell you that the visuals are different ant balls. At (Chicago’s) Wrigley Field, it feels like the pitcher is on top of you, so I’ve never felt more comfortable there.
“But the point is, Nolan is a good hitter and he will make adjustments, because that’s what good hitters do.”
No recent player has done more to erase the mile-high stigma than former Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu. After leaving Colorado and signing a two-year, $ 24 million free-agent deal with the Yankees ahead of the 2019 season, LeMahieu admits he felt Coors’s weight, but said it didn’t bother him.
“I was thrilled to prove that I could hit outside of Coors Field,” he said. “A lot of guys who have been successful there probably feel the same way.”
LeMahieu, who is now a free agent, has certainly proven himself with the Yankees. In two seasons in New York, he posted a .922 OPS, significantly better than the .760 OPS he posted during his seven seasons in Colorado. He was arguably the MVP of the Yankees for the past two seasons, becoming the only hitter in the modern era to win batting titles in both the National (.348 with the Rockies in 2016) and the American League (.364 with the Yankees in 50 games ). in 2020).
The battle against LeMahieu was his significant split off the home road during his time with the Rockies. For example, in 2018, he cut .317 / .360 / .433 at home, but only .229 / .277 / .422. Oddly, LeMahieu launched 11 home runs on the road versus just four at Coors Field.
In 2019, however, LeMahieu thrived at home and on the go. His line at Yankee Stadium was .338 / .392 / .585 with 19 homers vs. .318 / .359 / .459 with seven homers on the way. LeMahieu loves hitting the ball the other way, so there’s no doubt that the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium has boosted his home run totals.
Arenado pulls almost all of his home runs to the left, which works well at Coors Field. But he hits a lot of singles and doubles to right-center, and that skill would translate if he hooked up with another team.
Still, there’s no question that Arenado’s career splits are quite dramatic: .322 / .376 / .609 with 136 homers at Coors Field vs. .263 / .322 / .471 and 99 homers on the road. But again, Arenado’s .827 road OPS over the past five seasons is almost equal to that of 2020 AL MVP José Abreu, who posted a .838 road OPS in his past five seasons.
“People talk about Coors Field as if it’s totally different from everywhere else,” Holliday said. ‘Yeah, it’s a great place to hit, hands down. But see, there are a lot of parks for good hitters now, and it’s just not true that a player like Nolan is a “product of Coors Field” without a quote. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a great hitter just because you were a great hitter at Coors Field. “