No. 2: Nolan Arenado
Has the shine worn off yet? Or are you still like me and still in love with the fact that Nolan Arenado is the St. Louis Cardinals’ third baseman. In his first season with the club, Arenado drove in 105 runs, the first Redbird to do that since Matt Holliday in 2012. Even still, the third baseman’s season was a step down from what he had shown at the plate during most of his years in Colorado, at least from an OPS standpoint.
Trading his former home ballpark of Coors Field for the pitcher-friendly confines of Busch Stadium, Arenado’s .807 OPS was his lowest in a full season since his first season in 2013. Where Arenado played his home games definitely had an impact, as the 3rd baseman’s home/road OPS split was .722/.885. Arenado is still Nolan Arenado, but he didn’t walk or hit to all fields as much in 2021 either.
Batting average and on-base percentage are the two biggest sources of Arenado’s drop in OPS, but the reassuring thing is that nobody was more upset with Arenado’s down year than he was. In a conversation with MLB.com’s John Denton, Arenado said of his 2021 performance, “To be honest, it did bother me.” Continuing, “I thought last year was a good season, and I was very proud of some of the things that I accomplished, but it wasn’t good enough for this team. I know some of these guys would say that I had a fine season, but in my heart I didn’t feel like I did nearly enough.”
Moving out of Colorado for the first time in his career and into a new stadium in a new city can add a lot of pressure. Fans saw a superstar come here and initially have a down year as recently as with Paul Goldschmidt. After his first season, it was clear he got more comfortable and his performance backs that up.
As arguably the Cardinals’ best hitter, it’s exciting to think about what an even better year from Arenado could do for the team’s success. If things go the opposite way, however, the team’s heart of the lineup will look a lot less daunting.