It’s no secret that the Rockies would like to get out from the contract of their star third baseman, Nolan Arenado. Recently, the Rockies indicated they would “like to engage” the Mets on a deal for Arenado. That certainly makes sense, as the Mets likely have the ability to take Arenado’s contract and the Rockies would prefer to deal him as far away from the NL West as possible.

The Mets could use a Gold Glove third baseman. Is the contract a deal killer? Perhaps but from here on let’s focus on what type of value Arenado would provide the Mets, rather than if it’s a smart idea at this moment to trade for him. You hear people all of the time quote his road numbers, which are far inferior to the ones he puts up at Coors Field.

But are the road numbers really what he’d hit like all year if he was removed from playing half of his games in Colorado? One of the stats we like to use is OPS+, which adjusts for both league and ballpark – which makes it a good number to use to compare players from different teams or different eras. It’s easier to hit in Coors Field in 2000 than it was to hit in Dodger Stadium in 1966. OPS+ puts numbers on an equivalent basis.

In 2000, Larry Walker put up a .309/.409/.506 line for the Rockies. In 1966, Lou Johnson slashed .272/.316/.414 for the Dodgers. Those two lines were separated by 185 points of OPS but once you account for the offensive environment of both the league and the park, those two seasons were virtually identical. Walker posted a 110 OPS+ while Johnson checked in with a 109.

Let’s check on Rockies hitters from when when they installed the humidor in 2002 up through 2020. We’ll focus on ones who played 650 PA both in Coors Field and with another park or parks as their home and compare how they did both as Rockies and elsewhere. Finally, we’ll also include their ages for both splits. Here are the numbers:

Player Rockiess PA Rockies OPS+ Rockies Age Other PA Other OPS+ Other Age
Matt Holliday 3033 131 24-28 5013 133 29-38
Michael Cuddyer 1139 126 33-35 4555 111 22-32
Corey Dickerson 925 125 24-26 2199 115 27-31
Troy Tulowitzki 4415 123 21-30 1000 96 30-34
Justin Morneau 732 121 33-34 5442 121 22-32
Jay Payton 875 117 29-30 1247 91 25-29
Seth Smith 1449 109 24-28 2635 114 29-34
Preston Wilson 1179 102 28-30 2372 109 23-27
Dexter Fowler 2635 101 22-27 3246 108 28-34
Mark Reynolds 1034 102 32-33 4812 104 23-31
Chris Iannetta 1733 99 23-28 1996 101 29-34
Nick Hundley 706 97 31-32 1986 91 24-30
DJ LeMahieu 3737 93 23-29 871 145 30-31
Charles Johnson 776 89 31-32 3555 100 22-30
Ian Desmond 1474 82 31-33 4470 100 23-30
Jamey Carroll 802 82 32-33 2470 88 34-39
Gerardo Parra 1249 80 29-31 3633 97 22-28
Royce Clayton 652 80 34 6221 79 21-33
Clint Barmes 2509 75 24-31 1163 66 33-36
Yorvit Torrealba 1383 74 27-30 1196 81 31-34
Eric Young Jr. 855 72 24-28 1071 71 28-33
Willy Taveras 946 70 25-26 1224 74 22-24
Aaron Miles 913 69 27-28 2130 77 29-34
Juan Uribe 1244 71 22-24 5471 91 25-37

We have 24 hitters in our sample and 16 of those put up OPS+ numbers within 10 points in their years away from Coors as they did while playing their home games in Colorado. Additionally, five of the eight hitters who were more than 10 points of OPS+ away did better when they called someplace else besides Coors home.

In his eight years with the Rockies, Arenado has a 120 OPS+ in 4,558 PA. Let’s focus on the seven hitters with at least 1,000 PA with the Rockies and an OPS+ mark of at least 100 and compare and contrast their results with Coors as their home field and without.

Holliday – Like Arenado if he were to be traded, Holliday started out with the Rockies and played elsewhere for the back half of his career.. He actually put up a slightly better OPS+ after the Rockies dealt him. In his last season in Colorado, Holliday had an OPS 105 points higher at home. His first year with a different home park saw him enjoy a 150-point higher home than road OPS.

Cuddyer – A stalwart in Minnesota for the first 11 years of his career, Cuddyer actually improved his production when moving to Colorado, despite being on the wrong end of 30 at the time. In his last year with the Twins, Cuddyer had a 45-point home OPS advantage. In his first year as a Rockie, Cuddyer had a 114-point home edge.

Tulowitzki – One of the top offensive shortstops of his era, Tulowitzki was done in by injuries. In five years after leaving Colorado, he was only able to amass 1,000 PA. His reduced output has as much – if not more – to do with health than with his home park.

Smith – Overall he was slightly better after leaving Colorado. In his last year as a Rockie, Smith had a 34-point edge in home OPS. In his first year after leaving Coors, he had a 22-point road edge.

Wilson – His pre-Rockies career included 22 games with the Mets. That, combined with his years with the Marlins, was more productive than what he did in Colorado. In his last season with the Marlins, Wilson had a 63-point home OPS edge. His first with the Rockies produced a 165-point home edge.

Fowler – Another player like Holliday and Smith to start his career with the Rockies and produce equal or better once he left. In his last year in Colorado, Fowler had a 196-point home OPS edge. His first year in Houston, he had a 103-point home edge.

Reynolds – He played for six different teams before joining the Rockies and his production was nearly identical at Coors as it was previously. In his last season before joining Colorado, he had a 66-point road edge in OPS. His first year in Coors, Reynolds enjoyed a 148-point home edge.

Four of our seven highlighted players started off with the Rockies in Coors before finishing their careers elsewhere. Three of those four produced at an equal or better clip once they left Colorado and the one who didn’t had major injury issues. Regardless of if they started their career with the Rockies or not, all seven of these players had a major OPS edge in Coors Field. That had no impact on what they were able to do when they weren’t playing in Colorado. There’s a Coors Field Hangover effect in place, where it’s hard on hitters to adjust in-season to playing on the road. But that effect does not follow the players to other parks, with some actually performing better in road parks.

For the most part, no player performs the same year-in, year-out, even if we build in an aging pattern for the numbers. But we see that OPS+ does a good job of accounting for the difference in parks and leagues. If it didn’t, we’d expect to see more random results than we actually do from our 24-player sample.

When looking at Arenado, you’re missing the boat if you just look at his raw HR or OPS totals. You’ll get a much better idea of who he is as a hitter by looking at his OPS+. Arenado had a poor year at the plate in 2020 so fans and teams will have to decide if this is the beginning of a decline or merely a Covid-year blip.

From 2015-2019, Arenado had a 129 OPS+. In the same time frame, Michael Conforto had a 125 OPS+. If we include 2020, Conforto jumps ahead by a 128-127 mark. Essentially, if the Mets traded for Arenado, the expectation should be they’re adding a hitter equivalent to Conforto to the team, assuming 2020 was not a sign of things to come for Arenado.

Of course, offense is only part of the equation for Arenado, who has eight Gold Glove Awards to his credit. Defense is a big reason why Arenado has a 27.8 fWAR since 2015 while Conforto checks in with a 16.0 mark in the same time period. It’s not the only reason – Arenado has a 1,076-PA edge since 2015.

Most people view Arenado’s contract as prohibitive. There’s no way he’d get that much money if he was a free agent right now. His deal was for 8/$260 with an opt out after the 2021 season. Some people consider that he should waive the opt-out clause before the Mets acquire him. But since he’s owed $164 million for 2022-2026, maybe that’s not really necessary.

Trading for Arenado would give the Mets a two-way player at third base, improving both their offense and defense at the position. But it’s an awful lot of money and there’s concern about his 2020 numbers. There are reasons to be wary of trading for him. But one thing that shouldn’t be a concern is that he hits better in Coors than he does in road parks. As multiple players before him have proven, properly-adjusted hitting numbers (OPS+) don’t fall apart once a player leaves Colorado.

24 comments on “On Nolan Arenado and the value of away splits for Rockies hitters

  • NMK

    If the Mets are seriously considering an Arenado trade, it must include either a low return and/or significant salary relief. If that happens, maybe it’s worth taking on the risk. He’s not that old, just been around for so long it feels like he is.

  • TJ

    Brian,
    Excellent article. I have been ho hum on targeting Arenado, primarily due to the combination of high payroll commitment and acquisition cost in player assets. But, as you note, this guy is really good and still has prime years. He would impact the defense dramatically and help balance the line up, maybe not as much as Springer, but he is a RH bat that needs to be dealt with.

    Again, Alderson’s stance sounds excellent to me. As fans we are hungry for additions given our sugar daddy, but the Mets are in a power seat here. The can be legit players for Arenado, Lindor, Darvish, maybe even Snell, as well as Springer, Bauer, and Odorizzi. I am averse to parting with prospect talent, but the market for the teams wanting to salary dump could be lean, which could drive the acquisition cost into the doable.

    I think I posted yesterday, but to get Arenado the Mets need salary relieve, a deferral or elimination of the opt out, and a reasonable acquisition cost. Dom Smith and McNeil are off limits to me. I start with JD Davis plus, and $50 million is salary relieve…if that is Cano, yahoo! The plus would be a non top 10 prospect, maybe a low level intriguing guy with a big arm or bat. If that is a no go, fine, see you later, we’ll go back to shopping in the premium aisle.

    • Brian Joura

      The only way Arenado uses that opt out is if he hates where he’s playing. He’s not making that much on a new deal.

    • Bob P

      I pretty much agree with you TJ. The down year in 2020 worries me a little since there would be 5 more years but if we were taking Davis, Cano and a mid tier prospect I might be inclined to do that. I don’t want to see Cano in a Mets uniform again even if it means releasing him and eating his salary. If we could use it for something productive, which would be offsetting part of Arenado’s contract for a couple of years, that helps.

      • Myles

        I think a trade package of JD Davis, Cano & Robert Gsellman for Arenado if the Rockies want a minor leaguer they need to thrown in another player.

  • JimO

    Weren’t there some shoulder injury issues last year with Arenado?

  • texmet

    Thank you for that Brian. That was a very detailed and I’m sure very labor intensive piece of work.
    That is one of the first analytic approaches I have seen applied to a baseball issue or proposition attempting to suggest future performance by other player comparisons.
    Just to see if I could agree to the approach, I went to Baseball Reference Splits and looked up Arenado’s “dumb” OPS stats at the NL East ballparks compared to his 985 OPS at Coors. This is what it shows: Citi 684 OPS, Philly Citizens OPS 576, Marlins OPS 538,Nats 962, Braves Suntrust 702. This is comparing Arenado to Arenado. Obviously the majority of his games as a Met would be at these parks.
    Based on this I can’t accept your proposition, but I think your approach is what baseball is coming to .I wouldn’t take him unless they gave money, took Cano and paid what’s owed to Bonilla.

    • Bob P

      Those are interesting points, but I have to think that the lower OPS numbers at the NL east stadiums may have more to do with the pitching of those teams. For the past 5 years or so the Mets and Nats have had strong pitching. That likely has more to do with it than the park itself.

      • texmet

        Well, his OPS at Nationals Park is 962!
        His OPS at other NL East stadiums are disturbingly low.
        My point is, stats are not necessarily better because they are new or sabermetric .I think
        they miss the human element. That’s what makes the game great, but its diminishing in importance. If I said, Arenado is not an East Coast guy and here are my stats to prove it,
        would that be considered correct?

    • Brian Joura

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Pretty much every projection and forecast system, including PECOTA and ZiPS, uses player comparisons to predict future performance.

      My intent is not to be harsh but I need to be direct here. It’s not up to you in any serious way to “agree” with the approach. The league and park adjustments to OPS are not in the realm of the subjective.

      When you say that you “can’t accept” this, it’s like you’re saying you can’t accept gravity.

      • texmet

        Sorry I hit a nerve there, Brian.
        My point was that your approach to get to the conclusion :”But one thing that shouldn’t be a concern is that he hits better in Coors than he does in road parks” is subjective. You didn’t attribute that to God, so I thought I would comment on the approach you made to get to that statement.
        I guess you disagree with my statistical approach. Like I said, new statistical approaches aren’t necessarily better or declared to be physical law like” gravity” as you jest. If that were true, nobody in baseball would need GM’s, just people to play around with PECOTA and ZiPS.
        Didn’t BVW say to Mets ownership and fans they shouldn’t be concerned with Cano’s prior PED use ? Look where that got him…..and us….

        • Brian Joura

          I’m glad that you’re not the type of poster who posts and then runs away.

          A nerve? No, that’s not right. It’s just that when you start a blog you hope for an informed readership and when the blog’s been going on for 11 years you’d hope that you wouldn’t have to deal with proving that the earth is round.

          There are things on which reasonable people can disagree. And those reasonable disagreements are the things that make running a blog worthwhile.

          This is not one of those things.

          • texmet

            Wow I did hit a nerve.
            I’m glad you have provided this blog. I have enjoyed it .And that’s what I use it for! (enjoyment)
            I’m not sure which proposition you suggest is not subject to reasonable disagreement? I hope its not that you are right and Arenado is assured to hit after traded to the Mets as you suggest in your piece. If so, you’ve wasted 11 years.
            Anyway, I’m a believer in the saying popularized by Mark Twain which I’ll paraphrase.
            There are 3 types of lies:
            Lies; Dam Lies and Statistics

            • Brian Joura

              I have two kids. I have told them over and over and over again to put stuff in the laundry basket and not on the floor. I’m sick of telling them. And that’s how I feel about having to “defend” statistics that have been around for decades and have been created and tested by people twice as smart as you and me combined. I’m exhausted. Do I really have to say this … for the millionth time?!?!

              If you really feel that way about statistics – then this is absolutely not the right forum for you. Don’t waste either my time or yours.

              • texmet

                Wow – you didn’t read my comment very well. I used a stats approach. You can’t point to what proposition you are talking about as you generally just try to hide behind the’ law of gravity ‘and the earth is round.’ Those are considered laws not theories. Statistical approach always suggest that it is in the realm of probability and the accuracy has an identifiable margin of error.

                You apparently run this blog to prove you are right and anybody who says you are not you run off. I suggest you delete the comment portion of your blog so you don’t feel threatened, This reminds me of conversations I had with my ex.

                Anyway parting thought that’s kinda natural law:
                Give your ego a day off sometimes ,otherwise your head will get so big it might explode and the dribble that comes out is not impressive

                • Brian Joura

                  I read you comment again.

                  Perhaps I should have expressed appreciation that you enjoyed this forum. Perhaps I should have directed you to item #1 of our Comment Policy. “The expectation is that everyone knows the sites Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. If you’re not familiar with those sites, it’s up to you to catch up – not anyone here to explain things that have been around for a decade or more.”

                  I run this site to challenge myself and learn more about both the Mets and the game itself. I’ve learned stuff in the comments section from people like Metsense and Name and Chris F. and others. I’m open to learning things from people who have smart things to say. Unfortunately, not everyone fits that particular bill. So, the question becomes: Do you let a sub section of fans dictate how you approach things? And for me, the answer is no. I get frustrated with people who think I’m a public utility and I exist to serve them. Most times I just ignore those people. I’ll try to be better at ignoring in the future.

  • José

    Arenado has won GGs every year (total 8) he’s been in the bigs. The consensus (I’ve read) is that his defense is currently peerless except for Matt Chapman. As Brian indicates above, his OPS+ likens him to a RHd Conforto, which is a nice addition.

    The question then becomes, how important, to a championship team, is having the undisputed best fielding 3B in the league?

    • Brian Joura

      The idea is to collect as many good players as you can. At no point are you trying to have “the undisputed best” at anything.

  • Mike W

    So, if we get Arenado, does that mean we dont sign Springer? If Arenado could play center field or pitch, he would be worth it. Or, we could give up nothing, and pay half for Lemahieu.

  • Name

    My assumption before I read this was that OPS+ didn’t do enough to reduce the weight of Coors Field effect but I think this shows that my assumption was wrong and OPS+ is good to use even for Rockies players.

    I just wanted to list out Arenado’s OPS rank among qualified players by year (.5s if there are ties)
    2019 : 32.5
    2018: 20.5
    2017: 31.5
    2016: 27
    2015: 35.5

    Consistent? Yes
    Middle of the order? Yes
    Elite? No

  • TexasGusCC

    Brian, great work here and it was quite a bit. As I said yesterday, I can’t take the Rockies problem and give them prospects. Sorry. I would pay the player but I wouldn’t part with prospects.

    As for Arenado, I would wait until after I see what’s happening with Springer and Bauer. Or, Springer and two second tier pitchers. The Mets can add two big names, but I don’t know about more than that. The Mets shouldn’t ask for any salary relief to keep the trade cost at minimum. Maybe the Rockies should throw in something for taking the whole salary?

    I would take a top player at any position but Arenado would be after Lindor and Bryant if I were interested in shopping for a top player. What makes Arenado top is the glove plus the bat minus the age, so I think he’s worth the money, but their isn’t any salary savings as Arenado is pretty much top dollar.

    • TexasGusCC

      *there isn’t any salary savings…

    • TexasGusCC

      Sorry, that was misleading.

      I think he’s worth the money today, but I can’t commit until his age 36 season at that rate. There isn’t any surplus value now, he will be an anchor later, and I’m trading prospects for him? Heck no. It would have to be a good deal and like I said, only after the other avenues have been travelled would it even be considered. I would even ask for something more, like John Gray, but that’s off the top of my head.

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