More than AreNada
Nolan Arenado (STL): 3-5, 3 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI.
What a mess the Cardinals are this season. I doubted that I would ever have to say those words in my life but here we are half way through the season and the Cards are sitting at the bottom of the worst division in the National League. There were plenty of odd management issues like the handling of Tyler O’Neill and Willson Contreras on top of the losing. But it also seemed like one of their best players could not figure out how to hit. But that seemed to resolve itself in mid-May.
Nolan Arenado started off the season with a .233/.285/.336 slash through May 10th, hitting only three homers in 158 plate appearances. On May 12th he started a home run streak where he hit homers in five straight games and added a sixth on game seven. Since May 12th, he has been the Nolan we all expected. He is slashing .320/.360/.634 with a 163 wRC+, 13 dingers, 38 RBI, and a 17% K rate in 189 plate appearances. He has practically reclaimed his season line and is well on pace to put up comparable counting stats to his excellent 2022.
What changed? First, he wasn’t hitting the ball hard at all. His 31.6% HardHit rate in the first month and a half would have been his lowest rate in his career. His 49.3% HardHit rate since has brought up his season HardHit rate so much so that he’s on pace to have his highest of his career. Second, he’s pulling fly balls again. He had a 43% Ground Ball rate to start the season but that has transformed with a 50% Fly Ball rate since May 12th. Hard hit balls pulled in the air are powering his success.
Nolan is no doubt fully back and better than he may have ever been.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Wednesday
Yainer Diaz (HOU): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Diaz came into the season as one of the top prospects in the Astros system looking to get a decent amount of playing time at catcher in his first full season. So far he has 170 plate appearances and has hit decently with a 101 wRC+ and now 10 home runs on the year. Once he started getting more consistent playing time at the end of May, he settled in to a .291/.301/.609 slash line with a 145 wRC+ (all since May 28th). He ripped the two home runs both over 105 mph in his first two at bats of the game.
Sean Murphy (ATL): 4-5, 2B, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.
Murphy ripped the cover off the ball yesterday with three hits over 109 mph. He crushed a homer in the third 109 mph for 387 feet. He then added a 1o9 mph double and finished the game with a 114.7 mph single in the ninth. Murphy has the highest HardHit rate of his career with 48.8% and coupled with a solid Line Drive rate, he’s produced a .305/.397/.580 slash with a 160 wRC+.
Jordan Diaz (OAK): 3-5, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI.
Another young Diaz had a solid game in his third game back after being called back up to the bigs on Friday. He ripped a 110 mph line out but followed up in his next at bat with a 100 mph homer. This 22 year old has a 48% HardHit rate on the year in his 82 plate appearances. We’ll see what he can do if he sticks around a bit longer.
Elly De La Cruz (CIN): 3-6, 2 2B, HR, 2 R, RBI, SB.
Another combo meal for De La Cruz, only his second of the season since he now has just four homers, but he has 11 steals on the year. He has taken the Nats to task with eight hits in this series against them. Every single ball in play he had yesterday was over 101 mph; a 101 mph fly out, an annihilated 111.6 mph 455 foot homer, and finally 107 and 106 mph doubles. He’s a good ball player.
Bryan De La Cruz (MIA): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
I’m doing this just to confuse you. But he did have a solid game. Two hard hits and a hard hit ground out. He’s about to reach the amount of plate appearances from last season and he’s essentially matched his season from last year. Same wRC+, a few more walks, same K rate, four less dingers, same runs and a few more RBI with a slightly higher average. He’s been decent but may be overperforming a bit with his .35o BABIP.
Joey Votto (CIN): 3-5, HR, 2 R, RBI, BB.
Look at this guy. He must have been so antsy to get back on the field with this team finally good again and the young crew around him. He popped his fifth homer of the year and second in the last two days. He is crushing the ball with about a 50% HardHit rate but he’s striking out over 30% of the time. The .205 average is a bit spooky but he has a .182 BABIP in these 53 plate appearances. Votto could be a speculative add if you are struggling at first base.
Bryson Stott (PHI): 4-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI, SB.
Stott continues his solid season with a big multi hit night driving his batting average north of .300 for the year. He is now slashing .304/.340/.429 with 15 total stolen bases. He has limited pop and hits the ball on the ground nearly 50% of the time, but he puts the ball in play often and has decent speed to play off it. He won’t slug much but he’s going to give a solid average and an opportunity for 30 steals on the year.
Willson Contreras (STL): 3-4, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
It has been quite the up and down season for Contreras with the DH/OF mess then back to catching more often again. But he’s finally hitting more consistently after a long stretch of just five hits across 75 plate appearances. Since that stretch ended (June 13th) he has slashed .385/.458/.635 with a 200 wRC+. He has eight hits in his last three games with a double in each. The major difference I can see from his career norms to this season is he does not pull the ball as often. His HR/FB rate is down drastically most likely due to that. But at least he is on pace to set his season high in steals.
Garrett Cooper (MIA): 2-4, 2B, R, 3 RBI, BB.
Cooper ripped a couple of 99 mph hits, a double and and single, driving in three total. His HardHit rate is exactly the same as last year’s 43.3% but with a higher Fly Ball rate and HR/FB rate, Cooper is at 11 dingers on the year and should surpass his 15 from 2019. He’s turned it on since the start of June with a 141 wRC+ and six dingers in 107 plate appearances.
Brandon Lowe (TB): 2-3, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB.
I just want to say “Welcome back” to Brandon Lowe. He was out for about a month with lower back issues that he also dealt with all of last season. For that reason I am a bit concerned for his future this year as well, but for now he is playing. He found two doubles, both not hard hits, and he added a walk. He’ll have to cut his K rate hard in order to have any semblance of a successful season.
Manny Machado (SD): 2-3, HR, R, 3 RBI, 2 BB.
It’s been a while since I looked into Machado and he still only has a 100 wRC+. But he’s turned it on since June 5th. Since then he’s hit .310/.347/.534 for a 140 wRC+ with seven dingers. He’s been hitting the ball harder in that span at 45% but his Ground Ball rate is surprisingly high at 44% while not pulling the ball as often. He is turning things around a bit.
Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire | Featured Image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter and @EthanMKaplanImages on Instagram)