Critical situations? Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado says he’s “comfortable” in them

“I feel comfortable,” said Arenado, after delivering the walk-off hit in his team’s 5-4 over the New York Mets on Wednesday. “As comfortable as you can be in those moments.”

Nolan Arenado recorded his second walk-off hit of the season Wednesday. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)
Nolan Arenado recorded his second walk-off hit of the season Wednesday. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)
Nolan Arenado recorded his second walk-off hit of the season Wednesday. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)

The word Nolan Arenado uses to describe coming up to bat in critical situations is one you or I might use to describe sitting in a squishy chair.

“I feel comfortable,” said Arenado, after delivering the walk-off hit in his team’s 5-4 over the New York Mets on Wednesday. “As comfortable as you can be in those moments.”

The Colorado Rockies’ star third baseman stepped into the batter’s box with the game tied in the ninth inning Wednesday, and like he has so many times this season with runners in scoring position, delivered. Arenado got enough of Hansel Robles’ 95 mph fastball to drive it into the outfield for a single.

The sequence marked Arenado’s second walk-off hit in 2017 — you might remember his cycle-completing three-run HR back in June — and, remarkably, the 47th time he’s gotten a hit when the Rockies have runners in scoring position (on second or third base) this season.

No player has been better than Arenado at delivering with RISP this year. Drew Creasman of BSN Denver examined this trend back in June. The bigger the situation, the better Arenado did.

It’s been six weeks since then, and not much has changed. Here are Arenado’s slash lines (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in three different scenarios:

  • Bases empty: .265/.311/.504
  • Runners on: .376/.423/.709
  • RISP: .456/.512/.903

After his walk-off single and go-ahead three-run homer, Arenado’s batting average with RISP improved to a staggering .456. That’s pretty incredible considering he’s had 125 plate appearances under those circumstances.

“I don’t mind it. To be honest with you I want those at bats in those moments,” Arenado said. “I don’t like failing in them … I want to just do the best I can and be the one to drive the runs in.”

The numbers suggest those words aren’t just athlete-speak either. Since the start of 2015, Arenado’s batting average with RISP (.388) is 91 points higher than his overall batting average (.297). Arenado’s produced 358 RBI in that time — 58 more than Edwin Encarnacion, who is second on that list.

Arenado is on pace to lead baseball in RBI for the third-straight year. He’s got 95 right now, which comes out to 143 if you extrapolate.

Perhaps Arenado’s success hitting the ball with runners already on is his ability to stay focused without getting flustered. Arenado said afterward he tries to treat every at bat the same, whether it comes with no one on in the first inning or a couple “ducks on the pond” in the ninth.

“I just take it the same,” Arenado said. “… That’s how I’ve been able to have success in those situations. I try to approach it all the same. I try not to make it a bigger deal than it is.”

Whatever it is, he sure looks at ease up there under those circumstances. Comfortable, even.

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Christian Clark

Author: Christian Clark

Christian Clark covers sports. He's worked for outlets that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Oklahoman, Columbia Missourian and Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. He likes music and Mexican food. Lots and lots of Mexican food. Got questions? Tips? You can reach him at cclark@denverite.com.