Arenado's power/patience combo unmatched

Arenado's power/patience combo unmatched

NEW YORK -- Approaching the All-Star break, Nolan Arenado's offensive pace in 2016 is, somehow, even slightly better than it was a year ago, when he finished the '15 campaign as the National League leader with 42 home runs and the Major League leader with 130 RBIs.

In the Rockies' 8-4 win over the Yankees on Tuesday, the third baseman retook the MLB lead in homers with his 21st. His 3-for-4, three-RBI game brought his batting average to .295 and his RBI total to an NL-best 60. He's also having the best defensive season of any third baseman, according to Ultimate Zone Rating.

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"He's a model of consistency," manager Walt Weiss said. "He plays at a high level virtually every day on both sides of the ball, and you look up and he's got numbers like he has."

One of the most impressive aspects of this year's Arenado, though, is that the 25-year-old has maintained his power while cutting down his strikeouts.

Entering play Wednesday, Arenado had struck out just 34 times in 302 plate appearances. At that rate, he'd strike out under 80 times in 2016. (In 2015, Arenado struck out 110 times, a fine mark for a 40-home-run hitter in today's strikeout-heavy game, but well off his current pace.)

Three other hitters have 20 homers this season -- Mark Trumbo, Todd Frazier and Adam Duvall -- and Arenado's striking out half as much. Trumbo, Frazier and Duvall strike out, on average, more than 25 percent of the time; Arenado's strikeout rate is 11.3 percent. Of the 33 Major League hitters with 15-plus homers, Arenado has the most long balls and fewest strikeouts.

"I feel like I've been laying off close pitches, understanding that I might not get too many pitches to hit some games and some pitchers might not give me too many strikes," Arenado said.

Arenado has cut his strikeout rate by more than five percent from 2015, while nearly doubling his walk rate from five to 10 percent. With 30 walks, he has only four fewer walks than strikeouts. He's chasing less and making more contact -- about a five-percent drop in chase rate, per FanGraphs, with a five-percent rise in contact and correspondingly fewer whiffs.

"Last year, obviously, was a good year, but I was really aggressive last year," Arenado said. "I actually need to get back to that in a way -- but aggressive in the zone."

Arenado has, in fact, swung at fewer pitches within the strike zone -- 65.8 percent of them, compared to 74.2 percent a year ago. But his selectivity might also be helping him keep up top-level production despite being largely a pull hitter. Arenado has waited for the pitch he can drive to the pull field, swinging mostly at pitches middle-in and laying off pitches down and away.

And after Tuesday's game -- when he swung at two first pitches and put the second pitch in play twice -- he said he was feeling better about jumping on pitches.

"Lately I've been a little tentative up there. Obviously, I've been driving in runs, but I know that I'll get back to being aggressive and ready to hit from the first pitch on, because that might be the only pitch I get," Arenado said. "And [Tuesday] I was ready to hit."

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.