Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado: Who’s the NL’s better third baseman?

After Anthony Rendon’s substantial improvement this year, Nolan Arenado might not automatically be the NL’s best third baseman

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The National League has two supreme third baseman with Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon. So much so, the Rockies and Nationals got into a battle on Twitter over who is better. Both are in the prime of their careers, both now play for playoff teams, and both are some of the best all-around players in baseball.

Hitting the Ball

BA (2017).301.309
SLG (2017).533.586
OBP (2017).403.373
Isolated Power (2017).232.277

Arenado has more power and has throughout his career. This season, his slugging percentage and isolated power are 53 and 45 points better than Rendon’s. In 2016, Arenado hit for a slugging percentage of .570 and isolated power of .275, while Rendon only hit .450 and .180, respectively. Arenado hit 37 home runs this season, while Rendon only hit 25. This difference might be partially due to Arenado hitting in the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field, but he also produced better power numbers on the road than Rendon.

Road- SLG (2017).490.531
Road- isolated Power (2017).204.248
Road- Home Runs (2017)1118

Arenado also appears to have a slightly higher batting average, an area in which he has also been marginally better throughout his career, although the gap is closing. Arenado hit eight points better than Rendon in 2017. In 2016, Arenado hit .293 while Rendon hit .270. But this time, he might not be better than Rendon. If we remove the factor of the home park, Rendon is slightly better.  

Road- BA (2017).286.283

So Rendon might be a slightly better at getting hits, but the difference might be marginal, if at all. But regarding getting on base, Rendon is significantly better, due to his better plate discipline and patience.

BB % (2017)13.9 %9.1 %
K % (2017)13.6 %15.6 %
Swing % pitches outside K-zone (2017)21.0 %32.0 %
Swing % pitches inside K-zone (2017)63.0 %68.1 %
Swing % pitches overall40.0 %48.1 %

Rendon swings less frequently, so he might let more hittable pitches go by him. However, he also swings less frequently at pitches he judges he cannot hit.

All of these numbers lead us to this final question: who is more effective at producing runs for his team? Well:

Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) (2017).394.395
Weighted Runs Created (wRC+) (2017)142122

Essentially, both of them are productive but with all things held equal Rendon is better at helping the Nationals score runs.  

Fielding the Hot Corner

Even with all their contributions offensively, they also play excellent defense. Whether it is making magnificent diving stops:



Or majestic barehanded plays: 




They never seize to impress. Both of them can make plays that very few players would even think about making while making plays such as those barehanded tosses and diving stops seem routine. But a look at the stats shows a puzzling story.  

Double Play Runs (DPR) above average (2017)0.11.6
Range Runs (RngR) above average (2017)9.41.2
Error Runs (ErrR) above average(2017)4.13.9
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR)(2017)13.66.7


With DRS, Rendon is two times better at fielding third base than Arenado is. But if we use defensive runs saved:

Double Play Runs Saved (rGDP) (2017)01
Good Fielding Plays  Runs Saved (rGFP) above average (2017)03
Plus/Minus Runs Saved (rPM) above average (2017)617
Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) above average (2017)720

Arenado appears to be almost three times better at fielding third base than Rendon is. More notably, both have different conclusions about their range. RngR shows that Rendon has a significantly better range than Arenado, but rPM shows that Arenado has substantially better range than Rendon.

Rendon and Arenado have done something unusual in that they are both so good, even statistics cannot measure how good they field their position. And there is no way to determine which plays each of them can and cannot make since both of them have made every sort of play imaginable,
and some unimaginable plays too.

With all things considered, both Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado are exceptional players. Rendon, however, has proven this season to be a slightly better hitter and equal fielder to Arenado. For now, Rendon takes the crown as the National League’s best third baseman.