MLB Network robot says Nolan Arenado isn’t a top-5 third baseman

Sep 11, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) reacts after committing a fielding error against the Seattle Mariners during the second inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

A third consecutive Gold Glove award. A Silver Slugger award. An All-Star Game appearance. The MLB RBI crown. A tie for the lead in NL home runs. And the September NL Player of the Month.

Those are Nolan Arenado‘s accolades accumulated in the last 365 days.

Yet according to “‘The Shredder’ — an algorithm based on player performance that accounts for both offense and defense, which was put together by MLB Network’s research department ‘without emotion or bias,’ those accomplishments make Arenado only the No. 6 third baseman in baseball at present.

Not not the No. 6 player in MLB. Not the No. 6 player in the National League. Not the No. 6 infielder in the game. That’s No. 6 just among third basemen.

“The Shredder” issued its findings on Thursday, saying that five third basemen rate better than Arenado using “an objective methodology to rank players at each position, based on their past track records as well as their future projections.”

Perhaps those of us here in Colorado are emotional, biased and perhaps a little subjective in this matter, but it’s hard to believe that Arenado ranks behind players like Adrian Beltre and Justin Turner. Yet there he is. MLB Network’s full list looks like this:

1. Josh Donaldson
2. Kris Bryant
3. Adrian Beltre
4. Manny Machado
5. Justin Turner
6. Nolan Arenado
7. Jung Ho Kang
8. Matt Carpenter
9. Kyle Seager
10. Todd Frazier

The network admits that Bryant’s ranking is much more based on “future projections” while Beltre’s is more on “past track records” (he finished fist on this list the past two years), but then gave Machado a higher ranking because he “put the prospect of superstardom back on track,” according to Brian Kenny.

Apparently, a steady rise, as Arenado has shown, is not as valuable as lightening in a bottle as Machado found or long-lasting name recognition that Beltre carries.

In 2015, Beltre and Arenado had the same batting average (.287), while Arenado registered 47 more RBIs and 24 more home runs. Defensively, Arenado’s fielding percentage was a full 10 points higher and his range factor (the best in baseball at the position at 3.12) was 50 points higher.

Turner is a surprise in these ranking, as he played only 126 games last season, less than 100 of them at third base. According to the algorithm, “Although he is not an everyday player yet with the Dodgers, Turner does rank first in average (.314), on-base percentage (.384) and WRC+ (148) among all third baseman with at least 700 plate appearances during the past two seasons.”

Those of us in Denver aren’t alone in thinking that Arenado’s position on this list is laughable.

Bill James, a senior advisor for baseball operations for the Red Sox told MLB.com, “The Shredder would be laughed out of the press box — if it were not a robot — for putting Turner ahead of Arenado.”

We feel the same way (and the same for Beltre, Bryant and Machado).

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