When talking about the individual success of the Brewers players in 2020, not many position players really come to mind right away. But don’t be fooled, Orlando Arcia quietly had one of his best seasons in a Brewers uniform.
Arcia turned in a very respectable year, granting him another year in Milwaukee. Some aren’t convinced though when it comes to the productivity of the 26 year old. But when you compare him to others around the league at his position, you might be surprised. Let’s start with the other shortstops in the NL Central.
How Arcia Stacks Up In The NL Central
Orlando Arcia had the highest batting average out of all starting shortstops in the division (Javier Baez CHC .203, Paul DeJong STL .250 , Erik Gonzalez PIT .227 , Freddy Galvis CIN .220). To boot, his .260 average was the second highest of his career only behind the 2017 when he hit .277.
Arcia’s average ranked 13th in the majors amongst shortstops in 2020 (min. 180 PAs), and it was his best finish in MLB behind that 2017 campaign where he finished 7th. Arcia had as many hits as “El Mago” in almost 50 less at-bats.
Go across the board in NL Central statistics among shortstops and Arcia is either leading the pack or right in the middle of basically all of them. He had the third-most home runs, the second least amount of strikeouts and lowest strikeout percentage, the second most doubles, second highest average exit velocity and highest fielding percentage among NL Central starting shortstops.
Speaking of fielding percentage, was his defense as good as we’ve seen in the past? Yes, if not better. He had the seventh highest fielding percentage in the MLB at 0.983 and the best personally in his career. He only had three errors in 439 innings and was in the top half of the league in double plays and putouts.
While his flashy plays were down a bit last year, he did start about two feet closer to the plate, giving him less of a chance on some balls hit that other shortstops that start back farther might get.
Going back to hitting, there were some areas that he did struggle with, seemingly similar to everyone else that suited up for Craig Counsell. Arcia was in the 32nd percentile in barrel percentage, the 30th percentile in walk percentage (even though Brewers fans have come to expect him being a free swinger) and defensively, he was in the 20th percentile in outs above average which is a range-based metric of skill that shows how many outs a player has saved over his peers.
So we’ve seen what departments he struggled in, but where did he succeed?
First of all, he put the bat on the ball a ton. He was in the 79th percentile in strikeout percentage at 16.9%, the lowest of his career. Next, he had an xBA (expected batting average) that ranked in the 81st percentile. xBA is a measurement that determines the likelihood that a batted ball will become a hit so he was adept at finding holes in the defense and spraying balls in that direction.
Lastly, he was in the top half of MLB in xwOBA, a formula using exit velocity, launch angle and, on certain types of batted balls, sprint speed. He finished in the 66th percentile in that category. In all of those specific and advanced batting statistic categories, Arcia saw his numbers go up, besides whiff rate, strikeout rate and walk percentage. These are great signs for him and the organization going forward.
He had a higher slugging percentage than Carlos Correa, fewer strikeouts than Trea Turner, more stolen bases than Corey Seager, and a higher fielding percentage than Javier Baez. And while these categories may be cherry picked, it’s still an indication of how he stacks up in certain areas against some of the game’s best at the shortstop position. Next he’s going to have to put it all together to take his game to the next level.
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He’s already amongst the best in the NL Central at his position, in 2021 he’ll look to change that title to amongst the best in the majors…and I, for one, think he can do just that.