Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Did Gomez Get Better?

Did Carlos Gomez get better last year?

Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that he got better. His fielding certainly got better, and by the end of the year, I no longer gasped every time he had to rifle a ball into the infield. His plate appearances got better, too, or at least he didn't appear to have as many puzzling at-bats by the end of the season.
Did Carlos Gomez get better?

And there was also an uptick in power in September that was very encouraging. Gomez had 10 extra-base hits in September, reminding us that he's supposed to be a lot more than the dink-and-dunk guy that we want to mold our speedy bunt guys into. if we're luck, he has a skill set that could remind us of Ricky Henderson in a couple of years - speed, power, on-base skills....

Well, except for the on-base skills, of course. Gomez's big problem this year was pitch recognition, and it was no secret. He started hitting quite a bit more as the season ended, and I wondered if there was any evidence that he also started showing a bit more selectivity at the plate. So let's check out his monthly stats quickly.

If Gomez started laying off the plethora of low-and-away offspeed pitches that he was force fed by opposing pitchers most of the year, I'd hope to see him take more walks and striking out less. Except for a brief period in August, I'm not seeing that. He got a little better as the season went along, and he was a lot better than he was in an overmatched April, but he still wasn't good.

What is "good"? Well, the average for the American League was about two strikeouts for every one walk. At a ratio of about 5:1, Gomez ended the season more than twice as bad at plate discipline as your average major leaguer.

Which, by the way, doesn't mean he doesn't belong in the major leagues. Lots of major leaugers have a ratio like that, including Delmon Young, Vlad Guerrero and (in his youth) Torii Hunter. But it does mean that the primary thing Gomez needed to learn last year is going to be the primary thing he's going to need to learn again this year.

The question for the Twins is whether they should try teaching it in the same place as they failed to do last year, or whether Gomez might be served better by learning it someplace else. Like Rochester.


SethSpeaks said...

I think the takeaway is that Gomez is best when he strikes out five times per walk... no less and certainly no more!

Heinie Manush said...

You know, as of August 31 I was sure that Carlos should open 2009 at Rochester. What grew since then is my appreciation of just how good a center fielder he is. That, coupled with his seeming willingness to adjust his hitting approach (unlike Delmon)has changed my mind.

What we might have is an emerging superstar defensive outfielder with raw hitting tools who seems to be getting better.