5 Reasons Why Carlos Gomez Should Concern Milwaukee Brewers In 2014
Carlos Gomez Should Concern the Milwaukee Brewers
Don’t get me wrong, Carols Gomez had a phenomenal 2013 and displays all the physical tools you could want in a ballplayer. His offensive numbers were terrific, he found a swing that worked for him, and his defense continued to shine. If you’re into the idea of WAR, Gomez had the second-highest in the NL at 7.6, a touch behind the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen. All of it led to his first All-Star selection, a Gold Glove and a ninth-place finish in the MVP voting. Despite all this, there are areas for concern regarding his “true self” and what he will produce for the Milwaukee Brewers this year and beyond.
His speed draws fans in, while his enthusiasm for the game is extremely contagious and refreshing to see, especially in MLB. These make Gomez one of the most electric players in all of baseball. The question has always been if Gomez could harness that and become a quality major leaguer.
Enjoying his first full season as the undisputed starter, Gomez took advantage by setting career-highs across the board. The 28-year-old center fielder blasted 24 home runs to go with 27 doubles, 10 triples, 80 runs scored, 73 runs batted in and 40 stolen bases. His slash line numbers also jumped well above his career averages from before 2013, posting a .338 OBP and .843 OPS.
In fairness, there has been a natural progression to Gomez’s production, so these inflated statistics didn’t come out of nowhere. At the same time, seeing an OBP jump 40 points over his average and slugging percentage spike by nearly 130 points does give one some pause.
Defensively, Gomez played at an MVP level, robbing home runs, tracking down balls in the gap and throwing out his fair share of runners. In all facets, he became one of the top players in the game last season. The Brewers certainly hope the past two years are the result of a maturing athlete more comfortable with his own skill set; however, there are still concerns.
5. Falling in Love with the Home Run
Remember Willie Mays Hayes in Major League 2, the movie? He came back in his second season, bulked up and focused on being a power hitter. Gomez has more natural pop than Hayes ever did, but the mentality to swing for the fences is a trap. Typically, when a player starts to think he needs to hit home runs or that becomes his goal, the results are poor. Gomez is the type of guy who would be affected in this way.
Evidence of a potential mental block lies in his stats when batting fourth. Since the cleanup spot is seen as the all-powerful place to crush the ball, it can mess with a player’s head. In a small sample of games of all the spots other than leadoff, Gomez’s on-base, slugging and OPS numbers are the worst when hitting fourth. Gomez is prone to making a negative impact when he believes he needs to go long, or that he thinks he can hit 50 homers.
That’s not to say he should shorten up and hit the ball on the ground, but he will be in trouble if he continues taking those ferocious hacks all the time and fails to mentally adjust. Continuously falling down when you swing isn’t normally associated with being a consistent, quality hitter.
4. Lacking Baseball IQ
Physical skills and overall ability trumps everything else in baseball. At the same time, a player can undermine his tools and hurt his team by failing to use them appropriately.
On quite a few occasions, Gomez devalues his range by taking poor routes to fly balls and misplaying ones near the fence. Additionally, he has a bad habit of throwing to the wrong base, as he believes he can throw anyone out at any time. Sometimes the best play is to lob it into second base to hold the runner at first.
Speaking of base running, his blazing speed is an invaluable tool, but he needs to recognize specific situations. Trying to out-run a throw to third with two outs in an inning is foolish baseball. Gomez made the most outs at third base in the National League, and was two behind the leader for outs on all bases. There’s a balance between aggressive speed and dumb outs, and Gomez needs to find it.
3. The Luck of BABIP
Batting average of balls in play is a statistic used to determine if a player’s performance was boosted or harmed significantly by luck, defense or other random circumstances. The average BABIP in MLB ranges from .290 to .310 in most cases. A player may have a higher or lower career BABIP, but it’s fairly consistent year-to-year outside of abnormal occurrences.
Gomez’s BABIP in 2013 was a ridiculous .344, which is way above the average. That would account for the nearly 30-point spike in batting average and part of the jump in slugging. In comparing his personal BABIP in his last four seasons, Gomez had three years under .300 and just one above that mark (.313) in 2010. When seeing the fortunate amount of balls that landed safely, one has to wonder if 2013 was fueled by more luck than skill.
2. Injury Risk
Part of Gomez’s appeal is his all-out style that includes hard, head-first slides into the bases and powerful crashes into the outfield fence. It’s something fans want to see out of professional athletes, but it often comes with a price.
Despite being lightning fast, Gomez is not a small guy. At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, his speed coupled with solid body mass are a recipe for disaster. We’ve seen it the past few seasons now as he jams his shoulder into the wall, busts his collarbone while diving and damages his legs on the bases. No one wants to tell a player to ease up at all, especially when a play can be made; however, the Brewers need to stress that Gomez take things easy when appropriate. For example, up six runs in the eighth means you don't need to run through the wall.
At the rate he’s going, Gomez will see a significant dip in production and games played because his body will simply break down on him.
1. Regression to the Mean
It’s traditionally believed the age of 27 is the peak year for an offensive performer. It’s understood Gomez will most likely never reach the same numbers as last season, but the concern is how far he falls from his 28th birthday on.
Prior to last season, Gomez’s best year came with a .305 on-base percentage. While his power continued to develop to go with a .338 OBP last season, Gomez has always had major issues reaching base consistently. Keep in mind his BABIP mentioned earlier as that also helped raise his OBP significantly. Plate discipline, including the management of walks and strikeouts, tends to be a difficult trait to ever change. Gomez averages one walk every 19 plate appearances, but one strikeout every 4.3 PAs.
Furthermore, after Gomez's great start last year (an 1.106 OPS going into May), he was his usual self for 75 percent of the games. During a stretch of 112 contests from May 10 to September 24, he had a .249 average, .305 on-base percentage, .444 slugging and .749 OPS. His 41 extra-base hits kept his OPS respectable, but with 121 strikeouts and only 29 walks, Gomez’s numbers were in line with his disappointing career stats. This could be a major warning sign going forward.