Last year’s silent hero, Yan Gomes, will see a fall in his offensive output come 2014. Before the Wahoo faithful stampede me like a group of angry villagers, last season was a bit of a fluke for the first Brazilian-born major leaguer.
Before we begin, I would like to note I believe Gomes is the hidden nucleus behind the success of the 2013 Cleveland Indians. His emergence behind the plate and in the batter’s box allowed for a flexible roster to bend that much more. After Lou Marson was sent to the disabled list by a collision in Tampa with the Tampa Bay Rays, Gomes seized the opportunity to become a permanent fixture of the Tribe’s chemical makeup. Defensively, Gomes will save the team a number of runs as Carlos Santana finds a new home at third base.
Batting average on ball in play, abbreviated BABIP, simply put by Fan Graphs, “measures how many of a batter’s balls in play go for hits.” BABIP can be altered by a number of different unwavering factors, such as defense, a change in a player’s ability, or plain ole luck. Hitters average between .290 to .310 BABIP, as 30 percent of balls in play go for hits. Some player’s unique or debilitating ability helps alter this metric through base running, fly ball and line drive rates.
In 2013, Gomes struck gold with a BABIP of .342, career total at .294, including an addition 111 plate appearances (433 career PA) with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2012. Gomes’ batted ball profile reads a career line drive percentage of 17.2 percent (20 percnet league average), ground ball percentage right at the league average of 44 percent, and a fly ball percentage of 38.4 percent (36 percent league average).
Assuming he plays close to these averages in 2014, Gomes’ batted ball history doesn’t suggest any characteristics of a high BABIP average. The catcher totals in 2013 came to a batting average of .294, .345 on-base percentage, and a slugging percentage of .481. He accumulated a wins above replacement of 3.7, and a weighted on-base average of .359 (.320 league average).
The former Tennessee Volunteers‘ 2014 ZiPS projections, described here, come to .259 BA, .313 OBP, .435 SLG, .326 wOBA and a WAR of 2.9. The computers agree with my ideology in that 2013 may very well have been a stroke of luck.
While Gomes’ offensive production may see a big drop, he will save a number of running with his skill of framing pitches, stopping pitchers in the dirt, and controlling the running game by gunning down thieves at second. Last season, Gomes saved 11 total defensive runs saved runs above replacement (DRS). Imagine what that number will tally after a full season as Cleveland’s starting catcher.