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Carlos Gomez - Officially His Time

by Tim Muma                                                                        3/3/2013
(Twitter: @brewersblend)                                                    11:20am


Gomez scoring the game-winning run in Game 5
of the NLDS in '11 - his biggest MIL moment
Based purely on physical tools, the Brewers Carlos Gomez may only trail Ryan Braun as an all-around talented player on the club. The issue for Gomez, of course, is that more than any other sport, the mental side of the game plays an enormous role in one's success or failure - an issue for Go Go.

Gomez'z enthusiasm and obvious love for playing the game is tremendous, infectious and simply a joy to take in - I'd never want him to lose that side of him. It'd be great if he can find a way to harness it a touch, but that's a tough balance to find.

Watching him live in the 2011 NLDS Game 5 against Arizona - leadoff single, steal second, then slide across the plate to send the Brewers to the NLCS - is one of the greatest moments in time I've had in watching the Crew.

Now can he bring together his entire package for a full season in 2013?


Raw power is there - better pitch
selection and plate discipline is needed
 
Last season Gomez appeared to have cracked the door open on his immense potential with 19 HR, 72 R, 37 SB and an OPS of .768 - which would have been 11th among MLB center fielders had he had enough plate appearances (5th in the NL). While his .305 OBP is nothing to write home about, it's the first time in his career he surpassed the .300 mark, an upward trend coaches and fans are hoping to see continue.

His biggest problem at the dish comes down to a lack of overall patience, while too often swinging at pitches out of the zone. Advanced statistics involving plate discipline illustrate his urgency in each at-bat and the struggles he has to consistently see pitches and draw walks.



(You can check out these advanced statistics at the bottom of the article if you're so inclined)


His overaggressive style and excitable nature often has him losing his balance or even falling over on some swings - hard to make consistent contact that way. Generally speaking, plate discipline is something that develops as a player matures; however, at some point a batter's tendencies just don't change that much.

While Gomez is entering his age 27 season (typically the prime for Major Leaguers), he's already played in five full seasons, so you wonder how much he can still alter his approach at the dish. Though I know some are intrigued by his three walks in his first four Spring Training games this year, it's hard to believe Gomez will change in that department.

Watching Gomez corkscrew himself into the
ground is both amusing and incredibly irritating
Consider in Gomez's last five seasons he has racked up 1,991 plate appearances and took a free pass just 99 times (5%). On the flip side, he has struck out on 448 occasions (22.5%). Hitters like this don't tend to change dramatically. Even in his "breakout" 2012 campaign, Gomez earned only 20 walks in 452 plate appearances (98 strikeouts).

At the same time, I can easily see his power numbers have a slight upward tick, compensating for the other deficiencies.


However, because of his tremendous speed and effectiveness as a base stealer, slight improvement in his OBP could add significant value to the club's run production. Even an OBP of just .315 would net him a handful of more stolen bases and extra opportunity to score in situations the average runner may not - such as scoring from first on a double.

His defensive value still needs to be factored into the equation as well. Gomez is blazing fast with a strong arm and is definitely a high-quality defensive outfielder. I have a hard time putting him in the elite category as some have, because he too often takes bad angles to the ball and throws wildly (or to the wrong bases). Regardless of those issues, he's a big plus for the Brewers in center field.

He covers a ton of ground, even when
he gets a poor jump or a bad read on the ball
With this particular staff Gomez is even more important, as a majority of the Brewers starters give up a high percentage of fly balls. Where Gomez may lack in creating runs, he clearly makes up for it by saving runs. In fact, in the last three seasons Gomez has the 9th-most "defensive runs saved (DRS)" in the Majors, a fielding statistic that values a player getting to balls the average man in his position doesn't (and punishes them for not getting balls the average player does).


What's even more impressive for Gomez is that among the top nine center fielders, he has played in at least 1,000 fewer innings than five of them, meaning he's had far less opportunity to rack up the saved runs. So at his current rate, if you'd add another 900 innings (100 games), he'd be in the top 5 among all center fielders.

Provided he hits in the lower part of the order - though he may have to be bumped up if Aramis Ramirez's knee is a major concern - Gomez has tons of value to a team that should be an offensive force once again.

Considering how poor many teams are in throwing
out base stealers, Gomez could eclipse 40 SB in '13
Gomez is still a tease in the grand scheme of things, taunting us will incredible tools while struggling in the more cerebral aspects of the game. However, as frustrating as he is at times (particularly the minuscule OBP and antics on the base paths), he is most certainly an important cog for the 2013 Brewers' success.

With Logan Schafer right behind him - and free agency following this season for Gomez - this is most likely the last year for Go-Go in Milwaukee. Let's hope he goes out with a bang.



What to expect:  .253/.302/.474/.776,  22 HR, 79 R, 38 SB




(Advanced plate discipline statistics)

Swing% (overall percentage of pitches a batter swings at)
  • Gomez = 55.6% in 2012, the 4th-highest percentage in baseball (52.5% career)
  • By swinging at so many pitches, he fails to zero in on the best pitches to hit and puts himself in a pitcher's count with early swings and misses
  • Of course, this plays a part in his lack of walks - can't walk if you don't even see 4 pitches
O-Swing% (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone)
  • Gomez = 38.2% in 2012, 16th-highest percentage in baseball (36.5% career)
  • In theory, laying off pitches outside the zone will improve one's OBP, but it doesn't always play out that way. However, combined with the high Swing% - a low OBP is expected
  • Again, taking pitches out of the strike zone will help put a hitter into a good count, allow him to wait for a fat pitch and, of course, draw more walks.
Z-Contact% (percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with inside the strike zone when swinging)
  • Gomez = 85.7% in '12...Doesn't seem bad until you hear there were 97 players with higher %
  • Reasons for whiffing on pitches in the zone: Overswinging; defensive swings because you're behind in the count; swinging at off-speed pitches and breaking balls; simply missing the ball
  • For the record, Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart have a lower percentage making contact in the zone, but each swing at far fewer pitches outside of the zone and overall, limiting the impact of missing strikes thrown.



 

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