Why Gonzo Being Gonezo is um…. Goodzo
In a couple of different threads about the big Nick Punto trade, I’ve argued, without a great deal of detail, that the Red Sox being rid of Adrian Gonzalez’s contract was a positive in its own right. With the snow falling outside and everyone in the house under the weather, now seemed like a good time to sneak away into a secluded corner and expand on this a bit (especially since no one asked).
Gonzalez is owed about $132M over the next six years. Looking solely at his WAR numbers, he seems like a decent bet to be worth that. Over the past three years, he’s put up bWARs of 4.1, 6.7, and 3.2, and fWARs of 5.1, 6.5, and 3.6. That guy seems like a good bet to put up something like 4.0 to 4.5 WAR in 2013 and then age normally.
But there is something in Gonzalez’s story that makes me not trust these numbers: the shoulder injury that he sustained in 2009. According to this Gordon Edes article, the injury was reaggravated in May 2010 (May 8, it would appear from the info in the article). After that, Gonzalez managed to hit 25 more HR, a 32-HR pace, off the pace of 38/season that he had established in 2008 and 2009.
But the pain (and the meds necessary to allow him to keep playing) got to be too much for Gonzalez and he opted for surgery in 2010. After that surgery, his power took an even bigger hit than the raw numbers show. Going from a guy who can hit 36 to 40 HR in Petco, to a guy who hits 31, to a guy who hits 27 in Fenway, is a pretty big drop. But in both 2010 and 2011, Gonzalez managed to compensate by swinging at more pitches and perhaps cheating a bit on those swings (remember the fun Ichiro swing? Not so fun in retrospect). His average went up and pretty much offset his drop in power. But by the end of 2011, Gonzalez acknowledged that his shoulder was bothering him again.
In 2012, American League pitchers seemed to have caught on to the fact that Gonzalez was not the same hitter anymore. They challenged him by throwing him more first-pitch strikes (over 60%) than he had seen since 2007. Gonzalez kept hacking away, keeping his average respectably high but seeing his walk rate plummet to its lowest level of his career. His power again dropped off and he managed only 18 HR.
That brings us to 2013. Gonzalez has had a HR under 20/season for a season and a half. As I said above, a straight projection would say that Gonzalez is just about worth his contract. But unless he finds a way to strengthen his shoulder—something that has eluded him for almost 3 years—he’s not going to be able to live up to those projections. The player he is right now looks like a solid contributor but not the All-Star worth more than $20M/season.
Posted: December 29, 2012 at 04:14 PM | 32 comment(s)
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