Alex Gordon’s Near Miss

It had not been a good day for Alex Gordon. All spring long we’d heard how the former first-round pick was working towards finally fulfilling his potential. Even manager Ned Yost was singing his praises. “He looks much, much better,” he said at the outset of spring training. Yost even went so far as to bat Gordon third yesterday. But through his first four PA he had popped up, grounded out to short, and struck out twice. Then, in the ninth, he had his shot at redemption.

An inning earlier the Royals threatened, but didn’t capitalize on a bases loaded, one out situation. Gordon didn’t help matters, grounding out to short with Melky Cabrera standing on second. If the Royals were going to rally in the ninth, Gordon would almost certainly be part. He was due up fifth in the inning. As fate would have it, his turn came when the Royals had runners at the corners with two outs. Gordon was the winning run.

He stepped in to face Angels wild closer Fernando Rodney, and wisely took a changeup to make the count 1-0. Rodney came back with a fastball on the outer half, and this is where things got interesting. Gordon put a quality swing on it and drove it down the left field line. For a moment it appeared that he had erased his terrible day with a walk-off, three-run home run. Only the ball landed just foul.

Go ball, go! No ball, no!

The Royals started the inning with just a 19 percent chance of winning the game. Yet with runners on first and third and two outs, their chances had dwindled to 10 percent. Gordon’s homer would have obviously given them that 90 percent boost. But instead Rodney got a second chance, and he attacked Gordon the way that successful right-handed pitchers do.

As our own Jeff Zimmerman wrote just last week, Gordon struggles with high heat. I’m not sure whether Rodney knew this and acted on the information, whether he just played to his own strengths, or he just let loose with two fastballs and they happen to cross Gordon’s unhappy zone. Whatever the case, for this third pitch he throw a fastball up in the zone, inducing a swing and miss. Then, with the count 1-2, Rodney went even higher with the fastball, getting yet another swing and miss — well, a foul tip into Jeff Mathis‘s glove — thus ending the game.

The strikeout eliminated Kansas City’s remaining 10 percent chance of winning, dropping Gordon’s WPA for the day to -.224. But it didn’t have to be that way. The win expectancy swing here was about as enormous as it gets. If Gordon’s opposite field smash hits the foul pole, it’s a swing of 100 percent — erasing the -.100 and adding .900. Rodney then walks off the mound, head slunk, unable to bring the high heat and exploit what is perhaps Gordon’s greatest weakness. Instead, Gordon is the goat, turning in an 0-fer and failing the worst when the Royals had the best chances.

Clearly we can’t read this as a portend of Gordon’s season. It’s not as though his talent completely disappeared in the past few years. But this is a make-or-break year for him, and it got off to a start about as inauspicious as they come. Here’s hoping for better luck later, but he sure could have used some of that on Opening Day.



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


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Frank in LA of A
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Frank in LA of A
5 years 3 months ago

“Francisco Rodney?” We can only hope he had the save potential of Francisco Rodriguez. The Angels closer yesterday was FERNANDO Rodney. And NO, there is no “Fernando-Mania” in LA over this fella.

Kernel
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Kernel
5 years 3 months ago

A Francisco Rodney sounds like Southern California slang for a heart attack.

johan
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johan
5 years 3 months ago

Rodney will give you a heart attack from time to time, but what isn’t talked about is that he figures out how to get the job done more often than not. Not an ideal closer, except when you look at the fact he only blew one save over a whole season the last time he was a closer in Detroit.

Its like he doesn’t wake up until he walks a guy.

TomG
Member
TomG
5 years 3 months ago

Since the ball ultimately went foul, I don’t think you can qualify it as a near miss for Gordon.

Mac
Guest
Mac
5 years 3 months ago

Borrowing from the late George Carlin:

Here’s one they just made up: “near miss”. When Alex Gorden crushes the ball foul, they call it a near miss. IT’S A NEAR HIT. A home run is a near miss.

Paul
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Paul
5 years 3 months ago

We need to remember with Gordon that while he absolutely looks better and has made some adjustments that should make him a better hitter, those mechanical issues had little to do with his approach and weaknesses with balls out of the strike zone. The adjustment Seitzer made should help him a lot with the off-speed stuff. But he’s one of those lefthanders that loves the high strike. Against a rookie fill-in fifth starter he can pull that pitch over the right field wall with regularity. Rodney is not great, but he’s got an elite high fastball. Kryptonite on day 1 take with a grain of salt. We’ll know if Gordon is going to be a decent regular if he’s able to follow Frenchy’s advice and “screw it, forget about it.” If he dwells on that weakness and yesterday’s result instead of staying the course, we’ll have our answer.

mcneo
Member
mcneo
5 years 3 months ago

Every year for the past three years is a make or break year for Gordon. If he has his 2008 line .260/.351/.432 then I think he’ll keep his place on the team. If he does that for another 5-7 years; I wonder if every year people will be saying “This is a make or break year for…” He can play 3rd, 1st, LF, RF; so I’m guessing he’s going to be playing in the MLB for some time.

Maybe we should call him “perennial break-out candidate” – that’d be more accurate.

Dan The Disgruntled Brewers Fan
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Dan The Disgruntled Brewers Fan
5 years 3 months ago

Too bad the Angels didn’t have John Axford yesterday. Gordon would definitely be a hero.

Nathaniel Dawson
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Nathaniel Dawson
5 years 3 months ago

Awesome game-day look at a most classic up-the-ladder as you’re ever likely to see.

pft
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pft
5 years 3 months ago

So he had a bad day against Weaver who is a Cy Young caliber pitcher and almost hit a HR of their closer. This means less than ST stats. Good grief.

Carl Crawford went 0-4 with 3 K’s today. Whats it mean? Nothing.

Mac
Guest
Mac
5 years 3 months ago

Gee, maybe that’s why the author wrote “Clearly we can’t read this as a portend of Gordon’s season.”

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