Carlos Gomez Extended — Will The Power Come With?

Carlos Gomez will be a Brewer for another four years, it looks like.

There aren’t many players that fit his contract situation perfectly — Gomez is being extended for three years with one year of arbitration left, and not at a superstar rate — but we can talk about him as a player and whether or not the Brewers will remember this deal fondly anyway.

If you reach back a little, you’ll find that Michael Cuddyer signed a three-year, $24 million contract with an extra $10.5 million option on it when he still had a year of arbitration with the Twins. That was in 2008, and there wasn’t a ton of inflation since then, but it’s still a strange contract to use as a comparison. Cuddyer had a better bat and nowhere near the same glove, and the deal was for more money. Erick Aybar signed for four years and $35 million while he was still under team control, but those years were free agent years. That’s a better comp because much of Aybar’s value has come from defense and baserunning — but his career wRC+ is 93, though, and that’s better than the 79 Gomez has shown. That’s the same problem that we have comparing Howie Kendrick and his four-year, $33.5 million contract to the one the Brewer just signed — Kendrick owns a 104 wRC+. So let’s not even discuss the extensions by Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp then.

There aren’t a lot of players at important defensive positions that have signed three- or four-year extensions with a year of team control left. At least not defense-first players with iffy bats.

Can Gomez be worth it?

Most of the projection systems say yes, at least in the short term. Take a look at the projections by Bill James. Even with a step back in power (from a career-high .202 isolated slugging percentage back to .157) and defense (+3.6 in fielding and positional value would be the second-worst season his ledger), Gomez is projected for 1.9 wins by James’ system. At 27 years old, it seems early to start aging that total a half win every season. If he can manage even two seasons of average production, he could return to being a platoon-first defensive outfielder for the last two seasons of the deal and the deal would still be fine.

For the deal to have any upside, some of the gains Gomez showed last season have to stick. Specifically when it comes to his platoon splits and his power.

If you look at the career platoon split the right-handed Gomez has shown — 85 wRC+ against lefties, and 76 wRC+ against righties — you might think that the platoon label was hung on him too early. But some of that is skewed by the last season, where Gomez showed offense that was better than league average against righties for the first time in his career. Then again, he’s only been above average against lefties twice in his career. Lo and behold, these two years are also the best power years in his career.

There are things to like about the power surge Gomez has shown. It’s been gradual. It seems organic, since he’s added to his isolated slugging percentages every year. And he’s done it by hitting more fly balls every year. He’s an aggressive hitter, not known for patience, and he’s seeing fewer and fewer pitches per plate appearances. This all seems to add together to paint the picture of a player that is finally finding himself.

There are things to not like about the power surge Gomez has shown. He’s only shown above-average power for a season and a half now. He never really showed this kind of power in the minor leagues, despite some scouts believing he could add power as he aged. The average distance of his fly balls and home runs — 288.29 feet in 2011, 288.40 in 2012 — is not upper echelon. In fact, that number ranked 81st among regular batters in 2012.

Gomez did make some progress from 2009, when he hit those balls 274.42 feet on average, and research by Chad Young and Mike Podhorzer on batted ball distance suggests that a 15 foot surge in that number can be foretell a sustainable change in power. And the fact that the Brewer center fielder has continued to hit more fly balls with each season seems to suggest he’s made a change in approach that could stick. Defense may peak early, but Gomez has been the third-best defensive center fielder over the past three years. He can fall from his peak and still add defensive value over the next four years.

This deal isn’t likely to be a stinker for the Brewers. If it turns out to be a steal, it will be because Gomez can continue to hit more fly balls (more powerfully) and hit right-handed pitchers better than he did in his early career.




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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.


38 Responses to “Carlos Gomez Extended — Will The Power Come With?”

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  1. The Humber Games says:

    Not to nitpick but that Cuddyer contract was with the Twins

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  2. McAnderson says:

    Don’t forget the value added by his speed on the base paths, 86.6% SB rate last 3 years with 37 SB’s last season. His ability to steal may be the key to making this deal a steal for the Brewers.

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  3. Eric R says:

    His career BSR is 17.2 runs, in 2130 PA. In 400-500 PA, that is +3-4 runs– he’ll still need to get on base and hit for power to be worth the money…

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  4. MLB Rainmaker says:

    I did my own analysis of the Homerun Tracker data to look at top gainers in homerun distance from ’11 to ’12, and Carlos Gomez tops the list with an average 53 foot gain on his homerun. That tells me he did something different last year and was hitting the ball further vs. getting more lucky homeruns.

    Also, his average distance crossed the 400ft threshold which seems to be the line for guys that are traditional power hitters — Over 405 ft and your talking about elite power guys. This tells me that he likely has room to beat last year HR total as well.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Leaving fly balls out of your sample degrades the size and shape of your sample. In other words: why leave fly balls out and only look at balls that went over the fence? You’re only looking at one tail of his fly ball distribution.

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      • MLB Rainmaker says:

        First, I think we can agree that IFF distance isn’t valuable for this analysis, right? So to follow your process, we’d still have to draw some arbitrary line at 200ft (?) from home plate and then average the distance on those balls in play. I don’t think that arbitrary line tells us anything more than an arbitrary line set at the HR fence; if anything, I would argue based on his HR/FB% there are significantly more fly balls hit that never had a chance to get out of the park than fly balls that were at the warning track.

        To me there are three factors to achieve a HR:
        1) Contact on the sweet spot – squaring up, middle of the ball middle of the barrel. Essentially hitting the ball as hard as you are capable of
        2) Swing angle/lift to achieve “escape” trajectory
        3) Speed of the ball off the bat

        I assume the lift in the players swing can’t really change, as that is mechanical, so the two factors that can drive HRs are quality of contact and speed off the bat. If you assume the trajectory won’t change materially, you can make the correlation between speed off the bat and distance. So to bring it back to Carlos Gonzalez, his increase in HR distance tells me that when he does make perfect contact, he’s hitting the ball harder than in the past. I view that as a change in skillset, moving his power up the scale vs. a player that saw an increase in HR and no change in distance.

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        • Eno Sarris says:

          Yes to some extent except that bigger samples are almost always better and we did this empirically and found no relationships between just homer distance and hr/fb, certainly nothing predictive. I linked to a five part series in this article that links batted ball distance (hr and fb) and angle to expected hr/fb. I stand behind their work as empirically derived and fundamentally sound.

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        • Eno Sarris says:

          And actually we are arguing for no reason. Our analysis says that the near 15 foot jump from 2010 to 2011 was predictive, and it turned out to be in his case.

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        • Travis L says:

          Why don’t we look at median FB distance rather than average?

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    • shthar says:

      I hope what he did different doesn’t lead to a 50 game suspension…

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      • daveinmp says:

        Gomez has been listed at 6’4″ 210 since he was 21 years old. We’re not talking about a small guy. He’ll hit more fly balls as he attempts fewer bunts. Bunting has always been encouraged by his managers, but now that his power is emerging and the Brewers have him 7th in the order (an RBI spot), he’ll likely bunt less. The added power will also lead to more walks, as evidenced by his 6 already this spring in only 20 or so AB’s.

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        • oh Hal says:

          Haven’t you heard? There is a new magic PED that has no affect on physical size, yet adds huge improvement. You don’t have to go far to find internet posters or even media members who believe that his teammate has been using huge doses for a decade or so yet hasn’t changed his physical appearance.

          Heck, the commissioner of baseball believes that people inject huge doses just before or during a game in order to “amp up.”

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  5. Take a look at the projections by Bill James.

    I did and it projects me to get a 40% raise and marry Kate Upton this year.

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    • TD says:

      I don’t know why James’ projections are cited so much in serious articles/conversations. James himself is on the record as saying they are just for fun and his process for developing them is unscientific.

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    • wobatus says:

      ZiPS says you’re getting fired and you’re marrying Kathy Bates.

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  6. jward106 says:

    One thing I don’t think most people realize about Gomez is his size. The man is 6-4, 210. It’s not like he is a small, speedy outfielder who lucked into some homers.

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      Given his size, I think he’s got the potential to take a big step forward this year a la Curtis Granderson in 2009. I think average is still going to be a problem given his plate discipline, but a 30-30 campaign isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

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    • geefee says:

      My thoughts as well. Because of his speed and style, people forget that Gomez has a very big frame, he’s the type of guy who probably could’ve played major college football if he’d been born in the US. Also, even though he’s been in the majors for a long time he was really, really raw earlier in his career, and he might just be a late bloomer. His 2012 reads much more like a great athlete putting his tools together than it does a fluke.

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  7. Ender says:

    Gomez was never seen as a platoon player by the Brewers. Morgan was the starting CF but was so awful against LHP that they were platooning him, Gomez happened to be the guy behind him.

    Gomez changed his approach in 2011. The Twins had spent a lot of time trying to get him to hit grounders and the Brewers said be Carlos Gomez and play your own game. He started hitting the ball in the air a lot more and the power followed. If not for a horrid April in 2011 his ISO would have been higher that year than it is this year. It was a .296 in the 2nd half of 2011. The power is definitely for real, unfortunately so is the swing at everything approach.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      Yes that was my conclusion in my article that I linked to in the bottom, that he was just finally being more comfortable being who he was and not trying too hard to be someone else. As for the platoon bit, dunno. Seemed to me like he was being platooned, but maybe it was Morgan’s ‘fault.’

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      • Ender says:

        It definitely was. Look at Morgan’s splits for his career. I watch most of the games and it was definitely about Morgan. In 2 years with the Brewers he had 71 PA against LHP. Gomez would occasionally still play vs RHP to rest other OFs but he always played vs LHP in CF. I guess in some ways that is worse since they considered Gomez more of a bench guy than a starter~.

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  8. vivalajeter says:

    Nice write-up, but it seems like some of the analysis ignores that he was already under contract for about $4MM this year. This line in particular:

    “If he can manage even two seasons of average production, he could return to being a platoon-first defensive outfielder for the last two seasons of the deal and the deal would still be fine.”

    The first of the two seasons would have been a net-gain even without the extension. So they’d essentially be paying an extra $24MM for 1 year of average production and 2 years of platoon-first.

    Aside from that though, I think it’s a good deal. I was thinking the Mets might’ve made a play for him over the off-season. It’d be interesting if they signed him as a FA the year that Santana drops off the books.

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  9. BookWorm says:

    Glad that this article mentions his plate discipline. When he was on the Twins, I always thought he chased a lot of pitches outside the zone and swung at too many (often bad) first pitches. Looking at his O-Swing% numbers, he’s not as trigger-happy as my biased memory would lead me to believe. But Baseball Heat Maps does show that he’s still swinging at way more inside pitches than league average. He’s having better results at this stage in his career, though, so good for him.

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  10. grandbranyan says:

    I’d give this deal to Gomez 100 hundred times before I’d give Upton 5/70. I’ll concede that BJ has a better offensive track record but if Gomez’s gains last year are real or even regress slightly and Upton’s decline continues it will be a nonfactor.

    Throw in all the metrics and the eyes which agree that Gomez is a far superior fielder and younger to boot. Even if last year’s offense was a blip his glove and speed should make this deal a break even at worst assuming health.

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    • TD says:

      First paragraph: false dilemma

      Second paragraph: opportunity cost

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      • oh Hal says:

        The 1st graph isn’t a false dilemma. The 2nd is an odd sort of agreement.

        Upton is a far more comparable player than the examples used and he signed for longer and about twice the cost.

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        • TD says:

          Yes it is. There was never a choice between only this deal for Gomez or that deal Upton. Ever. The comparison is useless.

          It is self-evident that they could have done worse than the Gomez deal. That fact establishes nothing.

          The analysis of whether or not Gomez can produce enough value to be worth the money he has been guaranteed does not factor in the opportunity cost of the guarantee itself and is therefore insufficient for determining the merits of this extension.

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  11. Nate says:

    Looks like a win-win for player & team. The player has some sort of certainty/security as the starting CF without a platoon partner, and the Brewers get player with a high floor (due to his defense) with a sizable amount of upside (if his bat continues to improve). I wonder how much his CF defense was a double edge sword, leading to Gomez being promoted on defense before his bat was mature at a level, and retarding his development due to part-time play at the MLB level.

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  12. shthar says:

    What a horrible horrible deal.

    He doesn’t even hit the left.

    Unless Milwaukee knows they’re gonna change the rules to let you steal first base.

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  13. LionoftheSenate says:

    Good analysis then, looks even better now.

    RE: About finding yourself as a player. I recall Mark McGwire after his infamous .201 BA season he told the MLB staff to jump in a lake. The staff was trying to get him to hit it the other way, etc….(so UN Moneyball) obviously worried in a 1975 kind of way about Batting Average. Big Mac said himself, he is a pull hitter and for pete’s sake, that’s exactly what he was going to be. From there his numbers exploded. (I assume Mac was on roids his entire career FYI).

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