Buying or Selling Carlos Gomez

What are you to do with a former fantasy superstar who hasn’t lived up to expectations? For some, the answer’s easy; Carlos Gomez has already been dropped in over 25% of leagues on both ESPN and Yahoo.

Now that I’ve driven half my audience away with my use of a semicolon, let’s start the real analysis. Gomez certainly disappointed his owners through the first month and change of the season, sporting a minuscule .486 OPS through May 15 before being placed on the DL. For reference, out of 324 batters with at least 100 plate appearances, just two (2) have a lower OPS as of June 24. Both are on the Braves (one hit fifth in the lineup as recently as June 21, while the other has batted second 13 times this season).

So yes, one could see why owners would have lost patience with Gomez. But this was also a player who hit 66 home runs and stole 111 bases while hitting .277 between 2012 and 2014. If anyone deserved patience, it was him.

So when he hit two home runs in his first six games back from the DL, it was hard to be too surprised. Since then, he’s put together five multi-hit performances, and has brought his season line back up to at least non-Atlanta-ish numbers.

While it’s obviously a small sample size, Gomez’s 76 plate appearances in 19 games since his return have shown immense improvement over his horrendous start to the season. To demonstrate this, take a look at each of the different areas in which he’s bounced back:

Plate Discipline
2012-2014 April 5 – May 15 May 31 – June 24
BB% 6.2% 5.3% 10.5%
K% 22.8% 34.8% 30.3%
BB/K .27 .15 .35
SwStr% 13.9% 19.4% 16.7%
O-Contact% 59.5% 42.4% 45.9%
Z-Contact% 84.4% 74.4% 80.5%
O-Swing% 37.4% 32.1% 35.7%
Z-Swing% 79.3% 79.9% 65.8%

I could bring up more player comparisons and show you just how bad the Atlanta Braves are this year, but that’s not the point of this article. Instead, let’s just focus on Gomez’s numbers and how they compare to earlier in the year and during his prime years. He’s nearly doubled his walk rate while striking out more than 10% less often than before, leading to a BB/K that is no longer painful to look at. He’s missing less frequently on pitches he swings at, both in and out of the zone, and has fewer swings-and-misses as a result. The one worrisome spot here is his swing rates, where the trend is the opposite of what we’d generally expect when we see favorable results. However, his O-Swing% is still lower than it was between 2012 and 2014, and it seems as though swinging less at pitches in the zone is leading to more walks and less bad contact, so it’s not truly a terrible result.

Batting and Power
2012-2014 April 5 – May 15 May 31 – June 24
AVG .277 .182 .294
BABIP .329 .293 .405
OBP .336 .238 .368
SLG .483 .248 .471
ISO .206 .066 .176
OPS .819 .486 .839
wOBA .356 .216 .364
wRC+ 123 28 129
HR/FB% 14.6% 0.0% 33.3%

I already referenced Gomez’s OPS above, but it’s still almost unbelievable to see that his post-injury slugging percentage is nearly as high as his OPS once was. Besides that, there’s improvement across the board. His average is up over 100 points, as his OBP, SLG, ISO, OPS, and wOBA. He’s gone from being 70% worse than the average hitter to 30% better. What’s good to see her is that he’s not outpacing any of his career stats by a noticeable amount — an indication that his current run is very much sustainable. Okay, maybe not the .385 BABIP, but as you’ll see next, keeping it over .300 shouldn’t be an issue.

Batted Ball Breakdown
2012-2014 April 5 – May 15 May 31 – June 24
GB% 39.3% 47.1% 44.2%
FB% 40.6% 35.7% 20.9%
LD% 20.1% 17.1% 34.9%
Pull% 42.7% 36.4% 62.2%
Cent% 33.9% 41.6% 13.3%
Oppo% 23.5% 22.1% 24.4%
Soft% 16.7% 29.9% 31.1%
Med% 48.0% 45.5% 28.9%
Hard% 35.3% 24.7% 40.0%

Let’s take this one at a time. First, Gomez has seen a drastic increase in his line-drive percentage, unfortunately at the expense of hitting fewer fly balls. While it’d be better to see him hit fewer ground balls and get some more balls in the air, he’s certainly making this approach work for him right now. He won’t hit 30 home runs with this approach, but with the increased line drives, he should have no problem continuing to hit for extra bases.

Then comes the confusing part. He’s increased both the percentages of balls he hits to the pull side and opposite of the field, now hitting just 13.3% of his balls to center. He was definitely spraying the ball better beforehand, although the bloated Pull% will undoubtedly help him to put up some better power numbers. If the numbers stay in this region, I’d definitely expect his BABIP to regress, but it’s more likely that they regress closer to his career norms. A lot of those pulled balls will end up going to center field.

Finally, there’s the stuff that’s easy to analyze. Hit the ball harder, get better results. Gomez apparently believes in that approach as well, now hitting the ball hard over a third of the time and showing over a 50% increase from his previous rate. He needs to work on hitting the ball soft less often, which should happen if he continues to be selective and wait for his pitch.

Statcast Data
2015 April 5 – May 15 May 31 – June 24
Exit Velocity (mph) 88.5 84.8 86.4
Exit Velocity on Line Drives and Fly Balls (mph) 92.7 91.2 96.4
Fly Ball Distance (feet) 315.2 309 359

Ah, Statcast. What would we do without your infinite wealth of knowledge? The data here was obtained through Baseball Savant, and confirms that Gomez is indeed hitting the ball harder than he was before his injury. His overall average exit velocity remains low, but his velocity on line drives and fly balls is actually higher than it was last year. He can hit all the slow ground balls he wants and still be successful, provided he can keep up this increased velocity on balls in the air. Of course, he’s not going to continue hitting his fly balls over 350 feet — that’s reserved for people like Byung Ho Park (and apparently Tyler Naquin?). But he’s at 323 feet for the season now, and which should easily suffice for him to begin putting up some rejuvenated power numbers.

If you’re looking for a tl;dr, here it is: Carlos Gomez is performing much better than he was earlier in the season. He’s taking more walks, striking out less, making more contact, and hitting the ball harder and farther (further?). It’s obviously a small sample size, and he may not put up another 20/40 season, but he’s more than capable of hitting 10 home runs and stealing 15 bases the rest of the way. While it’s not elite production, it’d be better than he did last year, which would be quite an achievement after his start to the season.

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