One of the most interesting aspects of the 2012 season for the Brewers is that it has simultaneously been a resounding disappointment and also fill with stand-out performances from a handful of players — Aramis Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Mike Fiers, Martin Maldonado, Marco Estrada, etc.
Perhaps no story has been more enjoyable to watch unfold than the on featuring Carlos Gomez.
Milwaukee traded for Gomez in November 2009, sending shortstop J.J. Hardy to Minnesota in return for the toolsy (and frustrating) center fielder. The Brewers desperately needed starting pitching at that moment in franchise history, and fans lamented the decision to acquire a center fielder who hit .229/.287/.337 in the previous season over a potential mid-rotation starter.
Opinions continued to sour as he hit .247/.298/.357 and .225/.276/.403 over the next two years, respectively. His defense had always been well above average, but his overaggressive nature at the plate relegated him to a mere platoon role in the outfield.
This season, however, the Dominican Republic native has vastly improved at the plate. His .303 on-base percentage remains nothing to write home about, but his power production has spiked. He already has 16 home runs this season — including one in back-to-back games — which has helped his production at the plate be above the league average, as evidenced by his .348 wOBA and 119 wRC+. His ISO is also currently a career-high .223.
Those numbers become even more impressive once placed into context. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is no longer utilizing him as a platoon bat, and since he altered his mechanics at the plate around the All-Star Break, he has held his own against right-handed pitchers. Here are his platoon splits since July 13:
vs. LHP: .294/.315/.588
vs. RHP: .275/.331/.514
Gomez continues to mash left-handed pitching, but he now holds his own against right-handed pitching. That has resulted in fewer starts for the struggling Nyjer Morgan and more overall value in center field for the Brewers.
Let’s make something clear, though.
The 26-year-old (yes, you read that correctly) center fielder may be producing at an unprecedented level at this point in his career, but he has not changed much as a hitter. He continues to be a pull-oriented hitter. He uses center field a bit better than he did in the past, but Carlos Gomez is not about to begin shooting the baseball to the opposite field with regularity.
His hit chart from this season illustrates that:
To further the point that Carlos Gomez hasn’t fundamentally changed at the plate, his selectivity has not improved in the slightest. He continues to chase 35.6% of pitches outside the strike zone and has a 11.8% swinging-strike rate.
His improvement essentially stems from his not missing mistakes this season and hitting the baseball in the air more often. His 0.88 GB/FB ratio is the lowest of his entire career — which certainly makes sense considering his home run binge this season — and the following heat map underscores the fact that Gomez is hammering any mistake in the middle of the plate:
It’s difficult to ascertain whether Gomez is finding more success at the plate this season because of his altered mechanics or simple random variation. As Roenicke said in a recent interview, Gomez’s approach at the plate is still “swing hard and hope to hit it.” Recently, though, he has been hitting it. Hard. A lot.
With that said, his mechanics have certainly changed. Most notably, he has added a rather significant leg kick. Perhaps that has aided his timing.
Unfortunately, two months is not a large enough time frame to make any broad-sweeping judgments about Carlos Gomez as a player. We can certainly point out and discuss the recent trends, but just as we pointed out that two months of Rickie Weeks struggling to begin the season didn’t make him a dreadful player, two months of Carlos Gomez tearing it up at the plate doesn’t make him a potential All-Star.
It’s easy to forget that he’s just 26 years old and just approaching his prime. Perhaps he’s figuring it out. No matter if his recent performance is hear to stay, though, Gomez is fun to watch at the plate right now.