I know that this is a lot of words to spill over a player who is essentially a role player on this team right now, but while he’s on people’s minds, let’s discuss Carlos Gomez’s season to date in a little more detail. Everybody and their mother is down on Gomez right now, but I think we should all hold on a second, because maybe Gomez hasn’t been as bad as the surface numbers would indicate this season.
Gomez is hitting .242/.293/.372 right now, which is certainly a bad line. It isn’t, however, so bad that Gomez deserves to be sent to the minors or jettisoned from the club in general. That line is good for a .301 wOBA and an 86 wRC+. That’s nothing to get too worked up about, but it’s important to remember that offense is down leaguewide this season. That means that Gomez’s slight uptick in slugging and his seeming lack of improvement at other facets of hitting actually indicates an improvement all around; his 86 wRC+ is a full 11 points above his career average and 19 above his abysmal 2009 season.
Put that together with his UZR-measured average defense in CF for the season, and Gomez has been worth 0.5 WAR in 244 plate appearances. Is that good? Not really, but given the general sentiment around Gomez, one would think that he is below replacement level. To date, Gomez has been a 1.2 WAR player over a full season. Again, that’s not a world beater, but that does have value – given the distribution of talent around the league, even playoff teams will be seen starting players of Gomez’s caliber, and a player like that is worth around $5 million on the free agent market.
There’s reason to believe that he will get better, too, just looking at the numbers from this season. Gomez had low BABIPs in 2007 and 2009, in large part due to insanely high infield fly rates – 17.6% of fly balls in 2007 and 19.8% in 2009. Even in 2008, when he posted a .330 BABIP and his best offensive season of his career to that point, his IFFB rate was 13.7%, still well higher than average. I remember that was a talking point of the Brewers coaching staff prior to this season, and it appears to have paid off, as Gomez has lowered his IFFB rate all the way down to 6.7%, below the league average. The IFFB is essentially a strikeout, so this is great for Gomez to at least give himself a chance when the ball is in the air. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his 8.3% HR/FB rate is also the highest of his career.
This improvement on infield flies hasn’t manifested itself in Gomez’s BABIP, which is still pretty low at .290, but I expect that it will as the season goes on. Gomez has the ability to compile infield hits, and with the infield fly issues gone, I would expect that Gomez would post more .310-.320 BABIP seasons.
The other thing with Gomez is his defense, which has been measured as average this year but in a very small sample size. Subjectively, I think it’s pretty clear that Gomez has ridiculous range, and although he sometimes has brain farts with the arm, the fact that his arm is powerful forces runners to hold up at bases. I think that he is at least a +5 CF, and possibly +10 to +15. If I’m right, then Gomez is a 0.7 WAR player so far this year, on pace for about 1.5 WAR, with room to easily grow into an average player or something better. With Gomez under team control for the next three seasons, he should not be written off.