After yesterday’s one day break, in large part because of the Detroit Tigers and Victor Martinez’ knee, “Brewers By the (Jersey) Numbers” returns as we are inside of four weeks until Opening Day!
Just close your eyes and imagine the…wait, bad idea. If you close your eyes you won’t be able to read what I’m describing.
Seriously though, we’re 27 days away from filling Miller Park and the parking lots surrounding it with the sounds, smells, and sights of game day.
I can’t wait.
Unfortunately, we all have to wait those 27 days.
If I had to guess, though, today’s subject will find a way to get there in 26 days because he really just might be able to cover that much ground that fast.
Of course I’m talking about the Brewers’ resident defensive genius:
How much ground? Well, when he was with the Minnesota Twins a few years ago, it was said that Gomez was the most likely player to catch a fly ball at the foul line from his center field spot.
Care for another example? Just a couple of days ago the Brewers were running pop-up priority drills where the pitching machine would send balls into the air and it was up to the defenders to determine who would make the catch. Brewers third base coach Ed Sedar was running the drill and let Gomez, who was playing right field for the drill, know that the next pop-up was for him.
The ball was purposefully popped up on the infield grass.
Gomez made the catch.
It was actually Gomez incredible range that got him hurt last year, in a manner of speaking. In a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 20th, a ball that most centerfielders would have let bounce in front of them was hit to shallow center. Gomez got close enough to make a diving catch and broke his collarbone in the process. He missed six weeks of action, returning to the majors in September.
Gomez’ play in the field has never been in question during his time in the big leagues. What relegated him to a fairly hard platoon in 2011 was his play at the plate.
He hit .225 for the season (52-for-231) with eight home runs, 24 RBI, and was 16-for-18 on stolen base attempts. However, he also only walked 15 times and struck out 64 times. That resulted in an on-base percentage of only .276 which doesn’t allow Gomez to utilize his speed enough on the bases. As for his slugging percentage of .403 (built with 11 doubles and three triples to go along with the eight homers), it’s nowhere near enough for a guy that believes himself to be capable of being a number three hitter in a big league lineup.
Gomez’ body lends itself to that end. He stands 6’4″ and weighs 210 pounds and when he turns on a pitch and makes solid contact, the baseball gets where it’s going pretty quickly.
The power that is present, however, also betrays Gomez. There are times when it seems that he is staying within himself and driving the ball the other way but then he hits a massive home run and his plate discipline disappears from his at-bats almost as quickly as the ball over the fence.
When you can pull a ball with the authority that Gomez can, pitchers will pound the outside corner both on and just off the plate. It is only by laying off of those pitches or taking them the other way consistently that will force pitchers to come back to the inside when Gomez can then turn on them and unleash his power. Sometimes is feels like Gomez is so amped up at the plate that he simply doesn’t have the patience to force the pitcher into giving him the best pitch to hit.
If he can ever truly reign in his abilities, he’ll be as amazing to watch with a bat in his hands as he is with a glove on one of them.
That hardly means that Gomez is without merit for this team. He is a tremendous defender as I have stated but he can definitely contribute as a pinch-runner and is also dynamic at the plate in bunting situations. He won’t be able to keep a starting job in an outfield over the course of an entire season unless his offense improves. Unfortunately in this day and age of the game, offense is expected from every position on the diamond with the possible exception of catcher if a team is stacked everywhere else.
You don’t have to have a ton of power in center field though, and that’s where Gomez needs to make an adjustment if his goal is to start 150 games. He might be able to increase his batting average and on-base percentage enough to warrant those starts if he alters his approach. The only one that stands in the batters box is Gomez though, so he has to want to do it. The big thing is that he is just entering his prime years from a physical standpoint.
The bottom line right now for Gomez is that he’ll make the team by rolling out of bed each morning but he’ll also likely be back in a platoon with Nyjer Morgan to begin the year. Morgan hit well over .300 last year against right-handed pitching but can’t hit his weight against lefties. Gomez fills those starts which aren’t nearly as often.
The only wrinkle could be the meniscus tear suffered by Corey Hart which Hart had surgery to correct this past Tuesday. If Hart misses time at the beginning of the season then Gomez could possibly start on Opening Day. That will depend on what Manager Ron Roenicke decides to do with the open right-fielder job. Then again, if Hart doesn’t start in RF on Opening Day, it could very well be Japanese import Nori Aoki, a left-handed hitter, who gets the spot start against likely a right-handed pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Regardless, expect plenty of web gems out of Carlos Gomez this season along with the occasional flashing of power at the plate. On those occasions he reaches bases safely via a walk or hit, don’t blink or you might miss him stealing a base.
The bad news is that, like has been said, you can’t steal first base. That’s a shame for Gomez who’d certainly be on much more if he was allowed to.
You can follow Carlos Gomez on Twitter @C_Gomez27.