Thursday, June 17, 2010

Carlos Gomez: Stuck in His Ways

How many times have you heard someone describe a player as "having all the talent in the world, but doesn't know how to use it?"

If you've been to a baseball stadium in your life, you've probably heard it. I swear, every team has a player the fans determine has superstar potential, but doesn't know what he's doing out there. The Brewers version of this is Carlos Gomez.

From my experience, these "gifted" players all have one thing in common: speed. If there is one thing the majority of baseball fans are mesmerized by, it's a player who can run. That ability can give the illusion these players can overcome so many other things that make them below average talents.

When the Milwaukee Brewers traded for Gomez this offseason, I was skeptical to say the least. What could they have seen in Gomez that made them pass on a trade that would have landed Ryan Doumit in Milwaukee? Gomez always struggled to get on base and really showed no signs of improvement.

Despite his past problems of plate discipline, Ken Macha inserted Gomez atop the Brewers lineup to start the year. After numerous examples of his inability to get on base, Macha has now said Gomez will bat no higher than sixth for the foreseeable future.

So far this season, here are Gomez' numbers.

.242 Batting Average (37-153)
.284 On Base Percentage (8 Walks)
.386 Slugging Percentage (59 Total Bases)
.670 OPS

Less than inspiring numbers. Going beyond the basics, Gomez has continued to demonstrate the same problems that plagued him in Minnesota. His O-Swing% (% of balls he swings at that are not strikes) this season sits at 35.5%. That is 5.8% higher than last season and 0.4% higher than his career average.

As you would expect, swinging at more balls has lead to weak line drive percentages. This season, Gomez' LD% sits at 16.5%. That is down from 19.2% from last year and 17.6% for his career. Granted those are not great career percentages, but lowering them isn't helping matters.

One thing many have pointed out is Gomez' inability to bunt. This was one thing that surprised me when Gomez came over to the Brewers. Manager Ken Macha said right away one of Gomez' focuses would be bunting for hits. Why? What has Gomez shown to think this is a good idea? In 2009, he got a hit 22.7% of the time he laid one down. This season, he has actually upped that to 33.3% of the time, but let's take a look at what that actually means. If Gomez can reach base on one of every three bunts, he still is only getting on base at a .333 clip. Sure that is better than his current .284 OBP, but he also isn't slugging the ball in those attempts. At best, he reaches first base and maybe moves a runner up one base. To justify bunting, a batter must reach base at least 40% of the time.

One thing Gomez was highly touted for was his defense, and rightly so. From 2007-2009, Gomez posted UZR/150's of 22.0, 17.3 and 10.9. Those are very good numbers. It might come as a surprise that Gomez has actually been a below average defender thus far in Milwaukee. In the outfield this season, Gomez has posted a -4.6 UZR/150. That is in a pretty small sample size, but there's no question Gomez has misplayed several balls this season. Cameron Maybin's inside the park HR comes to mind for me.

I really don't know what the plan is for the Brewers here. The organization really don't have a top minor league prospect in CF. The closest would probably be Lorenzo Cain, but although he has played well in AA this season, is still aways away.

In my mind, Gomez really can't develop into much of a major league player. Sure he might be talented in some areas of the game (speed and defense), but has too much to overcome. Maybe when fans are talking of how talented players could be, they should look at that players ability to not swing at every pitch. Getting on base is important, especially for faster players who could do some damage on the bases. Problem for Gomez and the Brewers is he doesn't possess that ability.

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