It’s only April. Sure he’s off to a good start, but it’s April. It could be real, but we’ll see if it lasts past April. It’s maddening to hear sometimes, but mostly because it’s true. We want to believe if it’s good and if it’s bad, we just want to know. Well, now it’s May. Sure some stats have yet to stabilize (even then, stabilization isn’t a light switch, more of a fader), but we’re starting to have enough data to make some better-informed analysis about what we’ve seen so far. You know, since it’s May. It’s still probably not time to press the panic button yet, but it’s definitely the prelude to that time. And I gotta tell you, I’m worried about Carlos Gomez.
Gomez was signed by the New York Mets as an international free agent as a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic. He showed solid skills, albeit not superstar level, in the minors before making his inauspicious major league debut for the Mets in 2007. That winter, he was dealt to the Twins in the Johan Santana deal. One season in Minnesota was all he’d get before being traded again, this time to Milwaukee, for J.J. Hardy. Gomez wasn’t very good in his first two seasons with the Brewers, calling into question his career as anything other than an underwhelming dude that teams kept trading for.
All of a sudden, in 2012, he started hitting. There were career highs across the board for the then 26-year-old, and the buzz was back. His 2013 season of 24 homers and 40 steals to go with an .843 OPS cemented Gomez as a bona fide superstar. That 2013 season was the peak. Gomez would continue to be good, but injuries and natural decline would start to take its toll on his overall output.
Fast forward to the 2015 trade deadline. You remember. The Mets trade for Gomez. Wilmer Flores is in tears, on the field, during the game. The Mets pull out of said trade, claiming medical reasons. Everyone balks at the reasoning, citing the cheapness frugality of ownership as the real reason the trade didn’t go through. The Astros swoop in and feast on what appeared to be the Mets’ cold feet. Fast forward to today. Did the Mets do something smart? Wow.
Worrying about Carlos Gomez’s start has to be one of the most room temperature of takes of all time. Heading into today, he’s slashing .204/.252/.278, which in my expert opinion is, um, pretty bad. Sure he didn’t “wow” anyone with his brief stint in Houston after the trade (.242/.287/.383), but he was running (10 for 13 in stolen base attempts) and he didn’t look utterly lost at the plate. Many analysts and pundits were high on a bounceback from Gomez this season, giving him a mulligan for his second half in Houston. I hate to admit it, but I was on this bandwagon. This season Gomez has served as the Murphy’s Law poster boy. Everything has gone wrong.
Some have indicated that Gomez’s poor numbers and performance point to him playing through another nagging injury. It’s possible. It’s also possible that such an injury is partly his own fault. If you’ve watched an Astros game this season, you know what I’m talking about. Gomez swings SO DAMN HARD every time. It’s as if Gomez thinks one mammoth homer (he has zero so far in 2016, for the record) will bump his batting average by 150 points. Here take a look:
When you’re a kid playing baseball, your coaches would always scream “Keep your head on it”, maybe because you’re 12 and it’s the only phrase they know, but whatever. But it’s also good advice that could potentially help Gomez right now. Gomez has fanned at a 34.2 percent clip thus far this season, nearly 18 percent higher than his career average. For context, that’s fourth worst in the league, slightly worse than Ryan Howard.
One of the reasons for the soaring strikeout totals is that Gomez just isn’t making contact (you can mail all of the analysis awards to me for that nugget). He’s swinging at pitches at a 56.6 percent rate, which isn’t far off his totals in the past several seasons. The problem: He’s making contact only 65 percent of the time, down over 10 percent from his career average. He’s whiffing in nearly TWENTY PERCENT of his swings, where league average is closer to nine percent. His precipitous fall from superstar status can also be seen in how pitchers are treating him. Once a threat to hit monster homers complete with Bautista-esque bat-flips, Gomez saw pitches in the zone less frequently. This season, about half of the pitches he’s seen have been in the zone. Pitchers just aren’t scared of Carlos Gomez anymore.
Could he turn it around? Sure. Maybe he’s a little nicked up and a two-week vacation to the DL would cure what ails him. So far, though, it’s been really, really ugly. Like, really ugly. With a few tweaks (namely swinging with 95-100 percent power instead of 2500 percent), Gomez could still be a useful player for the Astros this season. It would be hard to believe that he just lost it that quickly. After watching him for a month, however, I’m not too optimistic. That said, c’mon…it’s only May.