Is it time to worry about Carlos Gonzalez?

Colorado Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez has gotten off to a rough start. Should we be worried? Photo Credit: Harry How – Getty Images North America

Colorado Rockies fans have grown accustomed to Carlos Gonzalez being a feared hitter in the middle of the order. Why wouldn’t they? With a career slash line of .298/.357/.534, 765 hits, 148 doubles, 31 triples, 133 home runs, and a 125 wRC+ as a Rockie, it’s only natural that both he and the fans have come to expect him to hit. This year, however, has been a major struggle for CarGo. In his first 61 PA of the season, he has a dreadful .175/.213/.298 slash line, good for just 24 wRC+. In his last seven games, he is an awful 1-for-24 and in his last start he was dropped down to sixth in the order. Is this just a slump, or is it time to worry?

The easiest way to find out if there’s something really wrong with CarGo is to compare some of the peripheral statistics of  what he’s done this season to what he’s done in his career. Does it look more like bad luck, or has something changed that has caused him to suddenly not be able to hit?

Some of the big statistics to look at when trying to figure this out are BABIP, HR/FB%, K%, BB%, O-Swing% (the percentage of pitches out of the strike zone that a hitter has swung at), Z-Swing% (the percentage of pitches in the strike zone that a hitter has swung at), and Contact% (percentage of the time a hitter makes contact when he swings). Let’s take a look at these areas and see where he has been this year in comparison to his career numbers:

BABIP
2015 – .196
Career – .341

K%
2015 – 18%
Career – 22.2%

BB%
2015 – 4.9%
Career – 7.8%

HR/FB%
2015 – 7.1%
Career – 18.2%

O-Swing%
2015 – 33.6%
Career – 35.3%

Z-Swing%
2015 – 74.3%
Career – 66.3%

Contact%
2015 – 74%
Career – 74.8%

So, the results are in, and this looks like a whole lot of bad luck to me. His BABIP is almost a full 150 points below his career average and his HR/FB% is more than 10% lower than his career average as well. The likelihood of those things continuing all season are slim to none and as they revert closer to his career averages, we will see his offensive numbers improve.

In addition to what appears to be some bad luck, his 18% strikeout rate would actually be the best of his career. On top of that, despite having a career low walk rate, he has actually swung at slightly fewer pitches out of the strike zone this year than he has in his career while swinging at more pitches in the strike zone than he has in his career. If anything, this may suggest a bit of an improvement in plate discipline for CarGo and could be a good sign going forward. He is also making contact at almost the exact same rate that he has throughout his big league career, so that doesn’t appear to be the issue either.

Now, if we really want to find something to worry about, there’s always the proverbial “eye test.” CarGo just doesn’t look good right now. It seems like he isn’t staying on the ball the way he needs to and is instead just rolling everything over for an easy groundout into the shift. It’s frustrating to watch him do this, but it’s also something we’ve seen from him before and is something that he has always snapped out of in the past. The next time you see him make solid contact and take the ball either up the middle or to the opposite field, watch out.

Another thing that completely baffles me has been his reluctance (though he is definitely not alone here) to just lay down a bunt when the opposing team shifts to put three infielders on the same side of the field. Even a mediocre bunt is going to be a hit when the defense plays him this way and when a hitter is in a slump like CarGo, he should do anything he can to just find a way on base. Sometimes a simple bunt single is all it takes to get a hitter on track and back into a good place offensively. Another plus is that, if he does it enough times, the defense will be forced into a more traditional alignment, which will open up holes for him when he swings away. CarGo, if you’re reading this, try a bunt please.

Slumps are no fun for anyone involved. The fans don’t like to watch it, the coaching staff doesn’t like trying to figure out what’s wrong, and the player certainly doesn’t like experiencing it. However, as unenjoyable as this, or any, slump might be, I’ll take solace in knowing that he he isn’t broken. He’s just been unlucky. Who knows, maybe this time next week I’ll be writing about how CarGo is the hottest hitter going.

Be sure to subscribe, like View from the Rooftop on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and check back on Monday, April 27, as I take a look back at the third week of the season and look ahead to week four. As always, comments and feedback are welcome and thanks for reading!

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