By now, you know that Carlos Gomez has been DFA’d and the Cardinals are reportedly interested. You might not know just how bad he would be in St. Louis.
Whenever there is a player out there, everyone thinks their team can change him. Everyone thinks that if that player is just put in the right spot, he’ll put it all together. When a player appears to be washed up, all he needs is to go to your team. Unfortunately, that rarely changes anything. Players don’t revert to their primes when they’re past it very frequently.
Over the last four years, Carlos Gomez was one of the more complete players in baseball; hitting, fielding, baserunning, he could do it all. Over his entire career, Carlos Gomez was one of the game’s best center fielders. All of that was true until this season. To be fair, Cardinals fans probably saw more of his games with the Brewers than they did with the Astros. If you have watched a lot of Houston games this season, then you have seen a different player manning center.
— Josh Reddoch (@JoshReddoch) August 10, 2016
At the plate, Gomez is no longer a .280 hitter with 20-25 home runs. He only had one year where he drew a lot of walks (2014), so his production depends on consistently making good contact. As for the contact part, his strike out rate is up nearly eight percent this year. He is whiffing on roughly one-third of his swings this seasons, a mark that would be the fourth worst among qualified players if Gomez had enough at-bats. So he isn’t making contact often this year, but what about when he does hit the ball?
Unfortunately, Gomez’s batted ball statistics are also heading in the wrong direction. Gomez has suddenly become pull-happy, sending nearly half of his batted balls to the left-most third of the field. He is also sporting a ground ball percentage six percent higher than his career rate, and a soft hit rate four percent higher than his career norm. In fact, his soft hit rate would also be fourth worst in the majors if Gomez were qualified (hey, at least Jason Hayward has the worst rate). At the plate, Gomez represents a poor option for the Cardinals, or any team for that matter.
In the field, Gomez used to be one of the top center field options. He was particularly phenomenal in 2011 and 2013. This year, however, both DRS and UZR rate him as about five runs below average in a little more than half of a season. Gomez suddenly hit a huge drop off in his defensive play this season. Here are his defensive numbers since 2013:
2013: 32 DRS, 29.3 UZR/150
2014: 0 DRS, 7.0 UZR/150
2015: 6 DRS, 7.8 UZR/150
2016: -5 DRS, -4.7 UZR/150
Wow! His defensive play has declined by eleven runs this season, while his offensive output has dropped even more. Put it all together and you see a player who appears to have lost everything overnight. This isn’t just bad luck, though. His BABIP is only 14 points lower than his career norm, and his range really has declined according to all defensive metrics. Gomez is just a different player, and I can’t see the Milwaukee version coming back.
Of course, much of the support for a Gomez trade comes from some disappointment with Randal Grichuk. Grichuk has not performed well this year, so it’s understandable that the team and its fans want to find an improvement for the last month of the season and the playoffs. However, it’s hard to make a numbers case for why Gomez is an improvement.
The two center fielders have played roughly the same amount of games (85 for Gomez and 87 for Grichuk), so there is not a huge difference in sample size. Beginning with the peripherals, Grichuk walks one percent more often and strikes out four percent less often than Gomez. Gomez’s wRC+ of 58 indicates that his offense has been 42 percent below average while Grichuk’s stands at 90. Grichuk’s .220/.281/.437 slash line beats Gomez’s .210/.272/.322 because of the huge gap in slugging. I already mentioned Gomez’s defensive numbers, but Grichuk is towards the top of the league in DRS for center fielders.
You may feel like anything is better than Grichuk at this point, but that is not the case. Grichuk owns a 1.5 Baseball Reference WAR and a .7 Fangraphs WAR. On the other hand, Gomez stands at -.7 and -.4, respectively. Again, everyone thinks that his team can get the best out of a player. Many fans want to believe that inside the 2016 Carlos Gomez is the 2013 version of Carlos Gomez. The truth is that Gomez is now just a significantly worse player and the Cardinals should not go after him.
Photo credit: Jesse Johnson – USA TODAY Sports