In baseball, there is always a lot of “talk”. Talk about who’s who, talk about who isn’t, and talk about who should be. It’s fun to talk in baseball, because speculation is part of the fun, resulting from all of the freaky trends, streaks, and droughts that happen.
Offensively, the talk of the National League has been all about the Colorado Rockies: and for good reason. Colorado leads in the NL in several categories offensively. The “Blake Street Bombers” lead in WAR (7.6), home runs (43), wRC+ (115), and wOBA (.363), just to name a few. And they have players who individually lead a couple of categories, in Troy Tulowitzki and Charlie Blackmon. Add a company Nolan Arenado, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer, and you have the make-up for the 2014 Rockies impact hitters. Missing from this list is former MVP candidate, left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who may have a trophy room in his house for multiple gold glove and silver slugger awards. However, it seems that no trophy is in site so far this year, after an abysmal April.
Even with five home runs, and a combination of thirty-five RBI and runs scored in April, he still only managed to create a below 100 wRC+, hit .241, and was a virtual non-factor major league player with a WAR of 0. Just watching him play, he really takes it easy in the outfield, as well as on the base paths, seemingly treating himself as a vial of liquid gold that could break on any sort of impact. Really, this is just a scheme that Troy Tulowitzki uses as well in order to further prevent injuries that have plagued both of their careers. Injuries may not even be preventable while playing at altitude, where eighty-two games of labor seem to wear on player’s more than others. Andre Ethier once said he would never play for Colorado just for that reason.
Recently, Gonzalez suffered a minor bruise on his finger, as reported by denverpost.com writer, Nick Groke. He has had finger trouble before, when he strained a ligament in his left hand finger, an injury that sidelined him about fifty games during the 2013 season. This poses a problem his production, because it really affects his swing. Dubbed with one the prettiest swings in baseball, it also requires just about every part of his body. And if Carlos is not 100% healthy, it seems to hurt his swing one way or another. (Sports Injury Alert Profile)
According to the Steamer projection from Fangraphs.com, Carlos is expected to hit .281 this year, with thirty-one home runs, and ninety-nine RBI. This would be a great year for most outfielders, and a solid year for Gonzalez. But even 2014, where he has started slow even without the hampering of a notable injury, it is possible Gonzalez will underachieve in two if not all three categories. With pitchers giving him limited fastballs in prime locations due to his reputation, coupled with a low walk percentage (6.5%), this may not have been a great year to draft Gonzalez for your fantasy team
Of course there are still about 130 games to be played, and some factors set up well for Gonzalez to reach his projections. He plays in a line-up where seemingly all eight positional batters pose as a threat, which protects his pitch selection. Behind him, hits the leading MVP candidate for the national league, Troy Tulowitzki, which guarantees him better than usual pitch selection as well. He also has had an extremely low BABIP (.259), which suggests that some of his hits will flow through the cracks that haven’t so far.
When talking heads discuss the Rockies, it’s interesting not to hear Cargo’s mentioned with the usual frequency, if at all. It attests to the rise of Blackmon and others, as well as Tulowizki’s recent hot hitting. But it also attests to Gonzalez’s recent struggles. I expect Gonzalez to improve throughout the season, and become a legitimate middle-of-the-order player again. However, I speculate his production won’t come at his usual rate. His swing is different, and he is swinging at a higher rate than usual. Perhaps something chronic is bothering him, something that will lower our expectations for him for the rest of his career. Per as usual, we won’t know how a batter will do based off of one month of the season, no matter how much we talk about it. And you know what they say, “talk is cheap”.
For the latest sports injury news, check out our friends at Sports Injury Alert.
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