Jonny Gomes had a strong season for the Athletics in 2012 as he hit .262 with 18 homers, 47 RBIs and 46 runs scored in just 279 at-bats. Thinking that effort, in such an abbreviated campaign might lead to riches, Gomes decided to leave the Bay Area where he was born (Petaluma) and went to school (Santa Rosa Junior College) for the greener past pastures of Boston as the Red Sox game him a two year deal for $10 million (reportedly double the amount of cashola that the Athletics were said to be offering). Will the just turned 32 year old, his b-day was on Thanksgiving, be able to justify that outlay of cash the next couple of seasons?
Jonny, I lost the “h” somewhere in transit, is a power hitter. How on earth would I say that about a guy who last hit 20 homers and never more than 21 in a season that began back in 2003? Per 500 at-bats, Gomes averages 26 homers for his career, a solid mark, that is augmented by an average total of 78 RBIs. However, Gomes has failed to ever reach 90 RBIs or 26 homers in a season because of one salient fact: he just doesn’t hit right-handed pitching very well. Given that the majority of pitchers are righties, that’s a problem. It’s also the main reason that Gomes has reached 400 at-bats in a season just one time in his big league career (511 in 2010). Here are the numbers.
vs. lefties: .299/.413/.561 in 164 ABs
vs. righties: .209/.324/.391 in 115 ABs
This is far from a one year issue. It’s always been the way it has been.
vs. lefties: .284/.382/.512 in 934 ABs
vs. righties: .223/.307/.425 in 1,712 ABs
Some perspective. Given his career numbers he is basically Chase Headley against lefties and Mark Reynolds against righties (at least their 2012 version). Clearly he is best utilized in an environment that would play to his strengths, and that would be sitting against the toughest righties, an in fact, sitting against most righties. This situation kills his fantasy value cause it’s not like the Red Sox are unaware of his massive lefty/righty splits. That means his production from last season should be looked at as the expected level of production (don’t simply think to yourself if the Sox gave him 550 at-bats this coming season that he would hit 35 homers with 95 RBIs and 95 runs scored). To that end, here are his homer and RBI totals, normalized to 350 at-bats for his career: 18 homers, 54 RBIs and 54 runs scored. Last season, remember, his totals were nearly spot on with those marks (18-74-46). Honestly, Gomes only should be drafted in AL-only leagues in 2013, at least if you are planning on him being a player of note, because it’s not like the Red Sox aren’t going to bring in another quality body to platoon with him in the outfield (I still believe this despite the fact that this report in the Boston Globe says the Red Sox have “big plans” for Gomes). If Gomes does get 500 at-bats he will provide plenty of power, but I’m not remotely sold on that happening as I just wrote.
The move to Fenway should help Gomes to beat extra base hits around Fenway Park. Last season Boston was 10th in baseball according to Park Factors in the homer category, light years better than O.co Coliseum (the dumbest stadium name in pro sports?). Fenway was also a doubles haven ranking first in baseball (27 percent higher than every other home ball yard) while O.co (the stupidest names in pro sports?) ranked 27th. As for run scored, Fenway Park was again near the top of the list at third best in baseball while O.co (the lamest name in pro sports?) ranked one spot better in doubles than homers, 22nd. Will that be enough to offset the lack of at-bats that are likely headed his way? Of course not, but it certainly sets up well for Gomes to be a very effective hitter per plate appearance.
Speaking of his work at the plate, the guy might own a poor .244 career batting average, but he gets on base pretty well with a .334 OBP, some .090 points above his average (if he was a .270 hitter the relative difference would lead to an OBP of .360). Too bad he’s also a whiff machine who strikes out once every 3.19 at-bats or roughly once a game in his big league career. That lack of an ability to put the bat on the wall has led to a 0.37 BB/K ratio, a tenth below the big league average, and a key indicator that he may not hit even the league average unless he is heavily rested against right-handed pitching.
The Red Sox signing of Gomes was a good move. Did they overpay? Probably, but it was only a two year deal and the Sox have the money to overpay for a part-time player whereas other organizations do not. Note the key phrase of “part-time player.” The Red Sox aren’t stupid. They aren’t going to try and save a few bucks and run Gomes out there as their everyday corner outfielder and give him 550 at-bats. History has shown that would be a mistake with Gomes. Since the Sox are intelligent about the way they put a team together, and since they have the funds necessary to add parts to their roster as needed, you would have to think that another outfielder will be signed to take the at least some of at-bats against righties away from Gomes. Throw in a middling batting average, and no more than eight steals in any of the last five seasons, and you should have all the reasons you need to avoid the line of thought that Gomes is going to be a fantasy beast in mixed leagues. If by some odd chance the Red Sox don’t bring in another bat then my line of thought would change and there could be a 30-90 season in the cards (note I used the word “could” not likely), but there’s just no scenario that I can foresee that has him as anything other than an end game fantasy add for mixed leaguers in 2013.
By Ray Flowers