Jonny Gomes a Go Go

Hunter Golden swoops in on a Tuesday and does the unthinkable. He fondles Jonny Gomes' plate approach and finds new, innovative ways to declare that this, too - is a good signing.

Color me the black sheep, but I don’t get the nail-biting regarding Jonny Gomes getting a short leash to start full-time in left field for the Red Sox in 2013.

I get that he’s got huge platoon splits. I get that he’s an awful defender. But neither one of those lie at the crux of why the Red Sox signed him to a 2 year, $10 million contract this past fall.

While there’s been a lot of faux couch fainting over Gomes’ platoon splits, the reality is that they’re something the Red Sox could probably live with. In fact, his career line against lefties and righties combined for a .342 wOBA. I’d be worried about him getting more plate appearances against righties, but the fact of the matter is that he’s ALREADY SEEN more PA’s vs. right-handed pitchers. In fact, he’s had 800 PA’s more against righties as opposed to lefties over the course of his career and wouldn’t you know it – his production has been acceptable enough to post a career 110 wRC++. Not to be that guy, but I’m having a hard time trying to envision a scenario where Gomes’ bat – especially in a friendly park – doesn’t play well enough for AT LEAST slightly below league-average production at the position – even WITH the steep splits.

When laid up against the backdrop of a potential Daniel Nava low-level platoon, I’d have to question anyone’s sanity about their issues with the Red Sox offensive production out of the LF position. Nava was pretty good against RHP last year, but it was his ability to get on base that really stuck out. According to @redsoxstats over on Twitter, Mike Trout and Alex Gordon were the only two American League outfielders to get on base more against RHP than Nava. If the Red Sox split the 200 PA’s that Gomes will get against righties – or even give 150 PA’s to Nava OF those 200 PA’s – the offensive production should be roughly above average.

So the argument that Gomes can’t hack as an everyday bat- or something very close to it- doesn’t seem to have legs to me. Even if he isn’t up the task and his splits widen, then Nava likely gets more playing time against RHP, which all things considered isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s a rock-solid insurance policy.

His overall defensive ineptitude is certainly another conversation to be had, but let’s not kid ourselves- this is Fenway Park’s Left Field – a place that has seen it’s fair share of atrocious defenders. While it certainly doesn’t help in the aggregate, I can’t imagine I’d be too down on it considering the potential for offensive production out of the position.

The bottom line is that the Red Sox are likely viewing the Gomes acquisition as a means to replace Cody Ross’ production in the lineup. If that’s what they’re after, they’ve most certainly accomplished their goal, especially when park factors are taken into consideration. Even with Ross’ superior defense, he only accounted for .3 more fWAR last year overall, which means with Nava taking any kind of edge off of Gomes in a low-level platoon, that the team has likely mitigated the loss of Ross altogether and for a third of the cost. This is – mind you – with Ross playing all three defensive positions last year.

The similarity between the two becomes more involved when you look at the past three years of production. Gomes essentially was able to pop a .339 wOBA to Ross’ .330 wOBA over that period and both finished in a dead heat in SLG at .434. The difference here is that the Diamondbacks paid $26 million for Ross. The Red Sox paid $10 million for Jonny Gomes. While it may be true that Ross is the superior defender, he’s not better to the tune of $16 million dollars.

The other interesting tidbit to notice is Gomes’ sudden command of the strike zone. Since 2009, Gomes has seen his BB% double, walking in 6.8% of his PA’s in 2010, to 12.90% in 2011 and as high as 13.20% this past season. He’s swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone and being more selective about what he’s swinging at inside the strike zone as well. Who knows what sparked the change, but Gomes’ approach at the plate seems to have improved significantly.

So is Gomes really the black hole everyone is forecasting? That’s unlikely. What the Red Sox did get is a player with a good makeup who should excel in this park and add a lot to the team’s overall culture. He’s the prototypically successful plus power/ high FB% RH pull hitter that has succeeded in the past in Fenway. If the Red Sox can get league-average production out of the position, then they’ve found themselves a quiet steal this year. We’ll see how his gag-reel on defense plays out, but all things considered, for what the Red Sox paid – they should find themselves relatively happy with their investment.

Categories: Alex Gordon Cody Ross Daniel Nava Jonny Gomes Mike Trout

A world-class baseball nerd, baseball fan, and baseball man, Hunter Golden agreed to terms with Fire Brand of the American League in September of 2012 in exchange for an oversized baby bottle, football helmet filled with cottage cheese and naked pictures of Bea Arthur. In January of 2013, he was named Editor. He likes run-on sentences, enjoys over-using hyphens, and smelling books. When it comes to serious stuff, Hunter is a professional writer (no, really), father of two, Husband of one and whose natural habitat is Western Massachusetts and agreeable parts of Connecticut. Follow him at @hunterGbaseball on Twitter or shoot him an email at [email protected]

3 Responses to “Jonny Gomes a Go Go” Subscribe

  1. GrandmaJ February 19, 2013 at 3:16 PM #

    Jonny Is a tremendous member of any team. He's the clubhouse cheerleader, he takes many for the team, and in St Petersburg he was known as the designated hitter, first into the rhubarb to protect the pitcher. His hero has always been Pete Rose, with all Pete's dedication, flair and hustle but without Pete's weaknesses. I will always have great respect for Jonny as a person as well as a player. $10 mil is a bargain for him.

  2. Gerry February 19, 2013 at 6:25 PM #

    Gomes AND Victorino are both underrated signings. I hope you take a similar look at Vic. Gomes/Vic/Nava or Sweeney provide, at their positions, above average offense and average defense in LF, and above average defense and, with Vic's speed, at least average offense in RF, and both are good fits at Fenway on and off the field. With Vic in RF, Ells can shade towards LF, improving Gomes' projected D. This OF works and, all 5 OF costs less than $30M for above average production on short term deals; an intelligent transition to the future. And with Brentz, Bradley, maybe Bogaerts and others knocking on the OF door by mid-season, depth is also better than given credit for by the media.

  3. Bill February 23, 2013 at 4:52 PM #

    Red Sox Nation will appreciate Jonny the more they see him play. This man gives his all for the team…'s all about team with him. Great clubhouse presence and off-field contributor, too. He will do the uniform proud.