2014 Rockies Player Season Review – Carlos Gonzalez

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THAT SWEET SWING AND GREAT DEFENSE SIMPLY NEVER SHOWED UP IN 2014

 

This will be an untypically short review, because, sadly, Carlos’s season was short. And here I ask a question that I am sure a lot of us asked this past season:

 

If Carlos had serious hand and knee issues that shut down his 2013 season – why didn’t all this get a serious, no-stop, all the experts the Rockies can find review?

 

This isn’t some low level prospect in the minors who has poor insurance and cannot go to see the best specialists in the business. This is the second highest paid player on your team, a player who makes the whole offense and defense operate at peak efficiency and his 2013 mid-season to start of 2014 season medical care was shoddy.

 

  1. Of course the hand started feeling better after he laid off of hitting, but the hands are the most important part of a hitters core, even more than hips and knees (okay, maybe wrists but its 1a and 1b). When the Rockies finally found a specialist who looked in the right spots CarGo’s season was in 5th outfielder hell.
  2. Of course his knee felt better after he laid off running, hitting and playing, but this is a player whose game is predicated on being a 5 tool player. His knee looked awful in Spring Training, it looked awful even the first week when he was hitting okay, and it looked hideous everytime a ball was hit to him that required a full-out run. By the time he was shut down and had the surgery, the Rockies whole season was up in smoke.

 

Look, I know to some level a player’s health is his business, and CarGo can be a bit, well, CarGo. But I can’t imagine that he was willing to tolerate the “it’s just tendinitis” answer if he knew there were other opinions on it (my orthopedic surgeon, with whom I am far too acquainted, always says tendinitis is a warning sign – either stop what you are doing, build up leg strength, or if you planning on going 100% in the near future, do an MRI to make sure there is nothing going bad in there), especially because the hand was so weird and even with rest that knee couldn’t have felt perfect.

 

Here is a great summary of what was done on CarGo’s knee. The idea of only 82-85% return to pre-injury levels in the tendon scares me, but the body is an amazing thing, so we just need to wait and see.

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/8/22/6051369/carlos-gonzalez-garrett-richards-patellofemoral-injuries-rockies-angels-biomechanics

 

 

CarGo is now age 29, heading into what is likely his last 3 prime years. But the first two of those prime years, his age 27 and 28 years have been wrecked by these two injuries. Some of it is just bad luck, as anyone watching that hideous game in 2013 where we saw Dex, CarGo and Tulo go down in the same game. Part of it is that CarGo is a bit Larry Walker, going 110% when maybe 95% is smarter. But when we look back at 2013, we saw this:

 

2013 Overall – 110 G, 436 PA, .302 BA, .367 OBP, .591 Slug, .958 OPS, 144 OPS+ 21 SB 3CS 26 HR

2013 Home –     56 G, 226 PA, .273 BA, .354 OBP, .576 Slug, .930 OPS, 153 OPS+ 14 SB 2CS 12 HR

2013 Road –       54 G, 210 PA, .332 BA, .381 OBP, .606 Slug, .987 OPS, 177 OPS+   7 SB 1CS 14 HT

 

What CarGo did (granted with some really high BABIP but as I have said before, people who hit the ball hard should have higher BABIP, unless they are running into a lot of hard outs or as of 2014, radical shifts) was show you can be an outstanding hitter at Coors and on the road. Heck, he was a better hitter on the road than at home, despite having more protection at home thanks to Coors, and despite having Coors at Coors. Weird. We saw similar performance this year with Morneau (split-wise, not overall, as those are amazing numbers, but as to splits I have tried to figure out Tulo’s splits, have some thoughts, but Tulo should have been a .900+ OPS player on the road this year and simply wasn’t). CarGo was, for the those 110 games, one of the 3 best positional players in the NL. I mean we are talking G. Stanton level (granted a few years older, but still), and making his salary look cheap. That player can automatically make the Rockies at least 10 games better in the standings. Oh, and does anyone know why when they need more offense on the road, CarGo suddenly became Steve Balboni on the basebaths?

 

Some perspective on that 2013 season: According to FanGraphs in just 110 games he was a 4.7 WAR player (about the same at Tulo in 2014 in similar sample size) and was worth $23 million that year. That folks is a player worth his contract.

 

But that player never played in 2014.

 

We got:

2014 Overall – 70 G, 281 PA, .238 BA, .292 OBP, .431 Slug, .723 OPS, 89OPS+, 3SB 0CS 11 HR

2014 Home –   32 G, 125 PA, .336 BA, .376 OBP, .569 Slug, .945 OPS,                 1SB 0CS 5 HR

2014 Road –     38 G, 156 PA, .160 BA, .224 OBP, .319 Slug, .544 OPS,                 2SB 0CS 6 HR

 

Hands up if you knew that CarGo was a .945 OPS at home in 2014? I didn’t. I thought he stunk everywhere but he didn’t. My theory is that with all the talent in the world, even injured, he was able to throw up good numbers thanks to Coors and the protection he receives at Coors (in the batting order). But if you need any answer to the reason the Rockies were the worst on the road in history – here it is. I mean your #3 hitter in the order is throwing up DJ offense, and you think you are going to win. They should have shuttled CarGo back and forth on long road trips. All of us who saw him last year noticed how weak he was on the road this year. Though surprisingly for the 2nd year in a row he had a better BA against lefties than righties, although with horrible OBP #s and significantly worse slugging.

 

CarGo for his career:

 

H .329 BA .387 OBP .601 Slug .988 OPS 82 HR .371 BABIP
R .258 BA .314 OBP .437 Slug .750 OPS 54 HR .315 BABIP
Vs R .302 BA .367 OBP .550 Slug .917 OPS 96 HR .350 BABIP
Vs L .278 BA .319 OBP .462 Slug .780 OPS 40 HR .332 BABIP

 

 

And this is why trading CarGo is so hard for the Rockies. If healthy (and yes, it is a big if, but his hand issue was simply weird and his knee surgery wasn’t exactly experimental), this is an fantastic offensive player, one with 3 Gold Gloves, who has finally figured out how to hit lefties (though still lacking patience), who hit better on the road in his last healthy season, who has over 100 steals in 4 seasons with at least 110 games, 2half seasons, and whatever last year was. He was at the time of his injury getting better as a player, and was at the elite level before the injuries – elite level, as in top performer at his position in baseball (arguably). Yes, he strikes out too much, but this is the modern game. Strikeouts are worth it if you get .900+ OPS.

 

Yes, I know that Corey Dickerson may well be a great hitter in his career (still need to see more PA in general and he has to hit lefties), and yes he is cheap this year. But at $16 million in 2015 if you get anywhere near his 2013 level of play, he is cheap, especially at today’s prices. If CarGo is the player he was in 2013, then as I said above, he makes this team at least 10 wins better than last year. Now, that only gets you to the mid 70s or so in wins, so the argument is, if you are just middling, cash in your chips, rebuild and go for it in 2016. CarGo is nearing FA (after 2017) at his age 31 season. So, the argument goes, trading him earlier so the team gets more games before FA increases value. But is the trade value = to the value to your team (and I am sorry, how often do these trades work in the favor of the trading team, using WAR? Maybe 50%, but I am betting more like 33%). The best argument is that you keep CarGo until he proves his value again and then ship him out. But as I have said before, if this team is 3 games back on June 1 and playing well, and CarGo is having a 2013 season, how in the name of all that is good do you trade him? How do you explain that to the fans (two words, Jeff Manwaring).

 

As for 2014:

 

Home Grade – B – He was much better than I realized offensively but his defense was hugely disappointing, owing to that knee, and the lack of steals curtailed his value overall.

Road Grade – F – And here I am being kind. You cannot produce DJ offense, with Cuddy defense, playing a premium offensive position, not when there were others to take those Abs in 2014.

 

Overall Grade – D+: My rationale for such a “high” grade? He gave all he could to the team when healthy, he helped this team have a good home season, and the threat of his bat served the team well, even when he didn’t deserve it.   Though a few bunts into the shift on the road would have helped.

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