Carlos Gonzalez: Committing Superstar Fraud in Colorado
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Sunday December 30th, 2012
Jonathan Hacohen (Baseball Writer and Website Founder): Follow @Jhacohen
Today I tackle one of my favorite baseball points of discussion: Carlos Gonzalez – MLB Superstar or simply a product of Coors Field?
It absolutely amazes me how Gonzalez has seemingly fooled the majority of the baseball world. From Twitter to leading baseball magazines, the average baseball fans to leading national writers are convinced that the young man is one of the top players in the game. Whenever I hear the CarGo fan train pulling into the station, I always have one response: check the home/road splits.
Ironically, I didn’t even look at CarGo’s final numbers when I picked this week’s topic. I didn’t need to. There are three certainties in this lifetime: death, taxes and Gonzalez’s sub par stats on the road. But just to humor myself (and continue to prove my point to the baseball world), I pulled up his stats from 2012. The results? Exactly as expected. Cargo on the year hit .303, with a .371 OBP, .510 SLG (good for a .881 OPS). He mashed 22 Home Runs, drove in 85 RBI and scored 89 Runs. Certainly great numbers, but a far cry from his monster 2010 season (.336 AVG, .376 OBP, .598 SLG, 117 RBI and 111 Runs). If you look past 2010, you will see that CarGo has in fact been slipping every year since. There was a drop in 2011 and a further drop in production last year. For the purposes of this article, I am only focusing on Gonzalez’s offensive numbers. Let’s face it- when we place the label of “superstar” on a hitter, we focus mainly on their hitting exploits. As I do every year, I break down CarGo’s splits which reveals a true sense of the player that he is.
Taking aside Gonzalez’s dip in overall numbers, his 2012 production at Coors Field was outstanding. At home, he hit a robust .368, .437 OBP, .609 SLG, bashed 13 Home Runs, with 58 RBI and 58 Runs scored. Away from Coors you ask? The superstar prince turns from Prince Fielder into Brandon Inge. Ok, maybe not that bad…but it ain’t pretty. On the road, CarGo hit a terrible .234, .301 OBP, .405 SLG, drove in 27 RBI and scored 31 Runs. In case you were concerned about his At-Bats, 266 at home and 252 on the road. If you pull up a calculator and calculate a full CarGo season away from Coors, that is good for 54 RBI and 62 Runs scored. Ouch is right.
I was screaming to the heavens when Scott Boras advised CarGo on accepting a 7-year $80 Million deal before the 2011 season. Sure CarGo was coming off an excellent 2010 season, but there were too many warning signs. Even at his elite superstar numbers that year, CarGo only walked 40 times. I guess when you hit .336 on the year, walks are not a high priority. To be a true elite hitter, I always preach the two p’s: power and patience. A hitter has to hit 30+ Home Runs and Walk approximately 90 times per year for me to attach a true superstar label on him. A patient hitter will see better pitches, get on base more frequently and likely hit more home runs. Exactly how many 30 Home Runs seasons has Carlos Gonzalez had to date? One. His career high walk total? Sadly it was last year with 56. But when you hit .303 on the year, it can still mask many deficiencies.
Note how many of these highlights are from Coors Field.
So why did Boras let CarGo sign such an early extension at such a “reasonable price” for a superstar hitter? After all, it is the Boras philosophy to wait things out and go for the big pay days. If CarGo was indeed the elite hitter that all the so-called experts make him out to be, shouldn’t he have been preparing for a $150+ Million contract? It is because Scott Boras knows, what Billy Beane knows and what I know. Carlos Gonzalez is still a free swinger with little patience. For whatever reason, his bat works at Coors. But it does not work in most other parks. Take the player out of Coors and you take the Coors out of the player. If any MLB GM did his true homework, he would be afraid of getting a .240 hitter on his team with little on base skills and less pop away from Colorado. Even playing at Coors, CarGo cannot hide his road woes forever. So Scott Boras advised him to take the sure money rather than take on too large of a risk later on his career.
Carlos Gonzalez just turned the magical age of 27. When hitters are supposed to be in their absolute prime. But aside from 2010, we haven’t seen that true star production from CarGo yet. Consider even his magical 2010 season. He had a 1.091 OPS at home that year and a .878 OPS on the road. He hit .380 at home and .289 on the road. Power wise? 26 Home Runs at home and 8 on the road. That’s right people. 34 Home Runs on the year and only 8 of them came on the road. The red flags have been there throughout his career. Yet here we are five years into the man’s career and the word is not spreading. The words “Carlos Gonzalez” continue to be associated with stardom and elite production. It’s just not there people. Far from it.
Still think Billy Beane cries at night about trading away Carlos Gonzalez in the Matt Holliday swap? Think again. The Oakland GM knew that CarGo’s style would never play well for the A’s. I was actually shocked when the A’s had acquired him from Arizona, but then relieved when he was moved shortly after. Look at Yoenis Cespedes if you want to see what a true hitter looks like. Consistent at home and the road- which is exceptional considering the enormous park that he plays in. If Carlos Gonzalez had stayed in Oakland, he would have been another Bobby Crosby. Remember him?
The bottom line for me is very clear. Carlos Gonzalez has enjoyed one huge year in the big leagues (2010). His numbers are enormously inflated by playing in Colorado. Last year, he played in 17 different ballparks on the road. Despite a small sample size, we can see that he played well in 6 of them. That’s approximately 1/3. He stunk in the other 11 parks. If I’m the Rockies, I almost consider leaving him at home for every road trip. It’s almost embarrassing if you ask me. If you’re going to get paid the big bucks and want to be a star, learn to take a walk and hit on the road. Consistency is the key. What happens if Carlos Gonzalez is traded one day out of Colorado? Or the Rockies actually figure out how to lower the offensive production in Coors (maybe move the fences out to the moon). If any of the above happen, CarGo’s production will go deep south. If you thought Carl Crawford fell on his face in Boston, that would be nothing compared to CarGo moving out of Colorado.
People can label him a superstar if they wish. To me, he is doing nothing more than committing superstar fraud for the Rockies. Just in case you were curious, for his career: CarGo has a .258 AVG on the road, with a .735 OPS. In 286 Career road games, he has hit 34 Home Huns. At that pace he would be lucky to break 250 Home runs for a 15-Year Career if he never played at Coors. A future Hall of Famer? Please…don’t go there. If you ever look up “Product of Coors Field” in the dictionary, I certainly hope you will find CarGo’s smiling face. He may have fooled most people, but he certainly hasn’t fooled me.
If you want further proof of the Coors Field Effect, we have a great 3 Part Series we have already done at the Reports that maybe to your liking. In Part #3, it even shows his numbers if you include the home parks of SD/SF and LAD: Carlos Gonzalez on the Trade Block? Buyer Beware! Part 1 of 3 On Coors Field Effect, The Humidor Effect on Baseballs at Coors Field: One Decade In Part 2 of a 3 Article Series and The Coors Field Effect: Part 3 of A 3 Article Series
(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)
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Posted on December 30, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged @jhacoehn on twitter, baseball, billy beane, bobby crosby, brandon inge, cargo, carl crawford, carlos gonzalez, colorado rockies, Coors Field, home road splits, mlb, nl west, oakland athletics, prince fielder, scott boras, superstar, todd helton, troy tulowitzki. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.