The Case For (and Against) Jonny Gomes

As the Braves – powered by a resurgent Dan Uggla – won the first game against the Reds, Braves fans saw Jonny Gomes look at a called third strike from Craig Kimbrel. That’s no shame of course, better hitters than Gomes have done the same. Still I and others made the kind of statement fans do when they’re watching a game. I said, “I think I’ll pass.”  Then another fans said, “look at his numbers he kills lefties” and that OPS was a far better indicator of value than WAR. I disagree with that but  it was late and I had to leave.  This morning I thought I’d do what was suggested – look at the numbers – and see if my position – he’s a horrible fielder and would surrender more than he provides – holds up, or should I apologize.

First of all according to Fredi Gonzalez during an interview on Friday, Gomes doesn’t fit because the Braves want a player who can play all three outfield positions. Gomes is a corner outfielder at best. So he doesn’t fit. But let’s assume for the discussion we might get him. Does he fill a need well enough to make a deal?

Gomes started out as a Devil Ray, his first full season has been his best so far .282/ .372/ .534/.906. His numbers the next three years resemble a roller coaster so the Rays “granted him free agency” in 2008 and he joined the Reds in 2009. Once again his first year was his best but 2010 was very close except that the number I’m told is important – his OPS – dropped 121 points, primarily because his slugging dropped 110. The discussion centers around his ability to hit left handed pitchers out weighing his shortcomings in other areas. So let’s look at that.

For his career Gomes is .281/.377/.510/.887 against them.This year he’s better so far   .340/ .446/ .547/ .993 . His numbers against lefties are indeed pretty good. That’s good.

Gomes’ 2009 opportunities in RISP, clutch and high leverage situations compare with those he’s been at the plate for this year for this year and with his career marks. Using those as a guide:

With RISP 2009 – .261/.460/.478/.839 – this year .190/ .353/ .365/ .718

With 2 out RISP 2009 – .242//.359/.394/.753 – this year .088/.244 ./118/ .362, worse than Alex Gonzales.

His 2009 High Leverage (pivotal play during a game) numbers were way above his career numbers and both are way above this year’s .171/.327/.268/.596.

Maybe he’s just facing tougher pitchers this year or perhaps he’s starting to sow down.

His career second half numbers are lower across the board than the first half, OPS is down 75 points and OBP 25. He hits well June, but really down in July and gets better in August and tails off a bit in September and October save last year’s pennant run.

Leaving defense aside I see a guy who has a good year followed by a not so good one. This year would be the not so good one and that fits the number so far. His clutch, RISP and game changing play numbers are well below career with his 2 out RISP making Alex Gonzalez poor year look really good.

Since being called up Wilkin Ramirez’ numbers against left handed pitchers (.308/.438/.385/.822) are really close to the Gomes (.340 ./446/ .547/ .993). There are no clutch, RISP or leverage number for Ramirez yet.

Gomes is indisputably a replacement level defender or below. While Ramirez is faster and has a better arm. The only reason he hasn’t stuck in the majors before is his high strikeout rate.

Even with Gomes killing lefties his defensive shortcomings means that replacing Ramirez on the roster with Gomes changes little offensively and reduces our outfield defensive effectiveness.

I don’t know that there’s enough evidence on the player to support OPS over WAR or vice versa. I’ll leave that discussion for another day.

Tags: Jonny Gomes Wilkin Ramirez

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