The Dodger’s historic 2013 run could perhaps be one of the most prolific in MLB history. Rarely have we seen a team dominate like the Dodgers have over their last 45 games. The Dodgers are 38-8 over that span, which has vaulted them into first place in the standings.
A huge reason for the incredible turnaround has been the Dodger’s first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. The guy has been a rock at first base, and day in and day out as the number three hitter in the Dodger lineup. When I say rock, I mean a boulder of consistency. Like one of those large Chevy trucks on the commercials, Gonzo has been Mr. Everyday for the Dodgers in 2013.
Gonzalez has played in 114 of the team’s 117 games, and just that alone is worthy of praise on a team who started the season by breaking the record for most trips to the disabled list. Gonzo’s reliability at first base an offensively demanding position is not only commendable but worthy of praise. But it hasn’t been that Gonzo has been reliable, if he were just reliable then we wouldn’t be having this discussion and I wouldn’t be writing this article. Gonzo has been great this season, with the bat and with the glove, and deserves to be in consideration for the NL MVP award.
Gonzalez, a San Diego native has blossomed into one of the best first baseman in the game. The 31 year old left handed batter originally came up with the Texas Rangers in 2004. He was actually drafted by the Marlins in 2000, who then traded him to Texas. He was then traded to the Padres which is where he had some of his best years of his career, and established himself as an MLB star. The big first baseman put up some terrific numbers down south.
After spending five seasons in San Diego, with every one of them being great, Gonzo was traded to the Red Sox. With his free agency looming the Padres didn’t feel like they could afford him, so they dealt him to Boston in the first of two mega-trades that Gonzo would be involved in. Gonzalez spent the better part of two seasons in Boston. He was just as good there as he was in San Diego. While with the Padres, Gonzalez averaged 30 home runs, 100 RBI, and a .290 batting average, while playing at least 156 games each season. Gonzalez spent 2011, and most of 2012 in Boston and was still great despite playing in a pressure filled environment that demanded results immediately.
2009 was Gonzo’s greatest season in which he slugged 40 home runs, walked 119 times, posted a .407 OBP, and finished fourth in the MVP voting. Gonzo in his first season in Boston in 2011, collected 213 hits. His first 200+ hit season, which is truly the benchmark of a great hitter. That year he hit 27 home runs, drove in 117 runs and batted .338, while playing in 159 games, with an OBP of .410 and an OPS of .957. Yes it was in the hitter’s haven of Fenway Park, but no matter how you slice it, those are great numbers.
The next year in 2012, Gonzo was having a good season, maybe not as great as his 2009 and 2011 years were but still pretty good. Little did Gonzo know he would be playing at Dodger Stadium before the year was up.
On August 25, of 2012, Gonzalez was traded to the Dodgers along with Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto, James Loney, Jerry Sands, Ivan De Jesus Jr., and pitching prospects Ruby De La Rosa, and Allen Webster. The mega-deal was made with one main thought in mind, acquiring an all-star caliber first baseman, and that’s just what the Dodgers did.
Gonzo struggled at first to adjust form going from hitting at Fenway park and mashing doubles off the green monster, to hitting at the spacious pitching friendly Dodger Stadium, where balls tend to not travel well at night in the cool air of Los Angeles.
Gonzo did hit a home run in his very first at-bat as a Dodger off of Josh Johnson, but continue to struggle until a game at Cincinnati on September 23. He was able to make an adjustment with his hands and wrist during batting practice, and then put it to practical use in the game that night, by slamming two home runs, leading the Dodgers to victory.
While the Dodgers missed out on the playoffs in 2012, Gonzo never looked back from there. Gonzo still went on to bat .297 in 36 games for the Dodgers in 2012. This season he has been every bit of MVP worthy as any other candidate. Nobody has been more valuable to their team that Gonzo has to the Dodgers.
Gonzo is batting .297 in 2013, with 16 home runs, 75 RBI, and an .803 OPS. Gonzalez has been so solid in 2013 for the Dodgers, and every single stat can back this up. Gonzalez has a 124 WRC+, which is nothing to scoff at. This puts his on course with this career average of 129. His career high was 156 back in his 2009 season. His .346 OBP, and an 81.4% contact percentage. Actually Gonzalez is making more contact this year than ever before in his career, He’s whiffed just 64 times this year. As comparison he struck out 142 times in 2008. Any player that has an ISO, or isolated power near .200, (Gonzo’s is .166), that is impressive as well.
Perhaps the most telling stat for Gonzalez is his numbers with runners in scoring position. Gonzalez has been an assassin with men on base in 2013 for the Dodgers. He’s hitting .333 (36 for 108), with RISP with four home runs and 57 runs driven in. With just men on base he’s batting .308, and with two outs and runners in scoring position, he is hitting an unbelievable .450 (18 for 40), with 22 runs driven in. Quite remarkable to say the least.
Baseball Reference has Gonzo’s WAR listed as 3.2, which means he is worth at least three wins to the Dodgers this season and probably a lot more. If you believe in such statistics. Not to mention playing a position that is crowded with extra ordinary talent. Among major league first baseman, which include other greats like Joey Votto, and Freddie Freeman, and Chris Davis, Gonzo ranks in the top ten in batting average, OBP, and slugging.
But just because Gonzo finishes in some top ten numbers doesn’t show how important he has been to the Dodgers. Their record, and place in the standings shows that and speaks for itself.
The four time all-star has also contributed his veteran knowledge to help phenom Yasiel Puig develop his maturity. Gonzo has often been seen talking to Puig and explaining the nuances of the game. Gonzo’s veteran leadership on and off the field is second to none, and the former gold glover’s defense has been great.
Gonzalez has also begun taking an active role in the Los Angeles community reaching out to various charities, and making appearances. The southern California native is a perfect fit for the Dodgers and Los Angeles.
Not only is Adrian Gonzalez a professional hitter, first baseman and MLB player in every way, I think a case should be made for his National League 2013 MVP candidacy. The key term here is the word valuable. The MVP is all about who was the most “valuable” to their team, and there is no question in my mind that is Gonzo. He’s been more valuable to his team then Andrew McCutchen, he’s been more valuable to his team than Joey Votto has been to his. He’s been more valuable than Yasiel Puig, or Hanley Ramirez, or Yaider Molina, or Paul Goldcrap of the Snakes.
Kirk Gibson won the 1988 NL MVP for more than just his numbers. It was for his leadership on and off the field. Gonzalez’s contributions for the Dodgers in 2013 have been about more than just the numbers, or home runs, or clutch hits. His consistency and quiet leadership have been a role model to younger players like Yasiel Puig. For all of these reasons mentioned above, I believe Adrian Gonzalez should walk away with the NL MVP trophy. Adrian Gonzalez has been everything the Dodgers hoped he would be and more. An MVP award to go along with a World Series championship should quiet the naysayers who say that the Boston trade was a mistake for the Dodgers. Just getting Gonzo makes the trade well worth it in my mind. Gonzalez is as solid as a rock.