Don’t look now, but Adrian Gonzalez hasn’t exactly been good this year? It’s easy to overlook Gonzalez not playing well because he’s really the only consistent bat in the lineup. He’s on pace for 650+ plate appearances, and there’s tremendous value in having a guy who doesn’t miss games, ever. He was the prize of the Nick Punto trade that occurred in 2012, he was a middle of the order doubles hitter who despite the shoulder surgery could carry an offense, a far cry from what Dodger fans were used to in James Loney.
So it pains me to type these words, you’d come away largely unimpressed if you took a gander at his line today. A first baseman who is hitting .250/.312/.429 simply isn’t good enough, (I won’t even go too in depth on his struggles versus LHP’s other than his OPS is .483 and wOBA is .222) especially considering that he’s a very unimpressive baserunner. Dee Gordon is outproducing him on offense by 5% this year.
Early on this year the optimism was there. His peripheral stats were looking like vintage AGon. His BB% was way up to 10.5%, his K% was down to 16.0%, his ISO was sitting at a lofty .234. I love a batter who can hold his batting average on balls put in play close to his average with a high ISO. It bodes well for that particular hitter. And it did. AGon was experiencing a drought in BABIP luck, but that was okay, a .278 BABIP then meant a 139 wRC+.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, that high was short lived. Since that May 31st game, he’s slashing .217/.256/.315 with a reduced walk percentage sitting at 5.8% and an inflated K% of 19.2 %. The most troubling trend is the power drip. From March to the end of May, Gonzalez held an ISO of .234, and (rightfully) inspired posts like this. Now… Well… Now, it’s different. 11 Extra Base Hits since the start of June, a .098 ISO. Take a look at this ISO chart, and look at where 6/1-7/13 Adrian Gonzalez would rank.
Now I get it, little small sample size gnomes could be terrorizing Adrian Gonzalez. He isn’t as bad as he has been this past month an a half. However, the question is whether Gonzalez should be batting 4th in the lineup every single day.
Lineup conversations get dismissed, sometimes unfairly i’d argue. People say that optimizing a lineup means so little over a course of a long season. And I understand that. However, if you could optimize a lineup, why wouldn’t you strive towards that? Why wouldn’t you want your best hitters batting in important situations? If we assume that Adrian Gonzalez is experiencing significant regression, why are we continuing to bury Juan Uribe, and Matt Kemp in the lineup?
AGone has been putrid recently. And right now, if given the choice between an extra Matt Kemp/Juan Uribe AB, and an extra Adrian Gonzalez AB, I’d take the former every single time. And who knows, if that conceivably adds to the number of men crossing home plate during this stretch run, i’d be satisfied with it. But until Gonzalez regains some sort of form he showed earlier this year, or even the player he was last season, he should be dropped in the batting order.