I think Gonzalez has another 35 home run season in him, and I wonder if his home run totals were down because he was still recovering from his offseason shoulder surgery when the season started. Gonzalez still had a great year at the plate hitting .338-.410-.548 with 27 HRs, 117 RBI and 108 runs scored in 2011. His HR/ISO/SLG/2B trend looks like this over the last 3 seasons:
As you can see the home runs are down, but he is still hitting for decent power as he is hitting more and more doubles. Is this trend something to worry about? I would say not really, as Gonzalez is still young enough to top 30 HRs again in 2012 and beyond. I can see a 35 HR, 125 RBI season from him in 2012.
Well the trend is usually your friend, and the combination of his power being down due to his return from shoulder surgery and hitting in a solid Red Sox lineup lead me to believe he could return the hitting 30+ bombs this season. I am not aware of any lingering injuries that are sapping him from hitting for more power, so I think the drop in power could be real.
Thus far in 2012, Gonzalez is hitting .257-.313-.394 with 5 HRs, 22 doubles, 33 runs, 36 RBI and a 56-22 strikeout to walk ratio in 261 at bats. His strikeout rate of 18.7% is the highest since 2008, and his walk rate is the worst of his career at 7.3%. He is on pace to hit 12 home runs, score 75 runs and knock in just 85 runs, all of which would be career lows for one of the best fantasy first baseman over the past few seasons.
So what happened to the power? I wrote him down for 35 home runs this season, and he is on pace for just 12. Looking at his batted ball data over at FanGraphs, his line drive rate of 22.9% is his highest since 2006. His fly ball rate of 37.9% hovers around his career fly ball rate of 37.2%, so that is not the problem. His HR/FB rate of 6.2% is the lowest of his career.
FanGraph's pitch type date tells us that he is seeing more fastballs and changeups this season compared to last season, so maybe teams have noticed a trend in how he performs when thrown those two pitches.
The Pitch Value data indicates that teams may be on to something as Gonzalez is failing miserably vs fastballs as his fastball pitch value has fallen from 40.1 in 2011 to -3.1 this season. His changeup pitch value has fallen from 5.8 to just 1.0 as well.
If this trend continues, we can be assured that AGonz will see a steady diet of fastballs and changeups for the rest of the season.
Another possibility for the drop in power could be that he is dealing with a leg injury. I watched a recent Red Sox game and he didn't appear to be running well. Then a friend of mine emailed me saying he saw him stay on first base in a one run game, late in the game, on a wild pitch that went to the back stop. He was either not paying attention, or he is hiding a leg injury of some sorts.
Is Gonzalez's drop in power real, or just a result of a slump or injury?