Friday, April 15, 2011
Gonzalez's Monster potential ... and why we've yet to see it
By Jeremy Lundblad
After much anticipation, Adrian Gonzalez has finally had his first look at Fenway Park.
But he’s still waiting to introduce himself to the Green Monster.
Through five games, he’s managed four hits, but none was the deep fly to left that everyone envisioned.
Gonzalez’s opposite field power was an inescapable storyline when the Boston Red Sox acquired him in the offseason (and now it’ll be one for the next seven years). Here was a player who had smacked 50 opposite field home runs since 2008, the most in the majors. In fact, only Ryan Howard (48) even came close, with Joey Votto’s 36 next in line.
Of course, much of that was accomplished in the expansive surroundings of PETCO Park in San Diego. Of those 50 home runs to left, 34 came on the road.
Just imagine what the lefthanded slugger would do with the close wall at Fenway.
Rather than imagining, Greg Rybarczyk did the analysis. Rybarczyk, an engineer who runs the site HitTrackerOnline.com, looked at all of Gonzalez’s deep drives at PETCO in 2010. Taking into account the different dimensions and wall heights, he used the arc of each hit to project just what would have happened if Gonzalez played in Fenway last season (see photo above).
At PETCO in 2010, he finished with 11 home runs, a .279 batting average and .438 slugging percentage. Based on his Rybarczyk’s findings, playing at Fenway would have meant only one additional home run. However, he would have punished the left field wall for 13 additional doubles, as you can see in the above image.
Those 14 added extra-base hits would have meant a .329 batting average and .544 slugging percentage at home.
Of course, his opposite field prowess is hardly a secret, particularly to opposing teams.
Last season, Gonzalez had a 81.3 fly ball percentage when hitting the opposite way compared to 39.4 percent when pulling the ball. In other words, when he pulls the ball, it is often on the ground. That’s why you still see a significant shift against Gonzalez even though he’s known as an opposite field hitter.
Two of his four hits at home thus far have been hitting against that shift.
But what we haven’t seen is that opposite field fly.
A big reason why is that he’s being pitched differently at Fenway. Looking to prevent him from going to the opposite field, 57.8 percent of the pitches thrown to Gonzalez by the Rays and Yankees were inside. Only 22.9 percent were outside (See right side of photo below).
During Boston's season-opening road trip, there wasn’t the Green Monster to worry about, so those percentages nearly flipped around: 28.2 percent inside; 44.4 percent outside (see left side of photo below).
Last season, Gonzalez hit 13 opposite field home runs. Not a single one was on an inside pitch.
Expect to see a lot more of those when Gonzalez hits at Fenway.