Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SweetSpot [Print without images]

Wednesday, September 8, 2010
The meaning of CarGo's home/road splits


From Joe Posnanski's latest, we learn that:

1. Carlos Gonzalez suddenly has a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown (which you probably knew)

Carlos Gonzalez
Carlos Gonzalez is batting .394 at home and .288 away from Coors Field so far this season.
and

2. Carlos Gonzalez has some of the most extreme home/road splits that anyone's ever seen (which you might not have known).

Joe's big finish:

So here’s my question: Is it at least possible that hitting in Coors Field, with its light air and huge dimensions, affects a hitter’s swing and mental approach and actually hurts him on the road? I’ve had hitters tell me that they go to Coors Field for a series, and it takes them a week to recover. Maybe that’s just talk, but as Henry Fonda says in 12 Angry Men, “Is it possible?” Yes, Cargo has been ridiculous at home — he’s slugging .801 for crying out loud — but on a team hitting .228 and slugging .354 on the road, doesn’t his .288 average and .450 slugging percentage look pretty good?*

* His lack of walks, home (22) and especially road (9), are a topic for another time.

This is not to say that Cargo’s season isn’t bizarrely inflated by Coors Field. It is inflated, no question. But I think it’s a bit more complicated than that. He’s have an amazing offensive season, an absolutely amazing season, and in my mind it should not be written off because he’s destroying the ball at Coors Field.

Yes, it's absolutely possible that hitting in Coors Field both boosts his home performance and depresses his road performance. We've been arguing about why this happens for a long time, but I'm fairly confident that it does happen. I've believed, for a long time, that playing at that altitude leads to extreme adjustments by Rockies hitters, adjustments that don't serve them well upon descending the mountains.

So, yes: CarGo's having an amazing season.

Can we talk about those walks, though?

Because they do count. If Gonzalez does somehow grab the Triple Crown and the Rockies charge their way into the postseason, there will be a great deal of sentiment for Gonzalez to win the National League's MVP Award.

But would he deserve it?

Umm, maybe. Even with so few walks, depending on which defensive metrics you trust (or don't), Gonzalez might be the second- or third-most valuable player in the National League ... or he might be the eighth- or ninth-most valuable. I think it's safe to suggest that if he does win the Triple Crown, he'll have finished the season on a tear, moving him up a spot or two on whichever list your prefer.

If we assume for the moment that Ryan Zimmerman and Adrian Gonzalez aren't going to get the serious consideration they deserve, this might simply be a battle between Gonzalez and Joey Votto. Which we may revisit in great detail when most of the numbers are in the books.