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Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez leads all position players, and is tied with pitcher Clay Buchholz, in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) this season.
The defensive component of this is no surprise. Gomez has rated among the game’s top center fielders in the past, and he currently leads the position in Defensive Runs Saved.
But the offensive component of this is unusual. Gomez ranks among the major-league leaders in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Where has this early-season production come from?
Gomez has good numbers in a couple of areas.
Success vs Inside Pitches
This season, Gomez already has 13 hits against pitches on the inner-third of the plate or just off the inside corner. Compare that to last season when he had 30 hits (in 121 at-bats) on pitches on the inner third.
Just two seasons ago, Gomez totaled 13 hits and made 50 outs against pitches to that area. In 2013, he's made only 12 outs.
On Breaking Balls
When Gomez puts the bat on the ball against breaking pitches, he's making harder contact -- and has had better results.
Carlos Gomez vs 2-strike breaking balls
Based on video review, Gomez has 12 "hard-hit balls" in 35 at-bats in which he’s made contact against breaking pitches. (From 2010-12, Gomez had only seven "hard-hit balls" against breaking pitches in which he made contact.)
This season, Gomez has 16 hits -- including three home runs -- against curveballs and sliders, and is hitting .381 when a plate appearance ends with one of those pitches.
Of those 16 hits, seven have come with two strikes. He has more two-strike hits than he does missed swings (6). Last season, Gomez had 17 hits against breaking balls and 44 missed swings.
Hitting to Right Field
Gomez’s careful approach against breaking balls has come with something else: an ability to take the ball the other way.
This season, Gomez already has 14 opposite-field hits and is hitting .467 when he hits the ball the other way. In 2012, he had only 18 such hits and hit .269 when going the other way.
Mark Simon also contributed research to this post.