In last night’s game recap, I noted that our shortstop’s feet look like they’re stuck in cement. In response, some commenters urged patience with Alex Gonzalez. After all, he hasn’t played much in a year and a half.
That’s a reasonable request, I concede. However, I disagree…in part, and I wanted to expand on my comments in that thread. There are two aspects to my argument here:
With respect to his bat, I agree that it we should be a bit patient with him. His bat is going to come around eventually, and you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bury someone just because of a bad week at the plate.
Of course, you have to remember that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s never been a very good hitter anyway. WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s his bat going to return to? He was, frankly, a bad hitter before coming to Cincinnati, with three straight decidedly below-average seasons at the plate (Gonzo has never had an above-average year at bat). He’s 32 now, and he hasn’t played in a year and a half. Why should anyone expect that he’ll be anywhere close to average with the bat at this point?
But he’s clearly not going to hit .143 for the rest of the season. In fact, if his main competition is Paul Janish, there’s a better-than-even chance that he would end up out-producing Janish, even if slightly, over a full year.
Defensively, I disagree totally with calls for patience. First of all, his defense has been just bad so far. Gonzo really doesn’t have any range any longer. Heck, Gonzalez’s range had been in a fairly steep decline over the three years before the injury.
Now we have a 32 year old shortstop, coming off a knee injury, who hasn’t played in a year and a half, and whose range had been declining steadily already. There is a good argument that his range before the injury was worse than Jeff Keppinger’s defense last year.
This year, after all we’ve mentioned above, his RF/9 (range factor per 9 innings) is by far the worst of his career.
Now, as we constantly do here at RN, I must urge everyone to realize that we are talking about a small sample size. However, the stats do bear out what we’ve been seeing with our eyes: that Gonzo hasn’t moved very well laterally this season.
Case in point: that ball he dove for yesterday would have been fielded cleanly by Janish. And it was Jason Kendall running, not some speed demon, yet Gonzo was barely able to throw him out. As Chris noted in the game thread, “(e)ither the ball was slowly hit, in which getting to it (should have been) no big deal; or it was hard-hit, in which the play was closer than it it shouldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been. (The truth is somewhere in the middle).” Either way, Gonzo doesn’t look good in the analysis, Thom Brennaman’s praise notwithstanding.
No, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to wait for the defense to return. If he’s healthy, it should already have returned. If he isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t healthy, and that’s the explanation for all this (and that’s a possibility, since the guy could barely play 9 full innings this spring), then send him on a rehab assignment until heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right.
But if he is healthy, then I think this is what we have to expect from him. Below-average defense and, even at his best, below-average hitting.
I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like Janish much, but he could give us the below-average hitting and combine it with above average-defense, methinks.