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Entries in power (2)

Thursday
Mar142013

Carlos Gomez Finds Power Stroke, Cashes In

Carlos Gomez is now a threat at the plate, too, thanks to improvements against breaking pitches.At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Carlos Gomez has always looked like a power hitter. Yet the former Mets prospect, the centerpiece of the 2008 Johan Santana swap, slugged under .400 in the minor leagues and rarely punched the ball out of the infield during his early twenties with New York, Minnesota and Milwaukee. Gomez finally added power to his Gold Glove-caliber defense last season, and the Brewers have now rewarded him with a four-year, $28.3 million contract extension. GM Doug Melvin thinks the 27-year-old Gomez is just getting started:

"He has always had the physical skills, and his recent performance has given us the confidence that he will take the next step in becoming one of the top center fielders in the game," Melvin said. "His energy, speed and aggressive style of play is a perfect fit for Ron Roenicke's style of managing." (Associated Press)

Gomez's home run total has spiked from just five in 2010 to eight in 2011 and 19 last year. His slugging percentage has climbed 100-plus points over the same time frame, from .357 to .463. With those 19 bombs and 37 stolen bases, Gomez joined Ryan Braun, Mike Trout, B.J. Upton and Jimmy Rollins in the 15 homer, 30 SB club.

Gomez has emerged as a power threat by making huge strides against curveballs and sliders. Once a liability when pitchers tossed him a breaking ball, Gomez now makes them pay.

Back in 2010, Gomez was a banjo hitter versus curves and sliders. He often chopped breaking pitches into the turf (his 57% ground ball rate on curves and sliders was way above the 45% MLB average), and he had all of two extra-base knocks the entire year:

Gomez's slugging percentage vs. curveballs and sliders, 2010

Gomez slugged .200 against breaking balls, about 150 points below the MLB average and the sixth-worst mark among hitters seeing at least 300 curves and sliders that season. In 2011, Gomez made some strides. He put the ball in the air more often (47% ground ball rate vs. breaking pitches) and made louder contact, particularly on the edges of the strike zone:

Gomez's slugging percentage vs. curveballs and sliders, 2011

 

Gomez slugged .385 vs. curves and sliders. Last year, he progressed from a so-so breaking ball hitter to a slugger. Gomez's ground ball rate dropped another tick (46%) and he pulverized curves and sliders thrown down and inside:

Gomez's slugging percentage vs. curveballs and sliders, 2012

 

With a .461 slugging percentage against curves and sliders, Gomez ranked third behind Josh Hamilton (.563) and Mike Trout (.521) among center fielders, and his nine homers trailed just Hamilton (18) and Adam Jones (10).

Gomez's power surge has transformed him from an easy out (76 OPS+ in 2010) into a quality MLB hitter (102 OPS+ in 2012), free-swinging style be damned. His new deal could turn out to be a bargain for Milwaukee, now that he's got pop to go along with his base running and fielding prowess.

Friday
Jan252013

Atlanta's New Outfield: Young, Fast and Powerful

New Brave Justin Upton joins brother B.J. and Jason Heyward in an outfield that could make power/speed history.The Atlanta Braves ended baseball's longest-running soap opera, "As The Upton Turns," by acquiring Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a seven-player deal. Justin now joins brother B.J., who inked a five-year, $75 million contract earlier this winter, and Jason Heyward in Atlanta's new-look outfield. The Brothers Upton and Heyward all have youth on their side, and they can crack a game wide open with power or speed. How rare is it for a club to have three power-speed threats covering the outfield, let alone three young ones? Turns out, it's unprecedented.

All three of Atlanta's fly-catchers have turned in 20 home run, 20 stolen base seasons in the major leagues. B.J. hit the 20/20 mark in 2007 (24 HR, 22 SB), 2011 (23 HR, 36 SB) and 2012 (28 HR, 31 SB). Justin did it in 2009 (26 HR, 20 SB) and 2011 (31 HR, 21 SB), and Heyward cleared the bar this past year (27 HR, 21 SB in 2012). With the Uptons and Heyward in the prime years of their careers, manager Fredi Gonzalez might just get three 20/20 seasons from his outfielders in 2013:

    2013 Bill James Projections

While Heyward has more than 1,700 plate appearances in the majors and he can grow a beard between innings, he'll be just 23 years old next season. Justin is entering his age-25 campaign, and B.J. is the old man at all of 28. All young dudes, all 20/20 threats in 2013 and for years to come. So, when was the last time that a team boasted three 20/20 outfielders?

The answer, according to Baseball-Reference's Play Index Tool, is "never." In all the years since we began this stick-and-ball business, no team has ever had its left, center and right fielders all go 20/20 in the same season. The Uptons and Heyward could very well make history next season. And the season after that. And the season after that. If Justin re-signs with the Braves following the 2015 season, B.J. keeps his wheels and Heyward stays healthy, they could be at this for a half-decade.

It's incredibly cool -- and rare -- for two brothers to man the same outfield. But if B.J., Justin and Heyward all hit 20 bombs and steal 20 bases next year, the story of the Uptons' shared bloodlines will be downright blasé by comparison.

Courtesy of Baseball-Reference, here's a list of teammates who have gone 20/20 in the same season while in their twenties. Only nine pairs have pulled off the trick, with Justin Upton and Chris Young being the most recent in 2011:

              20/20 seasons by teammates under 30 years old