Instead of talking about our usual left fielder I'm going to talk about yesterday's part-time left fielder, Jonny Gomes. A few years ago he looked to be one of our building blocks for the competitive teams -- which always seemed to be closer than they were, until then became now. He was the guy everyone wanted in the lineup, he was the hope, he was the charismatic and sometimes flamboyant slugger with a touching story of survival, and of course he was also the guy who made sometimes hilarious mistakes that, for a time, were just bullet points on his résumé of endearment.
Familiarity breeds contempt and Gomes numbers don't supplant the empty feeling when his name is in the lineup. Ironically the end Gomes could very well be a right-handed hitting power hitter, something he was until this year, and even that is not entirely true. Look no further than Gomes homerun/flyball percentage and his trajectory splits to realize that Gomes has been pretty abnormal this season. Sure his 52.3% flyballs are pretty normal, and that 13.3% homerun total looks fine, in fact throw the 8.9% infield flyballs and again we're pretty fine, but then we reach his line drive and groundball percentages; 9.3% (career: 19.1%) and 38.4% (career: 28.8%).You just found the culprit for his .203 BABIP.
The most shocking thing about Gomes is that his strikeout rates are actually down, yes down. With playing time considered Gomes strikeout percentage as at a career high 36.2%, this season Gomes is only striking out 26.1%, below his 32.4% average. Unfortunately Gomes is also walking only 8% of the time which isn't too far off from his 10.6% average yet combined with a weak BABIP has Gomes line looking like .191/.293/.391.
To complicate matters even more Gomes is actually swinging out of the zone at higher rates than before and by a pretty decent margin (34.19%). Gomes has increased his contact to 75% by becoming more aggressive and less patient, lowering his P/PA to a career low 3.72 even with an epic at-bat against Damaso Marte, take that away and Gomes sees roughly 3.66 P/PA, that's nearing Carl Cra...uh, that's nearing Jason Bartlett levels.
So here's the thing, Gomes numbers will almost certainly progress towards the mean which would make him an asset, however he's only good for hitting despite saying he hits better as a fielder. The Rays are almost certainly going to continue using a platoon unless a full-time right fielder is acquired and that means Eric Hinske or Gabe Gross, whoever the left-handed bat is, will almost undoubtedly get the lion's share of work which presents a problem for Gomes future in St. Pete.
Good clubhouse guy, fun to watch during crappy seasons, but Gomes spending next year in the Rays colors is beginning to seem quite unlikely.