Why Adrian Gonzalez Isn’t Hitting for Power

Adrian Gonzalez photo taken from Zimbio via Google Images

A midst the massive failure that is the Boston Red Sox from the Fall of 2011 and though this point in the 2012 season, there have been a lot of fingers pointed and opinions formed. One point I heard being discussed on a Boston sports talk radio show over the weekend was asking why Adrian Gonzalez hasn’t hit for power since he dawned a Boston Red Sox jersey. All the talk was that with the new ballpark, that Gonzalez would be a lock for 40 home runs annually, since Petco Park had hampered his power production for his career thus far. We even saw pretty charts by ESPN measuring ballpark factors on some of A-Gon’s long fly balls in Petco being blasts in Fenway.

Theo Epstein essentially emptied out, for what it was at the time, the Sox farm to acquire Gonzalez on the condition that they could get an extension with him. And that’s certainly what they got when they inked a 7-year, $154MM extension to be the cornerstone of the Boston offense at 1B. All while knowing full well that Gonzalez had an issue with his right shoulder, his lead shoulder. The surgery was successful and Gonzalez went to put up a sparkling .338 batting average in 159 games. He even hit 27 home runs over the course of the season. Of course he faltered down the stretch during the Red Sox playoff run, but then again, who didn’t? Not to mention all the greef he has taken from fans and some media about his inability to come through “in the clutch”, which is an entirely different matter in itself (Mind you I don’t believe in “clutch” in baseball over a big enough sample size).

Now after reading a post by Fangraph’s Mike Axisa regarding Gonzalez’s power outage, which is quite clearly a real thing with the sample being almost an entire seasons worth of plate appearances (590), I’m starting to wonder if Gonzalez’s power is ever going to come back. With all of the statistical data backing up the fact that there’s an alarming drop off, there’s also hitting mechanics considerations to ponder.

First being Gonzalez’s approach, for which he is most known for. He has always been a guy known for his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. Take into consideration that as a hitter you need to let the ball travel deep into the zone for this to be effective without getting out on your front side. Gonzalez was always able to do this prior to the injury with power because he let the ball travel deep and made up for it with his quick hands. He still has those quick hands and will likely hit for average as he always has, but with a front shoulder issue I don’t see him being able to take advantage of the Green Monster since your transfer power will be limited if you have a shoulder issue.

BOSTON, MA - MAY 20:  Adrian Gonzalez #28 of t...

Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife

Secondly, and most importantly is how the shoulder problem actually comes into developing home run power. With Gonzalez having the issue in his right shoulder, the lead shoulder for a left handed batter, it’s cutting off his ability to finish strongly through his swings. That small extra bit of effort in the follow through, after you’ve already made contact with the ball is what gets balls over the fence or caught on the warning track for an out or as a double. He’s already creating torque in his core and through his legs, but his finish is quite clearly not driving the ball for home run power.

The shoulder surgery may have prevented further damage to the area, but it’s pretty unlikely that his power will return to where it was in 2010 before the injury and before the mega deal that Red Sox ownership committed to. He averaged 1 home run for every 26.48 plate appearances in 2011, and although a small sample size, Gonzalez has hit only 2 home runs in 143 plate appearances, an average of 71.5 plate appearances per home run thus far in 2012. Given the quality of hitters at the first base position, this will leave the Red Sox paying a lot of money for an average level of production.

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