By Rob Cardno
About a week ago I began to pen an article about Adrian Gonzalez being too high in the rankings. I’ve seen him going as high as nine in mock drafts and usually no later than the late teens. I have yet to see a single article offering a dissenting opinion and that’s when my contrarian ears perked up. As a rule, if everyone loves something I tend to hate it. It usually occurs to me that once 100% of the public is behind a player, product or stock, there is nowhere for it to go but down. There is now no one left to be convinced so essentially value has been maxed out. So I set out on a mission to debunk his lofty ranking.
I knew all the reasons why ‘Dr. Gonzo’ (man needs a nickname-I’m trying a few out in this post) was to have a monster year. The home/road splits, the shift to a hitter’s park, the contract year, the great line up around him, etc. It seemed too good to be true. So I dove into his stats looking for a chink in the armor. The results were surprising… His numbers are stunning.
There’s remarkable consistency across the board. I could barely find any discrepancies. His batted ball rates barely waiver, his strikeout rate has dropped the last two years, he has the pedigree (former no.1 overall) and he doesn’t miss any games (avg. 160 games played over the last five years).
Not satisfied with the pristine stats I’ve seen so far I dug deeper into these mythical home/road splits. Ugh…my case just got worse. Not only was ‘A-Gone’ affected by Petco but also notorious pitcher parks-Dodger Stadium and AT&T Park. He has a career SLG% of .364 in Dodger Stadium. He actually fared better against them at home. In total- 64% of his games are played in three of the kindest venues for hurlers.
I decided to readjust some of his stats taking away those ballparks. Here are his career SLG%:
All games – .507
Road games – .568
Road games minus LA and SF – .595
Sure, getting to play in Colorado and Arizona helps, but it’s impossible to take every scenario into account. At this point I’m starting to become a believer, but I just can’t let this argument go yet. There’s a conversation I heard last year between two of the Padres announcers.
They had asked ‘Rocky’ about how difficult it was to hit in Petco. His answer was surprising. He said he stopped trying to hit HRs when at home and therefore was able to use the park to take even strokes and correct any bad habits he developed while on the road. This might be nothing, but it’s important to consider that while San Diego may not be friendly to hitters, it might be the most accommodating and friendly city in every other way.
You can crunch all the numbers you like. You can superimpose a Petco hit chart onto Fenway (like you see in this wonderful link) and surmise that Petco robbed him of 15-20 extra base hits.
However, how do you factor in playing half your games in your hometown surrounded by beautiful woman, surfing, Top Gun memorabilia and El Pollo Locos? Is there anything to this comment? Was Petco a glorified batting cage that enabled him to scorch the opposition on the road? There is reason to be skeptical, but the good far outweighs the bad.
There’s no way of predicting how the ‘Chula Vista Chupacabra’ will respond to the pressure of hitting in Boston and New York, but if you just believe the numbers than he might be even better than people are predicting.
My initial argument was why take .280-30-100 from ‘The Big Chimichanga’ in Round 1 when you may get those numbers from Adam Lind in Round 10? A deeper look at the numbers suggests that 30-100 might be the low end. Putting up 40-120 with a .600 SLG not only seems reasonable, it seems almost automatic.
While I still think top ten is a little high considering the depth of 1B, I can’t fault anyone for grabbing this potential MVP candidate. Well played ‘Senor Perilla’, you’ve convinced this skeptic.
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