Four Factors: Carlos Gonzalez

Previous Four Factors Entries:
Joe Morgan
Brennan Boesch
Martin Prado

After dealing with some current events over the last couple of days, we’re back with another entry in the Four Factors series, this time a request: Colorado Rockies uber-outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. Gonzalez is in his third season in the majors, and this is the first in which he will likely approach 600 plate appearances. Even in limited duty, though, Gonzalez has posted 5.2 WAR in just under 1000 plate appearances. His glove has always been solid, but his bat has really taken off in the last two seasons. In just under 700 plate appearances between 2009 and 2010, Gonzalez has slugged 30 home runs and posted a .377 wOBA. Let’s examine his progression through the four factors of hitting.

As a reminder, the four factors are BB%, K%, POW, and BABIP. As Julien Headley pointed out, I was using an incorrect form of POW. I was using XB/H instead of XB/(AB-K). The latter actually measures XB on balls in play, including HRs. League average is currently .185.

First, Gonzalez’s 2008, with Oakland:

Two thousand and eight was a poor season by basically any measure. Gonzalez excelled at nothing, and only a solid BABIP kept it from being a complete failure. He showed little discipline and little contact, and when he did make contact, nothing much came of it. The result was a 69 wRC+, showing little potential, and this season likely resulted in his inclusion into the Matt Holliday trade, sending him to Colorado for the 2009 season.

Everything came together for Gonzalez in 2009. The walk rate nearly came up to average; his power spiked; his strikeouts fell a bit, and, to top it all off, Gonzalez had good results on balls in play. The particularly striking factor here is Gonzalez’s power, rising from 86% of league average to 173% of league average. It’s important to remember that Gonzalez moved from McAfee Coliseum to Coors Field- a pitcher’s park to a hitter’s park. According to Statcorner’s park factors, however, Oakland isn’t as tough on left handed batters as it is on righties, and Coors doesn’t help lefties as much as it helps righties, making the boost in power much more significant, although the small sample means, at this point in Gonzalez’s career, it must be regressed heavily.


Two thousand and ten showed more of the same on the power front, certainly an encouraging sign for Rockies fans. But Gonzalez’s BB% has dipped back to where it was in Oakland, which is obviously disappointing after the 2009 season, as his minor league track record – no extended stints with double digit walk rates – doesn’t particularly suggest an ability to walk at a high rate, and this start to 2010 is dashing some of the hopes that Gonzalez’s on-base skills would approach average. Cutting down on the strikeouts each of the last two seasons has helped mitigate that damage, although not as much as an unsustainable .360 BABIP disguises the issues.

Over all, Gonzalez’s more controllable skills have gone down this year. Obviously, half a season can only tell us so much, but without a walk rate rebound in the second half we would have to expect a drop in Gonzalez’s offensive production, and even 980 plate appearances into his career, there is still moderate regression necessary on his power. At this point, however, it looks like he indeed has more than enough power to be an above average hitter, and as a good defensive outfielder, that makes him an extremely valuable asset going forward, and good enough to earn him a spot on Dave’s honorable mentions for highest trade value in the league.

(Note on POW: I’m not sure if I like XB/H or XB/(SO-AB) better for this exercise, but the difference isn’t huge in this case. I’m not sure if I like the idea of equating an out to a single, as XB/(SO-AB) does, and I may want to take outs out of the equation. For now, though, I trust Julien, the creator of the statistic.)

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obsessivegiantscompulsive
Guest

Any analysis of a Colorado hitter has to, HAS to, include a look at his home/road splits. For 2010, here is his split:

Home: .359/.399/.653/1.052, 13 HR in 167 AB (13 AB/HR)
Road: .266/.287/.405/.692, 4 HR in 158 AB (40 AB/HR)

Now, if you look at his 2009, the split was not as wide, he was actually good on the road, and that appears to be the difference between the two seasons, because he hit better on the road, he earned more walks, but now that he’s struggling, pitchers aren’t giving in to him as much.

Looking at where he played on the road in 2009, it appears he did not get into many games against the NL West relative to the other NL teams, as he has in 2010, though the difference is not that great. The difference appears to be his inability to hit in Houston, taking an 0-for-10, plus he didn’t hit well in SF either.

So it appears that thus far, Carlos has benefited greatly from playing in Coors, but has been pretty useless on the road. His hitting is a major reason why the Rockies are so good at home and yet have a losing road record. And he has only been an above average hitter in Colorado, not on the road.

Jeremiah
Guest
Jeremiah

We had a discussion about this a little while back at the Purple Row. A big part of his poor road splits is his strikeout rate. At home it’s 15.6%, and on the road it doubles to 31.6%. The recent home stand has changed things some, but basically he’s had more strikes per PA on the road than at home, while balls per PA is only a little lower on the road.

I don’t know if this is abnormal or not. I checked a few other players and most seem to have a higher K% on the road. I think it would be interesting to study home/road plate discipline stats for all players and the Rockies in general, because I’ve long suspected that the different atmosphere at sea level puts them at a disadvantage on the road.

jgoggles
Guest

Not sure I understand the significance of the 0-10 in Houston… Can you clarify? Also, his BABIP home/road splits are nearly identical, the problem is his K% on the road, so park doesn’t seem to play in this case as far as I can tell.

Gul Cratt
Guest
Gul Cratt

I’m not sure how much this has been studied, but I believe pitches are supposed to break less in the Colorado air. I don’t know how significant that is, but it could explain his higher K rate, which would mean that it WAS the park’s doing. It would be worth looking into home/road contact rate splits to see if that might be what’s going on.

Big Oil
Guest
Big Oil

I’m not disputing that Coors is a hitter’s park, but with young hitters, isn’t it reasonable to believe performance may also relate to — I don’t know how best to say this — comfort of the park and environment (not hitting environment)?

Sandoval’s 2010:

Home: .316/.374/.490, 4 HR in 155AB
Road: .217/276/.289, 2 HR in 180AB

Anyway, I’m only offering another reasonable explanation with (albeit little) evidence of another young, talented hitter who is not in a hitter’s park.

Jeremiah
Guest
Jeremiah

That’s interesting about Sandoval. It looks like he sees more pitches in general on the road, but a larger portion of those are strikes. In fact, nearly all of the hitters I’ve randomly looked at have higher K% on the road. What could be the reason for such a phenomenon, if it truly exists?

Carligula
Guest
Carligula

@Jeremiah (who I cannot reply directly to for some reason):

Perhaps it’s simply home-field-advantage itself: the home team’s pitchers are ahead more often, so they tend to challenge hitters with strikes (I believe, but might be proven wrong, that pitchers with the lead throw more pitches in the zone).

Jeremiah
Guest
Jeremiah

@Carligula

You could be right. Has anybody ever studied this in depth? Home field advantage definitely seems to be real (I count five teams that currently have a winning road record), so what causes it? Part of the reason I am curious about it is because the Rockies are often downgraded because of their home/road splits, but I don’t know what causes their splits to be so exaggerated.