If there were questions earlier this year whether Adrian Gonzalez was among the best hitters in baseball, consider your doubts answered. After hitting 71 home runs and posting a .288/.400/.530 line (.390 wOBA) in the past two seasons in San Diego, Gonzalez has started off his tenure in Boston on a blistering pace. He now has a .434 wOBA — second-best in the American League behind only Jose Bautista — and his .357 batting average is the highest in the majors. Can he adjust to the AL? Will he thrive in the toughest division in baseball? Gonzo laughs at your concerns.
So while Gonzalez is tearing the hide off the ball, there’s also an interesting subplot going on. Namely, how is Fenway Park affecting his hitting value? He’s hit 16 home runs so far this season and he’s on pace for 34, a small bump from last season. But it was a common assumption during the off-season that Fenway’s cozy confines would lead to an even more dramatic homer increased for Gonzalez. In fact, although Gonzalez currently has the highest Isolated Power of his career (.248 ISO), it looks as though he’s hitting with less power this season.
Gonzalez’s home runs this season have traveled an average distance of 388 feet, according to Hit Tracker. The longest one so far tops out at 411 feet. Last season, Gonzalez averaged 394 feet per home run, and he crushed one 442 feet. Take a look at the difference:
While there isn’t an egregious difference between the two, the tracker shows that Gonzalez hasn’t been hitting deeper blasts to center field. He’s pushing and pulling the ball well, but the power to deep center appears to be missing — and he’s only occasionally hit a home run that has landed beyond 400 feet.
It’s still less than halfway into the season, though, so it’s possible that this power will come around. Still, when you overlay Gonzo’s home runs from Fenway Park on a map of PETCO Park, you see how much Fenway is helping him this season:
Dark blue = home run; Light blue = double
Graphic from Katron.org.
It looks like Fenway Park is helping Gonzalez a good amount, as only two of his home runs and doubles this season would have been home runs at PETCO. You also can tell that Gonzalez hasn’t hit any deep fly balls to center field in Fenway — regardless whether they’re home runs or doubles (the same goes for fly outs, even though they’re not on this map). Many of those doubles to short left field look like outs in PETCO; at Fenway, they bounce off the Green Monster.
There’s no doubt that Gonzalez is one of the best hitters in baseball right now — he’s on pace for 34 home runs and 48 doubles, an insane number of extra base hits in this season’s depressed run-scoring environment. He’s hit nine of his 16 home runs on the road and posted a .423 road wOBA, so he’d be having a superstar year no matter where he’s played. But still, his numbers wouldn’t be quite this good if he hadn’t moved to Boston.
So get used to it, American League teams: Adrian Gonzalez is going to be abusing Fenway — and opposing pitchers — for a long time. The onslaught has only just begun.