The Dodgers’ offense has lacked some punch over the first few weeks and one of the biggest culprits has been Adrian Gonzalez and his zero home runs. He is going to be 35 in two weeks, so he is approaching the age where athletes start to see a decline in their skills.
While Justin Turner doesn’t have any home runs for the Dodgers either, he has nine doubles and an OPS over .900. Last season, he only had three home runs through the first two months before exploding for 24 dingers over the next four.
Gonzalez, on the other hand, currently has an OPS that is threatening to drop below .700. That makes him 10th on the Dodgers in OPS as well as 10th on the team in slugging percentage.
Gonzalez did deal with an elbow injury this spring and it appears to have happened during the offseason while training, but given his stats from the end of last season to now, it makes you wonder whether he is injured or just dealing with diminished skills. After a surge of seven home runs in August last season, Adrian had an OPS under .700 in September plus the playoffs, and is now heading for a sub-.700 OPS in the first month of the season.
Adrian has traditionally been a fast starter, as he had eight home runs during April in both 2014 and 2015. Last year, he hit three home runs in the first month but had an OPS over .800
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One of the biggest problems with Gonzalez so far is he is hitting the ball on the ground a bit too much. Out of his 17 hits thus far, eight of them have come on ground balls. Hitting the ball on the ground is not going to generate any home runs and will make it harder to get extra-base hits.
The biggest reason to his ground ball surge is he is not making enough hard contact as he has in the past. This is the first time in his career where his hard contact rate is below 30%. His career average is 35.2% but this season he sits at 28.3%. This has coincided with a soft contact rate higher than his career norm.
Sunday was the perfect example of why Gonzalez needs to get the ball off the ground. He hit a bloop double that happened to fall in between the third baseman and left fielder, and followed that up with a long double off the left field wall.
The Dodgers have played at Chase Field, Coors Field, and Wrigley Field when the wind was blowing out, so Gonzalez has definitely played in environments that are favorable to hitters. If he would’ve elevated more balls, then he may have hit for more extra-bases and possibly a long ball or two.
Another ugly statistic is that Gonzalez is only batting .250 when he’s ahead in the count. Monday night with the game on the line in the ninth inning, he was way late on a 3-1 fastball before Justin Turner ran the Dodgers out of the game. A middle-of-the-order hitter should be able to crush those 3-1 fastballs over the plate instead of being late.
His long double on Sunday is hopefully a sign that his bat is about to wake up. He is still getting on base at a clip over .350, but being a middle-of-the-order hitter, he needs to drive in runs.
Adrian’s awakening would be a welcomed addition to a Dodger offense that has been very inconsistent over the first few weeks. While the power numbers appear to be anemic so far, there is some reason to be cautiously optimistic that Gonzalez is about to heat up, since he’s hitting close to .300 over the past week.
Given the DL stint of Joc Pederson, it would be a good time for Adrian to start clubbing some home runs and extra base hits. While it’s still too early to panic, it’s definitely time to be concerned about Adrian Gonzalez.