I warned the other day that it’s important not to overreact early in the season.
The Royals have played three games. That’s less than 2% of the entire season. Alex Gordon has one walk in 14 plate appearances but has no hits. He’s struck out six times.
Monday night, against lefty Tom Milone, Gordon will have the night off. Manager Ned Yost said that he was thinking about it after yesterday’s win but hadn’t committed. Tonight, though, Jason Bourgeois will take over for him in left field.
Similar to my warning about overreacting early in the year, it’s also important not to overreact to early decisions. Still, I have to scratch my head about this one.
No, Gordon hasn’t hit well yet, but he hit all through spring and hit all of last season. If such a stretch had happened three days earlier during spring training, there wouldn’t be any issue, but it’s the regular season and that means games count and decisions, apparently, have to count for more too. I can’t help but think that this is some micromanagement by Ned Yost.
Jason Bourgeois has a good track record against left-handed pitching – .328/.369/.409 for his career in 200 plate appearances. That’s better than Gordon’s .234/.311/.400 in 683 plate appearances. Last year, Gordon was .278/.358/.471 in 212 plate appearances. It’s an assumption, but I’d suggest that Gordon of last year is closer to who he is right now. Against Milone, who had an average fastball velocity of 87.8 mph last year, is the exact type of lefty that Gordon made big improvements against last year – his hits on soft tosses from southpaws were a big part of his breakout last year – and a pitcher with five career starts, and none in the American League, seems like a good guy to face to get back on track.
But Gordon sits. The Royals gave him an extension and think a day off is what he needs rather than a chance to get back in there.
Look at it this way. Gordon hasn’t been good in the first three games, but he also faced Jered Weaver – arguably a top five pitcher in the AL who also dominated Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler – and Dan Haren, who’s among the best pitchers around too. Ervin Santana is no slouch either.
It seems like unnecessary meddling. Yost tried to mess around on Sunday as well, after two games sticking Lorenzo Cain at the bottom of the lineup and moving Alcides Escobar up. He said it was to protect Mike Moustakas, who had Brayan Pena and company hitting behind him, and I can partially buy that, but again, it just seems like moving players around when it’s not necessary. Big picture, this young team may benefit more from getting into their roles and learning what they need to do in them, not get bounced around all the time.
It’s only a couple of games, but it’s not a promising sign that Yost seems to want to move things around right away. Maybe he’s getting into his rhythm in the young season too and wants to jump out to a good record right away. I can live with that, but if it’s early May and Yost is still flipping players around in the lineup, I’d wonder if there’s a big picture at all. Player performance is one thing, but after three games, what are you really looking at? Every player has had a bad three game stretch. That it comes in the first series of the year is what makes it look more significant than it should. If Gordon had went hitless in two at bats at the end of a game in late June, then continued on an 0-12 stretch in the next few, would it stand out? Probably not like it does at this point where his on base percentage is .071.
I hope Yost is right and one day off is all it takes to get Gordon back on track, but I think he’s best served to let Gordon work his way out of it.