Let’s just start this out by saying I’m sure no one thought Alex Gordon would start the year 0-14. I’m sure we all thought that was nearly impossible. Given his performance last year and a solid spring, we expect he should be vaulting out of the gate, not being benched for Jason Bourgeois in the fourth game. We wouldn’t expect seven strikeouts in his first 15 plate appearances.
So, when does the freaking out and name-calling begin?
From a glance at the stats today, there are seven qualifying players (3 or more games, 11 or more plate appearances) who have gone o-fer to start 2012. Interestingly enough, they’re all names that you might (or more accurately, should) know: James Loney, Kevin Youkilis, Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll, Ike Davis, Nick Hundley, and Alex Gordon. None of those seven regulars has a hit. Together, they’ve tallied 27 strikeouts to nine walks (Barmes and Youkilis both have no walks). Hey, but at least they have three RBIs between them…?
Last season, Gordon had no stretch of three full games without a hit. None. At times, he went two games or two and a pinch hit or something, but never three. And never with nearly this many strikeouts. So, what gives?
Well, Gordon’s swinging more than average, but only by three percentage points. He’s swinging more outside the zone and more inside the zone. And, as you might expect, he’s making much less contact than his career average and than his 2012 numbers. To start the season, he’s seen quite a few more cut fastballs than he normally gets, though getting eight over three games doesn’t seem like too many compared to 24 four-seamers.
It’s hard to really figure out just what’s up with Gordon to start this season. Small sample sizes always apply, and that makes it difficult. His spray chart isn’t that impressive and isn’t standard for Gordon, with most of his balls in play simply being easy infield outs. He’s whiffed on changeups and sliders a full third and half of the time, respectively. It just seems like Gordon hasn’t been able to get the bat on the ball, for whatever reason, even though he’s done well making contact on fastballs.
This is far from a freak-out state for Gordon. Far from it. Tonight, he’ll be facing Graham Godfrey, who will be making his fifth career start. Godfrey had a 4.71 ERA in four starts last season and lefties hit .267/.302/.350 off of him in 2011.* He’s not a power pitcher, striking out eight left-handed batters in 63 plate appearances, but he’ll be a good matchup for Gordon.
*Righties hit .356/.396/.600, on the other hand. Let’s see some fireworks!
Like I say, it’s not time to freak out. Every player has their ups and downs, and some simply get off to a poor start. The three pitchers that Gordon’s faced so far have been tough matchups. Over his career, Gordon has only hit .214/.308/.357 against those three with 13 strikeouts. That’s just a hard way to start the year.
So, at this point, it’s not yet time to be worried. If Gordon has a tough game tonight and tomorrow, we’ll start talking about it. As he faces more pitching and more favorable matchups, he should start to return to form. Still, Alex is an amazing athlete and great competitor. I trust that he can work to get back from a slow start. Heck, that’s sort of the path his career has taken, after all.
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