It's been a tough start for Alex. (Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE)

When do we start worrying about Gordon?


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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  • michael.allen.engel

    I’ll worry in June if he’s not north of a .700 OPS. That’s about it. Like you said, it’s such a small sample size – he has seven balls put into play. 
    I think this happens every season, where someone starts out cold and people go nuts. By the end of the year, Gordon will have accumulated somewhere around 675 more plate appearances if he stays around the leadoff spot. Anyone freaking out over 14 of those (barely 2%) is jumping the gun big time. I like to point out that nobody was hitting Jered Weaver on Friday. Maybe you can’t just write that game off but Weaver was looking pretty nasty. 
    He’ll be fine. 
    Everyone breathe in. Breathe out. Calmness. Tranquility. 

  • eric.akers

    He has had some hard hit balls so far, so I will not worry yet.  I felt the same way of my first softball game this year (actually a doubleheader). I seemed to make an impossible number of third outs (I don’t know the real number, but I was telling everybody it was 13 3rd outs; hard to do in 14 innings of play). I made two outs in a single inning too. Only once did I not hit the ball well, but the other times the ball went at somebody. Oh well.  On the other side of the ball, I was terrific in left center in case anybody is wondering. My offensive struggles did not have an effect on my defense.
    Anyway, you can be sure my future posts will be better than this one.

  • ArrowFan

    I guess Gordon is ok now.  But not having Jack today cost us a win.  I hate Oakland.

  • michael.allen.engel

     @ArrowFan Yeah, Gordon did some damage but that’s a tough loss considering how it happened.