KC Royals: Alex Gordon Pulls Out Of Season-Long Slump
By John Viril
KC Royals left fielder has suffered through a rough 2016 after signing a franchise record $72 million contract last winter. He’s finally pulled out of his season-long slump with a six-game hitting streak.
It’s no secret among Kansas City Royals fans that it’s been a tough season for Alex Gordon. First, he got off to a slow start. Then he broke a bone in his right wrist on May 23. He hasn’t really recovered since, despite returning to the lineup on June 25. Overall, he’s hitting a pathetic .216/.317/.341—which gives him a 76 OPS+ (24% worse than a league average hitter).
Just when KC Royals fans were about to write-off Alex Gordon’s season, he’s strung together a six-game hitting streak. In fact, Gordon has stroked two hits in each of his last three games. his batting average improved to .216 after dipping under the Mendoza line at .199 on August 6 and 7. For the month of August, Gordon is hitting a much improved .271/.340/.375. That’s not exactly a return to form, but it’s a start.
Alex Gordon has been even better during his last six games. Gordon is slashing .417/.481/.500 with 2 doubles and 3 walks during his surge. While he still hasn’t seen his power return after his broken hand, he’s been very productive in the last week.
Despite his terrible performance at the plate, Ultimate Zone Rating still sees Gordon as a positive defender in left field with a 3.3 UZR. Gordon has added 0.9 value in Fangraphs.com’s BsR (baserunning runs) metric. Thus, Gordon has still put up 0.4 fWAR (Fangraphs.com Wins Above Replacement) this season.
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The best part of Alex Gordon’s recent hot-streak is that he’s allaying fears that his contract could turn into an albatross for the KC Royals. With future guaranteed payouts of $16 million in 2017, $20 million in 2018, and $20 million in 2019 with a $4 million buyout of a $23 million mutual option in 2020, a Gordon crash would prove devastating to a small-market team like the Kansas City Royals.
Much of Gordon’s struggles are likely due to the broken bone in his wrist. While the injury has healed enough for him to play, many players report losing strength after such an injury. Clearly, Alex Gordon hasn’t been driving the ball to his former standard with a career low isolated power (ISO) of .125 in 2016. Gordon also has been making less contact than ever before, with a career-high 29% strikeout rate compared to his career 21.3% whiff rate.
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In the immediate term, I don’t think it’s reasonable for the KC Royals to expect him to drive the ball like he has in the past. Hopefully, Gordon has adjusted and learned how to produce despite reduced bat speed. In the long-term, a full off-season of rest should allow his hand to heal and allow his power to rebound.