The Curious Case of Alex Gordon
Only the most hardcore Gordo fanboys remain optimistic that he’s going to bounce back and become anything close to the hitter he was. The contract he was given looks worse by the day as it hamstrings a small-market team forced to straddle the fine line between penny-pinching and making smart, savvy investments in homegrown players.
And yet, thanks to his defensive prowess, he’ll probably be an above replacement-level player by Baseball Reference’s metric.
A spike in groundball rate (44.8 percent) and sharp decline in hard-hit ball rate (36.9 percent to 29.6 percent) have conspired to torpedo Gordo’s offensive ability. Those are the things that point to a decline in offensive skills—a decline that was inevitable as he entered his mid-30s.
But a 20.6 percent strikeout rate—fifth-lowest of his 11-year career—and a .234 BABIP? That points to a different kind of shift, the kind that makes .195 at the All-Star break look like .245 by season’s end.
Alex Gordon the perennial All-Star is likely gone. Alex Gordon the useful player on a competitor who provides leadership, defense and hitting that ranges between “suboptimal” and “perfectly acceptable,” is likely here to stay. And if the Kansas City Royals get that guy in the second half—and not the Alex Gordon who spent the entire first half reenacting every Timmy Lupus at-bat in The Bad News Bears—the offense gets an upgrade from “atrocious” to “merely inconsistent”.