Alright, so 2007 was a disappointment. And the Royals absolutely should have sent Alex Gordon to
We now know that the Royals were literally days away from sending him down when his bat came alive. So that four-hit game he had on June 7th ranks up there with Joe Nelson’s strikeout of Brandon Inge in extra innings on the final day of the 2006 season on the list of “good performances by Royals players that I really wish didn’t happen.”
Still, from that day on, Gordon hit .285/.330/.478. It wasn’t quite what we expected after his ridiculous performance in Double-A in 2006, when he hit .325/.427/.588, but it wasn’t far off. (Incidentally, Gordon’s one year in the minors was the most impressive season the local Wichitans had enjoyed since a 19-year-old Roberto Alomar hit .319/.374/.478 with 43 steals in 1987. I supposed Johnny Damon should be in the discussion – he hit .343/.433/.534 in 1995 – but Damon was called up to the majors before the season ended.)
(And why isn’t his nickname “Flash”, by the way? Isn’t that the law? According to Baseball-Reference.com, only three players with the last name of Gordon played in the majors for more than three years, and two of them (Joe and Tom) had the nickname. Not that I’m complaining. Calling him Flash because his last name would be just plain lazy, and we can do better.)
Every winter Nate Silver upgrades his PECOTA program in an attempt to make it even more deadly-accurate than it already is. (I shouldn’t be discussing this, but the
Second, he found that even when you control for all other factors, a player’s draft position (or, more precisely, signing bonus) has a significant impact on his future performance. This makes intuitive sense, but it’s something we often forget to think about when, say, Phil Nevin looks like a Quadruple-A player for the first seven years of his pro career before suddenly turning into a 30-homer 100-RBI guy, or when Jeremy Guthrie has a Rookie of the Year-caliber season after getting released by the Indians.
Gordon benefits from these adjustments as much as anyone: he had a much better second half (both offensively and defensively, although that won’t show up in PECOTA), and he was a #2 overall pick. Needless to say, his PECOTA is noticeably better than what you’d expect from last season’s numbers – his weighted mean is .269/.345/.463.
Besides, he just has the look of a franchise player, you know? His face never changes: he never looked scared or overwhelmed when he wasn’t doing well, and he never looked too impressed with himself when he was. Plus, he’s got a chin you could cut a diamond with.
He needs to draw a few more walks – what Royals player doesn’t? His batting average needs to be a lot better than .247, but batting average is the least consistent of all the major stats, and .247 is at the very low end of his true skill level. By year’s end he was an above-average defender at third, and he stole 14 bases in 18 attempts as well. He’s the closest thing to a five-tool player the Royals have had since Carlos Beltran.
The Royals don’t really need Gordon to be a five-tool player, though. They need him to be a pure slugger, and so the fact that he hit just 15 homers last year may be the most disappointing stat of all. But he did hit 36 doubles, and some of those should turn into homers this year. In fact, I’m willing to bet a lot of those doubles turn into homers. Why? Thanks to the Hit Tracker website, we have an estimate of the distance of every home run hit in the majors last year.
Prince Fielder, for instance, not only led the majors with 50 homers, but he also won the “Golden Sledgehammer” award for the highest average standard distance of his home runs –
It appears you had to have 18 homers to qualify for the list. This is important because Gordon hit only 15 homers, and we only have data on 14 of them. If it seemed like Gordon hit a bunch of absolute bombs last year, your perception is correct: the average length of those 14 homers was
When Gordon got a hold of one, he hit them as far as anyone in the majors. Now it’s just a matter of getting a hold of one more often. It may not happen in 2008, but I’ll go on record now and say that he’ll be the one to finally break