2013 in brief: Put up more or less the exact season we thought he would as one of the more steady and reliable Dodger hitters.
2014 status: He’s still owed $106 million over the next five seasons, so he’s not going anywhere.
In 36 games as a Dodger in 2012 following the big trade, Adrian Gonzalez hit .297/.344/.441. In 157 games this year, he hit .293/.342/.461, so that’s what he is these days, and how you view that depends on your perception. On one hand, those who claimed that he’d never again be the superstar he was in San Diego were totally right. He’s not. His .346 wOBA, identical to what it was in 2012, is the worst full-season mark of his career.
But then on the other hand, you’re not really comparing him to 2006-11 Gonzalez, or at least you shouldn’t be. You’re comparing him to the first basemen the Dodgers had before he arrived, and the alternatives available to the team presently if you didn’t have him at all. In that light, he looks a lot better, or if I can skip ahead to the one-year trade review we did in August:
The whole point of the trade for the Dodgers was to get Gonzalez, of course, and he’s been worth it, though it depends on how you look at it. On one hand, his .346 wOBA is the same as it was last year, each of which is tied for the worst of his career. On the other hand, the last Dodger first baseman to have a more valuable season than he is was Eric Karros, way back in 1999, and he was one of the few productive Dodgers over the first two months of the season. He is, according to WAR, the seventh most productive first baseman in baseball this year, and I can’t really complain about that — especially when Joey Votto & Prince Fielder make well over $200m and the alternatives were…. who, exactly?
He ended up as the #9 first baseman, but still — I can’t complain about a top-ten spot at the position, especially when you remember just how crucial having him stay healthy all year was with the turmoil around him.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, aren’t we? Over the first month of the season, as everything was falling apart, Gonzalez was hitting 333/.398/.473. And then, and I apologize for this long quoted section but it’s too funny not to, he spent a week in May like this:
On May 1, he hit his third homer of the year, a shot off Colorado’s Juan Nicasio. How’s his month gone since then?
Wednesday, 5/1: Following his homer, Gonzalez tried to snag a double down the line and, well, this happened:
Thursday: team day off
Saturday: in starting lineup, scratched before game time. Hairston played first.
Monday: plays a full game against Arizona, going 2-4. He also treated us to some famous last words:
per Dylan Hernandez — “Gonzalez plans to play through the pain of his mild strain, skipping batting practice so he doesn’t aggravate it.”He’s actually actively saying he hopes he doesn’t have to dive for a ball. A ballplayer pushing through pain? Such a thing has never ended poorly, ever.
He hopes he doesn’t have to dive for a ball? I’m sure that won’t be relevant information.
Tuesday: plays a full game against Arizona, going 1-4.
Wednesday: starts, and doubles in two plate appearances before leaving in the fifth inning… after diving for a ball
But he survived, and kept on hitting, putting up a .324/.376/.503 line through the end of May, including a game on May 25 when he got on base five times and drove in three. He, like most everyone else, slumped in June (.248/.304/.400), and for the rest of the season settled into a solid contributor role while letting Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig provide the fireworks. (With some exceptions, like on June 23, when he and Ramirez went back-to-back off Huston Street, and July 23, when he destroyed a ball in Toronto to help in a ridiculous comeback.)
Gonzalez did manage to turn around his continually declining walk rate, though a 7.3 BB% is still better than only 2012 in his career, and his K% was the lowest of his career, which is good, and once again showed little platoon split, which is a must on a team with Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. He also confoundingly had the most errors of his career while still ranking as above average in most of the metrics, so take that for what you will.
Gonzalez doesn’t turn 32 until next May, so he’s still got a few more prime years left in him. I can’t say I ever expect to see the man who crushed the league when he was a Padre, but if you’re expecting that, you’re way off. This is the best first baseman the Dodgers have had in decades, and he’s still an above-average first baseman as compared to the league. I’ll take that, and I think we’d all prefer to be on the hook for 5/$106m than the 7/$168m Fielder is owed.
Next! I feel like we’ve already talked about Mark Ellis!