In a season when baseball fans are marveling at majestic home runs, nearly perfect games and teams steamrolling through their divisions, there’s also the other end of the spectrum — teams nearly 40 games out in their divisions, pitchers struggling to find the strike zone and players whose slugging percentages are below .300.
One of those players is Royals outfielder Alex Gordon.
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Gordon signed a back loaded, four-year/$72 million contract before the start of the 2016 season that will pay him $40 million in 2018 and ‘19 alone. In 2020, there’s $23 million mutual option with a $4 million buyout. At the time, people around Kansas City weren’t thrilled with the deal and a bit hesitant, but the reaction was mostly positive. Gordon is a KC lifer who was drafted by the team in 2005. GM Dayton Moore seemed to be rewarding his player for sticking with the team through their doldrums and helping them win the 2015 World Series.
So what happened to Gordon?
In 242 games and 824 at-bats since signing the extension, Gordon is batting .210/.300/.336. He’s hit 22 home runs during that time, but the majority of them were hit in 2016. That’s not exactly what the Royals envisioned from their three-time All-Star outfielder. Even worse, Gordon has been absolutely abysmal in 2017. He is batting .198/.285/.285 with only five home runs, 37 RBIs and 37 runs scored so far in 2017. That works out to a 51 OPS+.
Even more dreadful, his ISO, which is a stat that measures a batter’s raw power, is only .087. Gordon’s career ISO is .160 which isn’t earth shattering, but is almost above average. An .087 ISO is considered awful.
One thing that could be hindering Gordon are the effects of a wrist injury he suffered last season. Back on May 22, 2016, Gordon broke a bone in his wrist after a violent collision with Mike Moustakas in a game against the White Sox. He only missed four weeks of action and returned to the team on June 25. But since that day, he’s batting .210/.296/.337 (which are eerily close to the numbers he’s compiled since Opening Day 2016).
The wrist could be hindering his swing and also affecting how hard he hits the ball. His highest average exit velocity is 89.8 mph. Not everyone is Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton, but Gordon isn’t making hard contact.
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Another thing is his age. Gordon turned 33 before this season. Once you’re on the other side of 30, a decline is to be expected. Of course that also raises the question of why the Royals would sign him to such a big contract at his age? But that’s a column for another day.
When you break down how Gordon performs against certain pitches, the only ones he hits well are sinkers and splitters. The pitch that vexes him the most is the slider. He’s struck out 28 times on sliders and is only hitting .121 against them. He’s also not doing much of anything against fastballs. He’s hitting .211 against them and slugging .323. When a player can’t hit fastballs it usually signals the beginning of the end. It means they’re losing bat speed and can’t catch up to MLB pitching.
One positive for the Royals and their fans is that as bad as Gordon has been at the plate, he has been good in the outfield and has provided some value to the team. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to overcome his horrid performance at the plate.
So can Gordon snap out of this prolonged funk, or is this just what he is now? That remains to be seen. But the longer his funk lasts, the sooner we’ll find out the answer.
Source: MLB YAHOO