Carlos Gomez was recently extended for four years and $28 million. The key piece of the package sent from the Mets to the Twins for Johan Santana in 2008, Gomez excelled in his fifth major league season, his third with the Brewers. Last year, he smacked 19 home runs in 452 plate appearances and stole 37 bases on 43 attempts, an 86% success rate, good for sixth in the majors for batters who attempted 35 steals. His isolated power (ISO) increased 14% from .177 in 2011 to .202 in 2012, factoring into his career high .329 wOBA and 105 wRC+. The Brewers may have struck a bargain contract for a once top prospect that is finally coming into his own ... or they may have jumped the gun and banked on a career year. Will Gomez regress in 2013?
James Anderson at Disciples of Uecker thinks that Carlos Gomez will not regress. Citing his second-half success (during which 14 of his 19 homers were hit) and the potential of having more plate appearances in 2013, Anderson makes an argument that Gomez's power surge will continue.
His home run/fly ball ratio and slugging percentage have both increased in each of the past four seasons, so I have no problem projecting a 20-HR season from the Brewers' centerfielder as long as he sees around 500 at bats.
Since 2010, his ISO has jumped from .110 to .177 and finally to .202, so the .25 recent jump to last year's high seems reasonable. With 60% of his plate appearances coming in the second half of 2012, Gomez hit a greater percentage of ground balls and lesser percentage of line drives and fly balls, yet he posted more than double his previous HR/FB rate after mid-July. His 18.2% HR/FB rate in the second half matches about what Ian Desmond and Corey Hart posted in full seasons last year. Even Prince Fielder's total HR/FB rate of 17.9% in 2012 was lower than Gomez's second half. Before the All-Star break, Gomez posted an 8.9% HR/FB rate, which is below league-average (11.5% in 2012). An improved league-average could have been expected in the second half, but a jump to above 18% is simply not sustainable, especially amidst an increase of ground balls.
That being said, Gomez did hit more line drives in 2012, increasing his LD% from 11.9% the year before to 16.6%. But in the second half, he was hitting fewer line drives and fly balls while hitting more groundballs instead. Normally, a higher groundball rate would hamper a HR/FB rate, but in Gomez's case, the fly balls that he was hitting, even though there were fewer of them, were leaving the yard in great frequency. So perhaps he was benefiting from park factors? Seven of his 14 second half home runs came at home in Miller Park, which was the most homer-friendly ballpark in the majors in 2012. Four more came in parks that favored the hitter as well. Since Gomez will assumingly be playing half of his season in Miller Park, it can be expected that he will reap the benefits again in 2013. Then again, no park has had a higher home run factor in a single season except Progressive Field in 2001. Miller Park has never featured such an abnormal home run factor before either. What could have caused this? Were there constant high winds pushing the fly balls out of the park?
Steamer projections have Gomez hitting 19 home runs again in 2013 in about the same amount of place appearances. ZiPS and Bill James are predicting a decrease in plate appearances as well as a slight decline in home runs. It seems that Gomez's power surge in the second half of the season may have been brought on by multiple variables falling into place. He isn't going to be able to sustain the 18.2% HR/FB rate he posted during his 14 homer second half, which is likely the reason for his overall HR/FB rate increase from 2011. Carlos Gomez should be due for some power regression next year. Don't expect him to eclipse 20 homers, especially if he has a similar or less amount of plate appearances than he did in 2012.