Adrian Gonzalez has changed as a hitter the last two seasons and that change has not been reflected in his projections from six different sites culled for this post. And unless he reverts back to where he was four years ago, his projections are kind of messed up. Some might say that his time in Boston might have screwed him up a bit and thrown him off his game. But I maintain that some of the signs were there in his last season in San Diego.
Let's start with his walk rate. From 2008 until 2011, 95 of his 2,783 plate appearances were intentional walks. That is a 3.5 percent walk rate all by itself. And partly because of the intentional walks and other walks that were not intentional but were just as intentional (if you know what I mean), his walk rate was inflated. If you look at his entire career, subtract his intentional walks from his walk total and he has walked 8.2% of the time.
And yet his walk rate projected by the projection systems for 2013 is anywhere from a low of 8.9% to a high of 10.6%. This would seem to indicate that the projections expect him to be intentionally walked at least in double digit numbers.
But will that be the case? He was only intentionally walked five times in all of 2012. And he was only walked once intentionally in his 157 plate appearances for the Dodgers. As a result, his walk rate fell to a career low, 6.1%.
And there is more to this equation. Starting in 2010 in his last year with the Padres, Adrian Gonzalez's plate discipline has gotten lost a bit. In 2009, Gonzalez swung at 23.1% of the pitches he saw out of the strike zone and his total swing rate was 44.7%. In 2010, those figures rose to 31.8% (O-swing) and 48.8%. In 2011, they went up again to 35.5% and 49.2%. The progression continued into 2012 when those numbers went up again to 37.3% and 51.4%. In other words, his patience at the plate has deteriorated to the point where his O-swing rate was the highest of his career and his total swing rate was the highest its been since 2005.
Obviously, Gonzalez can reverse those numbers and go back to being patient at the plate again. But he is trending against that and a four year slide doesn't seem that easy to break.
The other thing that looks optimistic to me is his ISO projections. After five years in a row of having an ISO well over .200, it fell to .164 last season. All of the projections expect that number to bounce back. None of them expect it to bounce back to where it was, but the range is from a low of .189 to a high of .211.
There are two things to look at when looking at ISO. First is the fly ball percentage and the second is the homer to fly ball percentage. Gonzalez has averaged a fly ball percentage of 37.4% for his career. But has been lower than that for the last two seasons.
His homer per fly ball percentage peaked in 2008 and 2009 with both seasons over 20%. The last three seasons have been 16.4%, 16.4% and then 9.6% last season. So he is hitting less fly balls and less of them are going over the fence. Unless that trend stops and reverses itself, how can his ISO go up?
Obviously, I could be all wet here. Adrian Gonzalez could regain his patience at the plate and hit more fly balls and have more of those fly balls go over the fence. But those factors have been trending in the reverse direction since his last season in San Diego. I'm not saying that Adrian Gonzalez is not still a dangerous hitter. He is. But the trend is that he is not as dangerous as he once was and his projections are not yet reflecting the direction he has been going.