It's time we talk about Carlos Gonzalez' 2014 season

Justin Edmonds

It was supposed to be the CarGo and Tulo show in Denver this year; but CarGo just hasn't shown up. Can we figure out what's up with him?

One time I tweaked a knee. I fell sleepwalking of all things. There are few more disorienting things in the world than waking up half underneath your desk, chair askew, with your knee flaring in pain. Also, few things make you feel so stupid.

For the next two or three weeks I could barely even walk. Getting up or down stairs involved me turning sideways, grabbing the rail, and sort of shimmying and pulling myself up the steps, dragging my left leg behind me like Jack Nicholson from the Shining. Obviously the thought of doing any sort of athletic endeavor while my knee felt like a piranha was attached to it was downright laughable (well, more than normal at any rate).

The point is, injuries are a great big freaking bummer. They sabotage the potential of your body. And Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado's preeminent five tool player, has looked nothing like himself this year.

CarGo has dealt with a host of health problems in 2014. A jammed finger forced him out of a few games in April. Recently a foul off his leg left a huge ugly bruise that left him limping and forced a game-and-a-half absence. Most worrying though, has been a bout of knee tendinitis that he has seemingly battled all year.

Whenever asked about the knee, CarGo says it's affecting him, but not so badly that he needs to hit the DL, and that a short stint wouldn't help it anyway. He says it's probably a season long issue.

For a player that relies so heavily on his legs, this injury is a major issue. Cargo has admitted that it's hurting his base running significantly. CarGo has stolen 20+ bags each of the last four years, and has always graded out as major asset at taking the extra bag. This year he has two steals and is a negative base runner according to Fangraphs.

Ultimate Zone Rating has always been kind of wonky for players at Coors Field, but even that statistic thought CarGo was a well above average fielder in left field last year, and he's a multiple Gold Glove winner. This season, not only has he looked mediocre in the field, but UZR says he's been absolutely putrid, with a -23.3 UZR/150 so far.

And we haven't even gotten to the hitting yet, which has been the been the most visibly frustrating aspect of his play this year. Wednesday's pinch hit 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded in the 7th was the most frustratingly perfect bow that could be wrapped on CarGo's first third of 2014.

Gonzalez' .262/.313/.454 triple-slash line is the lowest of his career in every category, by a significant amount. His road numbers (which were absolutely studly last year) are awful; he has only managed a .600 OPS. His .983 OPS at Coors is obviously buoying his numbers, but this recent run of road games has been a huge anchor on his overall numbers. He has only seven hits in his last 40 road plate appearances.This all grades out to a 95 wRC+. Carlos Gonzalez: below average hitter as May ends. *sob*

His batted ball tendencies are presented below, without comment.

SEASON GB/FB LD% GB% FB% IFFB% HR/FB
2009 0.97 23.40% 37.80% 38.80% 11.50% 16.70%
2010 1.16 20.80% 42.50% 36.60% 9.60% 20.40%
2011 1.44 18.00% 48.40% 33.60% 15.20% 20.80%
2012 1.66 21.70% 48.90% 29.50% 10.30% 18.80%
2013 0.94 21.60% 37.90% 40.50% 11.00% 23.90%
2014 1.43 15.10% 50.00% 34.90% 5.90% 13.70%
Total 1.29 20.10% 45.00% 34.90% 11.40% 18.40%

Well at least his infield fly ball percentage is down.

You don't have to be Billy Beane to see that a career worst line drive rate, career highest ground ball rate, and career lowest home run per fly ball rate is bad. That's every ingredient you could possibly include in a career worst year. Oh, and he has a career worst walk rate going. If they kept the stat of "most broken bats," I bet Cargo would be high up in that one too.

This dissection of Cargo's 2014 could go on, but it's all various shades of examining what we already know. He's riding a career worst BABIP at .293 (which isn't that bad anyway), but with his poor line drive rate and the abundance of shifts against him, there's no doubt that he's "earned" that low average. It's not a case of bad luck sabotaging CarGo. He's just in a funk.

The question of course becomes: what gets him out of this funk? That one is tricky.

First of all, his 198 plate appearances in 2014 is still a low number. It's not the ludicrously small sample size that gets fantasy owners to panic in April and drop Edwin Encarnacion, but it's also not close to a full season. A three week hot streak (preferably on the road) would bring those numbers right back up to normal CarGo numbers. But if that hot streak is to occur, he simply has to figure out his batting stroke.

Will his balky knee, sore calf, and swollen finger allow that to happen? Impossible to say. The calf and finger should heal; hopefully, after two days of rest (not including that pinch double play) they are back to normal, or close to it. The knee is the true wild card. Supposedly he’s, "dealt with tendinitis in his knee since early last season." That didn't stop him from playing like an MVP until a sprained finger took him out of action.

There's not really anything the Rockies can do about this. You have to ride the horses that brought you here, even if this pony is coming up a little bit lame. Can you bench him in favor of Corey Dickerson, who has outproduced him on all levels? Not only would that be a panic move, but it would probably cause a rift in the clubhouse as well.

As this Rockies club searches for offense, particularly on the road, Carlos Gonzalez is their best hope for getting back on a hot streak. He needs to turn it around.

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