Through two months of the 2015 season I, like many Rockies fans, had arrived at the conclusion that Carlos Gonzalez was never going to be the same player he used to be. When the calendar flipped to June he was batting a woeful .215 with just four home runs and 13 runs batted in. His OPS was .620. It was sad. A once-great player's career was ending before our eyes.
Then, something amazing happened. Overnight, Carlos Gonzalez transformed from a shell of his former self to a superhero version of his former self that was capable of hitting baseballs over the fence at an unfathomable rate. It was a miracle. A real life, bonafide, Christmas in June miracle. It's foolish to try to use words and numbers to describe how good he was at the plate in the second half of 2015, but I'll try.
From June 6th to September 4th, he hit 32 home runs in 281 at bats. That's a home run every 8.78 at bats. That's insane. Despite hitting four, count 'em four, homers in his first 176 at bats (that's one in every 44 for those of you keeping score at home) CarGo finished second in the National League in AB per HR behind MVP Bryce Harper.
In July, CarGo won the National League player of the month award for the first time in his career two months after he seemed finished as a star player. He went from flirting with the Mendoza line for the first two months of the season to hitting .281 for the entire season by August 3rd, which was higher than Nolan Arenado's average at the time.
In a 19 game stretch from July 5th to July 31st, he slashed .427/.482/.947 for an OPS of 1.429. He wasn't done. He hit 15 home runs in one moth, from August 5th to September 4th, and his OPS for the season peaked at .899. He cooled off in September, but still finished the season batting a highly respectable .271 with an .864 OPS that ranked second on the team behind Nolan.
The most eye popping thing about CarGo's 2015, of course, is the home runs. He hit 40 of them. Before 2015, no Rockies player had hit that many since the installation of the humidor. It just so happened that last year Nolan hit 42 in the same year, making them the first teammates to each hit 40 since 2006. The impressive part is that CarGo hit 36 homers in less than four months. That's two more than he hit in all of 2010; the only other season where he was completely healthy from start to finish. Speaking of health, CarGo played in over 150 games for the first time in his entire career this season, which was just another pleasant surprise in a year that was full of them.
It wasn't just that CarGo hit a lot of home runs in 2015. He hit them at the perfect times. It seemed like almost every home run he hit either tied a game or gave the Rockies the lead, and a disproportionate amount came in the sixth inning or later. If the Rockies were anywhere near contention in the second half of the season it would have been the stuff of legend.
You know what? I don't care that it didn't make a difference in the team's fortunes. It was an absolute pleasure to watch CarGo the last four months of this season. I missed seeing that player, and I didn't think I would ever see him again. The only reason to tune into Rockies games not started by Jon Gray in September was to see if CarGo or Nolan would hit a home run. They gave the fanbase something to cheer for in an otherwise dreary end to another losing season.
I'm not sure we'll ever see a run like this from CarGo again, but if I've learned anything from this season it's that you shouldn't count out Carlos Gonzalez. Two months into the season he was the least valuable player on the team by WAR, and he finished as second most valuable. He won a Silver Slugger award despite having the two worst months of his entire career at the plate to start the season. He's a special player and he can be absolutely awe-inspiring when he's at his best. I'll never forget the year he had, and these highlights will ensure that you won't either
I give you the top seven Carlos Gonzalez home runs of 2015.
Warning: These highlights may not be safe for work. Do not watch if you are allergic to majestic bat drops.
#7: July 27 @ Chicago (Home Run #20)
On a night that will be remembered for ... other reasons, he hit a go-ahead homer at Wrigley field in the top of the 9th. The Rockies went on to lose the game, but no one remembers either of those things.
#6: September 2 vs. Arizona (Home Run #32)
Just a ho-hum line drive grand slam that hit the second deck facade on its way up. The first of five home runs in three games.
#5: September 4 vs. San Francisco (Home Run #36)
This one is bonkers. He hits a towering fly ball that lands just foul. After a lengthy review, he crushes the very next pitch deep into the bullpen for his fifth home run in eight at bats.
#4: May 14 @ Los Angeles (Home Run #3)
A three run homer down by two with two outs in the ninth that snapped an eleven game losing streak. People thought this was the moment where CarGo would break out of his slump, but it took another three weeks. Still awesome though.
#3: September 26 vs. Los Angeles (Home Run #39)
His second career walk-off, and first since the walk-off. It was the one thing he hadn't done in 2015, and he did it on the same night Nolan hit his 40th.
#2: April 8 @ Milwaukee (Home Run #1)
Simply put, this is one of the most beautiful home runs I've ever seen. The swing, the follow through, the sound, the flight of the ball, where it hits on the scoreboard ... sorry I got lost there for a second.
#1: August 7 @ Washington (Home Run #23)
Maybe this is a bit of a dark horse for #1, but to me there wasn't a better home run all season than this one. Hitting a grand slam down by three runs is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, and it happened with two outs in the eighth inning. The force with which it slams into the back wall of the bullpen is almost disturbing. Humans shouldn't be able to do that. I had a feeling when he came to the plate that he was going to hit it out, and he did. It was almost as predictable as it was amazing.
Well there you have it. A season unlike any other. Be thankful you were there to see it, because you may never see anything like it again.