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A-Gon Punchless vs. Outside Pitches

The Boston Red Sox traded a trio of well-regard prospects prior to the 2011 season to get Adrian Gonzalez's bat from the Padres and then signed the franchise first baseman to a seven-year, $154 contract extension. Gonzalez rewarded his new club with 27 homers, a .548 slugging percentage and a 155 OPS+ as the Sox paced the majors in runs scored. Boston still has a quality offense in 2012 despite an avalanche of injuries (third in runs scored). But, as the Boston Herald's Scott Lauber says, Gonzalez's power production is gonzo:

Adrian Gonzalez knows what you’re thinking.

Through 44 games and nearly 200 plate appearances, he has hit three home runs — one fewer than outfielder Daniel Nava, who was called up by the Red Sox [team stats] only three weeks ago. He’s also slugging .406, a lower percentage than even spray-hitting Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (.422) or Chicago White Sox leadoff man Alejandro De Aza (.417).

Yo Adrian, where has your power gone?

Gonzalez's OPS+ is just 101 this year, a far cry from his career 138 mark. Where has Adrian's power gone? The answer lies on the outside corner of the plate.

During his first year in Boston, Gonzalez was one of the best hitters in the game in terms of thumping pitches thrown away. Look at his slugging percentage on outside pitches, and then the average for lefty batters:

Gonzalez's slugging percentage vs. pitches thrown away, 2011


Average slugging percentage for lefty hitters vs. pitches thrown away

Gonzalez slugged .518 against pitches thrown away in 2011, the fourth-highest clip among lefty batters and 130 points above the big league average. With 12 homers on pitches thrown away, Gonzalez trailed just Curtis Granderson, Ryan Howard, Carlos Santana, Carlos Pena and Jay Bruce among those swinging from the left side.  

In 2012, though? Gonzalez's heat map is ice cold on away pitches:

Gonzalez's slugging percentage vs. pitches thrown away, 2012

Adrian hasn't hit a single homer on a pitch thrown away, and his .238 slugging percentage is eighth-worst among qualified lefty batters. Gonzalez is renowned for lacing outside pitches to the opposite field, and he dented or cleared the Green Monster often on pitches thrown away in 2011...

Gonzalez's spray chart vs. outside pitches, 2011

So far in 2012, however, he's hitting singles and weak fly outs:

Gonzalez's spray chart vs. outside pitches, 2012

With Boston's outfield decimated (Gonzalez has played right field recently in interleague games), the Sox need their first baseman to find his power stroke. To do that, he'll have to get reacquainted with the Monster.

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