Alex Gordon is off to a 1 for 16 start and that one hit was a seeing eye roller up the middle that was not exactly mashed. There has been some mock-snarky panic, some actual concern and an occasional casual fan wondering if they shouldn’t play ‘that kid’ Orlando more. Hey, Paulo Orlando is a great story. A guy I touted highly as a prospect long ago and then gave up on. A guy who did something that had never been done in baseball by hitting triples for his first three career hits. Let’s not get carried away, however.
Quick aside. With Orlando’s triples this year and Brandon Finnegan’s College World Series to actual World Series in the same season feat last year, Kansas City has had two guys in two years do something that has not been done in baseball ever before. It is hard to find something that has not already been done in this game these days – especially something good. Just kind of a cool side note.
Anyway, back to Gordon.
In a rather amazing trick, Gordon has a .348 on-base percentage despite having just one hit in five games. That number is courtesy of three walks (one intentional) and four hit by pitch. Getting on base half the time via the hit by pitch is a hell of a way to make a living and, check the math on this, likely not a sustainable model. Rickey Henderson posted on-base percentages of .400 and .410 in back to back seasons despite hitting below .250 both years. In one of those (1997), splitting time between Seattle and Anaheim, Rickey hit just .183 in 144 plate appearances but still got on base at .343 clip. I am not comparing Gordon to Henderson (Alex does not refer to himself in the third person and seems to be aware of who his teammates are and even knows their names), just another fun set of numbers to go with a quirky early season line from the Royals’ Gold Glove left-fielder.
Early is the key word in the previous sentence.
Seven games into 2014, Gordon was sporting a triple slash of just .231/.276/.308 with no home runs. I believe you will note that 2014 turned out alright for Alex. He started hot in 2013, but in 2012, Gordon began the season 0 for 16, didn’t get over the Mendoza line until April 26th and wound up hitting .294/.368/.455. Even in 2011, Gordon started 2 for 13 before notching 11 hits in his next four games on his way to his best triple slash line of his career and tying for his best WAR season of his career. The point of this is that a) Gordon has a bit of a slow start history, b) five games is JUST FIVE GAMES and c) a player in Gordon’s physical condition who has put up fWARs of 6.6, 5.5, 3.7 and 6.6 the last four years suddenly does not lose it.
Let’s also keep in mind The Wrist. Is it healthy? I don’t know – Ned has not called me this morning (weird, right?), but as cautious as the Royals were throughout the spring, it is hard to believe Gordon is out there playing in pain. And they were cautious this spring.
Gordon only appeared in 10 Major League spring training games, logging just 35 plate appearances: basically half of the other regulars. That is also not the entire story, either. The wrist surgery had to interfere with Alex’s off-season workouts. We have all heard tell of Gordon’s dedication to working out and while he certainly did not let himself go, the sore wrist and eventual surgery certainly changed the regimen this off-season. Let’s not underestimate the impact of a change of routine to a creature of habit.
While I am not privy to how many times Gordon steps in a batting cage during the winter, but I would wager the wrist kept him from doing it as much as in prior years. Even after getting back into physical shape, Gordon was still not cleared for actually swing a bat until spring training games were already underway.
Bottom line of all this: Alex Gordon is more than 30 spring training at-bats behind. I don’t know that it’s a stretch to say the Alex likely doesn’t quite feel like he is ready and may feel a tad behind. The wrist may not be, or at least feel quite as strong as it has before. True or not, it would be human nature to have at least a sprinkling of those thoughts going through Gordon’s head right now. Hell, who knows? None of that may be happening and it all may simply be that Alex Gordon is 30 at-bats behind the rest of baseball. If that is all there is to this story, then Alex is a couple of games from being right where the Royals need him.
If a 7-0 start means nothing, then a 1-16 start from a hitter means even less. I’m leaning towards Alex Gordon getting more hits this weekend against Oakland than Billy Butler collects against the Royals.
By the way, 7-0 is kind of fun, isn’t it?