Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A-Gon: A-Gone, Returned, A-Gone Again?

Seeing the Dodgers and A-Gon got me thinking about A-Gon, who had a very hot April, apparently finally recovered from his shoulder surgery in the 2010 off-season.


ogc thoughts

A-Gon hasn't been the same since the 2012 season and that is why I have not been afraid of him being on the Dodgers roster, as he's only been a slightly better James Loney but at $15-20M more on their budget. He has been more A-Gone than A-Gon.  What's not to like about that, as a Giants fan?

What I didn't know was that he suffered a serious shoulder injury, and he hasn't been the same in 2012 and 2013.  But reportedly he has said that his shoulder is back to normal this season.  And his great April seems to confirm that.

That gave me a shudder, as he was hitting a storm in April, back to his great standards before, though admittedly some up and down, but mostly up, very up, returning to his old form.  In the prior two seasons, his max month was a .928 OPS in July 2012, but he registered a 1.021 OPS in April 2014, his highest since June 2011's 1.185 OPS, and his 7th career month with an OPS over 1.000 since his breakout year with SD in 2006, a nine year span.  Clearly a great month!

And it had been over two seasons since his last month with over .950 OPS.  So he looked like he's back with his great hitting in April, and a BABIP that was right in line with his overall career .321 BABIP, slightly high but not the reason for the great April.  He just had the power!

However, after a great day on May Day's double-header, in the 9 games since, he has been stone cold, 3 for 36, no extra-base hits, .083/.154/.083/.237.  That's worse than anything that Sandoval has been doing.  And that's compared with his batting line as of May 1st, .321/.392/.651/1.043.  Huge drop, from day to night, and now his overall batting line is .262/.335/.510/.846, which is still very good, just not monster good like he was before, and this cold streak is not over yet, his batting line is in a death spiral.  He could be returning to A-Gone status if this keeps up all season.

The only silver lining for him is that he only had 6 K's, which is a good 83% contact rate (albeit SSS), which is right in line with his contact rate from his later good seasons and the last two seasons, as he's been in the low 80's for a while now, which is an improvement over his early good seasons, when he was in the 75-80% range.   But that is an improvement over his poor contact rate (albeit great hitting) in April (77% contact rate), which resulted in his overall contact rate this season to be a relatively poor 79%, though with such small samples, not that out of range from the low 80%'s contact rate and if he can continue making contact (albeit poor contact right now), he should be back in the low 80's relatively soon.

Hard to say what happened.  Perhaps he re-injured his shoulder on May 1st, but there was no report of anything that I could find.  But that is one heck of a BABIP bad luck, if this is all this is, something he has not had in two prior seasons of reduced expectations and ever in his career since he got the chance to start with SD.

Of course, this is only roughly one third of the month, plenty of time to turn the heat back on.   For example, it could just be the tyranny of looking only at monthly data, because from April 12 to May 11, he had a batting line of .269/.347/.490/.838, which is right in line with his numbers from his past two years and, while low for his peak 2006-2011 period, would fit into that period as well.  However, he would need to hit .368/.443/.706/1.149 for the rest of the month to even reach that reduced batting line.  That just demonstrates just how deep a batting line hole he has dug for himself this month, being at .445 OPS (that first day of May was really good!), even a good 1.000 OPS month would leave him performing at his lowered expectations range, not his prior goodness, a sign that April was a fluke and not a resurgence of a healthy A-Gon.

It could just be age, it does happen, though he's only 32 YO this season, not really that old in baseball years, but the decline can hit anytime in the 30's for ballplayers.  Maybe with even a healed shoulder, his ups and downs are now more extreme.  Though even a diminished A-Gon is still a good hitter, just not the $21.5M that he will be getting each season to 2018.

But as his outburst in April showed, the Bridegrooms need that type of production from him.  They were 17-12 when he was hot, but just 3-7 since then, 2-7 in the games he started.  And last year, in his two above average OPS months (Jul/Aug), the Dodgers were 42-12 (not all of his doing, clearly, a record as good as that is from great performances everywhere;  his pitching staff really drove that winning percentage with ERA under 2 over that period, bullpen under 1 ERA), while in the other four months, they were 50-58.  And in the time they had him in 2012, the team was 18-18 in the A-Gon era.

Clearly, Giants fans want to see the diminished A-Gone, as the Dodgers don't seem to function that well when he's struggling.  Research on his shoulder brings up the surprising time table of post-2010 season surgery on his shoulder, and news that he has changed his batting approach in order to adjust to his diminished capabilities.  He wasn't really bothered at all in 2011, it seems, with his great batting line and consistency throughout the season (probably his lowest R-squared for months in his career for any season), but perhaps pitchers and teams didn't realize that he couldn't do what he could do before against certain pitches, and once they did, they have ruled him since 2012.  And he simply hasn't adjusted back until now.  Plus, there is the added info that he says that his shoulder is fully healed now.

For now, even though he hasn't really been that good for a long while - and thus this could just be a random upward blip - given his report of a healthy shoulder, I would assume for now that April is the renewed A-Gon and that May is just the random bad month he would have even when he was A-Gon, like his .713 OPS in July 2009 or .738 OPS in May 2010.  Better to be safe and beware his beard for now, until he proves otherwise, which would be an extended period of poor production into the All-Star Break, as there is something good brewing for the Dodgers when he's hitting.  But given this uncertainty, he is certainly not a bargain gamble in fantasy baseball unless you are picking him up essentially for free from someone waiving him.   In any case, his good hitting seems to be a good key to the Dodgers doing well, something to monitor going forward.

1 comment:

  1. Seems reasonable, although a similar reasoning could apply to Kemp. When the Dodgers seemed to win every game late last year, it was Kemp who seemed to be hitting home runs everywhere.

    ReplyDelete

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