To say that Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez had a down year through the first half of the 2014 season is being kind. And even though most major leaguers would gladly take his first-half triple-slash numbers of .250/.312/.429, these numbers are well below AGon’s career triple-slash of .291/.364/.497.
Be even as the rest of the Dodgers offense continues to struggle through the season, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has never been concerned about Gonzalez.
“Adrian will be fine,” said the Dodger skipper during an interview in May. “I’m not worried about Adrian. He’s hitting the ball hard, he’ll come around.”
Indeed Adrian Gonzalez has come around.
In the six games since the All-Star break, AGon is 8 for 22 (.363), has one home run, two doubles and five RBIs. His post All-Star Game OBP is .444 and his SLG .591 for a very good OPS of 1.035. Now granted, these numbers are based on a small sample size of only six games, but in his last ten games Gonzales is 11 for 36 (.306) and now has his season average up to .257 with every indication that his month-long (or more) slump is now behind him.
As most Dodger fan knows, Gonzalez faces more defensive shifts than any other Dodger batter and quite possibly more than any player in the MLB not named Albert Pujols or David Ortiz. And while this tactic has proven effective a good percentage of the time, Gonzalez has beaten the shift a number of times as well – perhaps none greater than his perfectly executed bunt up the third base line on June 29 in the Dodgers 6-0 shutout of the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium.
“I’ve tried to bunt [to beat the shift] before but I’ve never gotten a good pitch to hit,” said Gonzalez during a post-game interview after that game. “I usually foul it off but this one was right over the plate. When I square to bunt I’m trying to bunt, I’m not faking it. I won’t do it with a guy in scoring position but if there isn’t, I’ll try it because it’s a base hit.”
In Tuesday night’s disappointing 12-7 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gonzalez beat the shift twice – once with a hard hit line drive past (way) out of position second baseman Neil Walker and the other on a 394-foot home run to deep right/center field. It was the second time since July 1 that Gonzalez has defeat the shift with a home run.
With Gonzalez heating up and driving the ball into the gaps (or over the wall), it will be interesting to see if teams continue to employ the shift against the hard-hitting 32-year-old San Diego native. But one thing is for certain – you can expect those hitting in front of or behind AGon to start seeing better pitches to hit (in addition to him receiving more intentional walks) as he returns to his (near) career .300 form.
Now, if only those hitting in front of or behind AGon would start to heat up as well…