What happened in 2014: Adrian Gonzalez re-established his power and was an anchor in the middle of the Dodgers’ lineup.
We were all resigned to the fact that when the Dodgers acquired Gonzalez, he wasn’t going to be the same player he was in San Diego or Boston (2011). But he showed glimpses of it in 2014, particularly in the extra base hit department.
Gonzalez hit 27 home runs and 41 doubles – both to lead the Dodgers. The home runs were third-most among National League first basemen, and his doubles were third in the NL overall. He also led not only the NL in RBIs, but the majors – something Rick Monday and Kevin Kennedy would tell you matter immensely. It’s not completely worthless, but it’s pretty close. He thank Yasiel Puig and Dee Gordon (on some level) for that.
But, it’s been a long time since the Dodgers have gotten Top-10 production out of the first base position, and Gonzalez gave it to them this season. In a season when Matt Kemp started off poorly, Hanley Ramirez was up-and-down and Yasiel Puig hit ahead of him most of the season, Gonzalez’s ability to be a constant in the lineup was apparent and valuable.
Let’s look back to the first base season preview post, written by yours truly.
“Gonzalez should have no problem playing 150-plus games, as he has never played fewer than 156 games in a full season in his career. He had a 2013 season he could easily duplicate in 2014. He’s not the 30-plus home run threat he was a few years ago, but he’s still a formidable hitter and figures to hit cleanup for the Dodgers.
He provides a consistent bat in the middle of the order — something the Dodgers lacked last season with all the injuries. Gonzalez was a stabilizing force at times and is still among the top third of first basemen in the game.”
Let’s see how I did.
- 150 games? Check (159).
- Less than 30 home runs? Check.
- Hit cleanup for the Dodgers? Checkish (75 games, 320 plate appearances)
- Consistent middle-of-the-order bat? Check (146 games).
- Stabilizing force in top-third of first basemen? Check (seventh in fWAR).
Speaking of valuable, I wrote about Gonzalez’s MVP “chances” when went on a tear toward the end of August.
“It’s always nice when superstar players remember they have superstar potential, and Adrian Gonzalez is that guy right now. And he’s playing in such a way that he’ll garner some MVP votes. He won’t win it, but he’ll get some consideration (and too much of it has to do with his fifth consecutive 100-plus RBI season).
*arbitrary endpoints alert*
Since his 5-RBI game against the Mets on Aug. 23, Gonzalez has been – far and away – the Dodgers’ best hitter: .396/.436/.750, 5 home runs, 17 RBI. Devalue RBIs all you want (I do, most of the time), but he’s driving in runners when he’s presented the opportunity. That means the Dodgers are scoring runs (averaging 4.5 per game since Gonzalez got hot).
Sure, he could have started hitting a ton of singles, but he’s hitting the ball with authority, capped by his 2-home run game on Sunday. That was vintage Gonzalez, and the Dodgers are going to need him with Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez slumping considerably.”
From Aug. 23 through the end of the season, Gonzalez had a good-not-great .308 batting average and .361 on-base percentage. Where he excelled was in the power department, as he hit 10 home runs and eight doubles, good for a .625 slugging percentage.
Gonzalez won the Fielding Bible’s award for best defensive first baseman, and the first Dodger Gold Glove at the position since Steve Garvey in 1977 (James Loney was damn good and should have won at least one. But Gold Gloves are almost as worthless as RBIs, so ‘tevs.). He was third in the NL in UZR/150 at 5.1 and best in the majors in defensive runs saved at 12. He’s also damn good at digging throws out of the dirt. A certain “shortstop” would agree with me on that point.
2015 status: Gonzalez will be penciled in as the team’s No. 3 or No. 4 hitter and is scheduled to make $21 million this year (and next, followed by $21.5 million in 2017 and 2018). He isn’t going anywhere and should continue to be a solid producer as his shoulder appears to be fully healed from the surgery he had on it three years ago.