It might be a little early to say it. He even said it himself:
“I feel like right now, I can be the player that everybody’s waiting for, but it’s only one good week. We have to wait. There’s still two more months to play, and I’m still 26 years old. I still have a long career to go. Good week, but I have to continue practicing hard, working hard every day and find myself to be the player I want to be.”
– Carlos Gomez, via Brewers.com
But what a week it has been for the center fielder. The Co-Player of the week in the NL hit .351 over his last ten games, where hit safely in nine of those games. He’s also hit four home runs, 10 RBI’s, two doubles and stole five bases. To put it bluntly, the boy is putting it together.
The change has come on rather quickly, and has a lot of people wondering just what the coaches are doing to help him along. The truth is, not as much as you’d think.
Gomez took it upon himself to alter his approach at the plate – keeping the bat on the shoulder longer, adding a bigger step and keeping the bat more fluid and flat across the plate. This looks a lot different than the fast-moving uppercut we’re used to seeing from CarGo and it’s the reason he’s making better contact.
When Ron Roenicke came to Milwaukee, he saw Gomez as a project player with a ton of potential. He’s not the first coach to take this approach, but he did it a little differently than others.
When you’re a player who possesses the skill set and speed of Carlos Gomez, you’re expected to get the bunts down, get on base, or move runners over. You aren’t expected to hit for power. Roenicke didn’t take that approach, however. He didn’t want to pigeonhole Gomez into a role that the center fielder didn’t feel comfortable in. When you watch Gomez swing, it’s obvious that he wants to be a power hitter. He always swung hard, and when it connects it can go a mile. Why change that attitude? Why not just change his mechanics and make the power come more naturally?
It’s one of the abilities that Ron Roenicke has that often goes unnoticed. He knows his players very well, and has the ability to help them become the best natural player they can be. He lets them take the lead on their own improvement and gives them a shot to figure it out. It builds trust, and often produces some pretty good results. Corey’s move to first and RR’s preference for him there is an example. The slow lead-in to Aoki becoming the regular right fielder is an example. And perhaps, if his numbers continue, Carlos Gomez may be his best example.
The fact that Gomez took it upon himself to begin the process is even more encouraging. Here’s a young player with a ton of potential, but a lot of problems as well. Instead of chalking it up to fate, or letting tradition dictate how he approaches the plate, he became a student of his own swing. He found the deficiencies. He began to work on a solution. He earned the trust of his coaches and now through their combined efforts he is becoming a better player in front of our very eyes.
On the season, his numbers still aren’t great. He has a .253/.308/.465 slash line and obviously there is still work to be done. A little more patience here, a little more contact there, and before you know it he’s putting up All-Star numbers. It’s a process, to be sure, but one that the Brewers are willing to see through to the end. It’s one that Carlos himself seems excited to be a part of.
With numbers like his over the last ten games, who could blame him?
I, like many Brewers fans, have been watching Gomez play since he became a Brewer in 2010. Since that time, I’ve been waiting to see that potential – the raw, kinetic energy of his style – start to polish up and shine on the field. It’s there in center field. It’s there on the base paths. It’s not quite there at the plate. The early results of his improvement are encouraging to say the least. Whether or not it continues remains to be seen, of course, but for now it’s a nice story to cover.
If it does continue, he will a cornerstone for this franchise for years to come.