The Milwaukee Brewers’ season has been one depleted by injuries and mired by more blown leads and losses than anyone would ever wish.
But for three Brewers–Carlos Gomez, Mike Fiers, and Jim Henderson–others’ struggles have resulted in opportunities not foreseen
coming into the season. And, to say the least, each player has shined and their play has been beyond whatever orectic desires the team had.
The first of these three we’ll take a look at a “Brewers Silver Lining” series is Gomez, whose potent blend of speed and defense had added a third element this season: offense.
For the longest time, Gomez was weighted down by coaches’ and fans’ notions that he should use his speed like most guys with his kind of wheels normally do. Bunt, slap the ball, dump it to right, bunt, stop swinging out of your shoes. When the center fielder’s value would be discussed, his beyond-stellar defense would be brought up and that was it. He strikes out too much, doesn’t bunt enough.
In his first two seasons with Milwaukee, Gomez never got consistent playing time because of his bat (that, and Nyjer Morgan went all Tony Plush in 2011 and rightfully got most of the starts in center). He batted .238 over in 191 games, splitting time with, among others, Jim Edmonds, Lorenzo Cain, and Morgan.
Well, those obstacles are out of the way for Gomez this season. Morgan is OPS-ing .587, Corey Hart was shifted to first base after Mat Gamel tore his ACL, and Norichika Aoki shifted to right field to fill that vacancy. Now with consistent playing time, Gomez already has more plate appearances through August 8 than he did all of last season. And that “inner power hitter” that we used to see, and frankly get pissed off with, in flashes in the past has come out and made Gomez one of the more valuable Brewers in 2012.
In Wednesday’s victory to complete a sweep of the Reds, trailing 2-0 at the time, he tried really, really hard to hit one out of Miller Park and reach double digit home runs for the first time in his professional career. After whiffing at the 3-1 fastball, he reached that mark on the very next pitch. Case in point: Carlos Gomez is no longer trying to play small ball.
Gomez is giving the Brewers reason to include him in their plans for a future. He’s always been a valuable member just for his defense, and any offense was bonus. Now that he has a .784 OPS with 10 dingers and a team-high 21 steals, that bonus (excuse the basketball reference about advent upon you) has turned from a missed front end of the one-and-one to sinking both free throws in the double bonus. With chances that Morgan will not return with the team for 2013 seeming high, hopefully the Brewers give him an extension and a starting spot in center field.
After lacing 19 and 22 and extra base hits in his first two seasons, respectively, he has 28 XBH’s this season. That’s more than Justin Upton, by comparison. His ground ball numbers are down 8.4 percent from last season and 12.2 percent from two seasons ago while his fly ball numbers haven’t increased noticeably (his HR/FB ratio is actually down). Instead, he’s hitting line drives over six percent more of the time than last year. Also, interestingly enough, his OBP is up to a career-best .306 in the season that he’s gone away from the slap-hitter mentality.