Last night, Ryan Vogelsong entered a game with a 1.92 ERA. He faced Joe Mauer, who went 0-for-3 against him, dropping his season line to .204/.254/.241. Those were two sentences you did not think you were going to read this season. Baseball is weird like that.
Actually, it’s too easy to notice the weird things. Every team has a Al Alburquerque, someone doing something they shouldn’t be doing. With baseball, maybe it’s more of a challenge to find the least surprising news of the year. After a week of searching, I think I’ve found it:
Adrian Gonzalez is a great hitter
Yes. That will do just fine. Oh, it’s not like everyone thought he was a bad hitter, but it seems like there is a twinge of surprise in a lot of the Adrian Gonzalez talk right now. And he is on pace for his best season -- but it’s closer than you think. Adrian Gonzalez has a 175 OPS+ right now. In the previous two seasons, he finished with an OPS+ of 162 and 153. In 2009, he hit 40 home runs despite playing half his games in Petco Park. He finished 12th in the NL MVP voting, behind four other first basemen. Just to give you an idea of how unfair that was, here’s a table of Petco-based home run conversions:
|This many home runs in Petco
is the equivalent to ...
|... this many in Fenway|
That’s a completely scientific table. Gonzalez was amazing in 2009, and he finished 12th in MVP voting. And if there are two things that should become common knowledge this season, they are:
- Adrian Gonzalez is the kind of hitter you’ll tell your kids and grandkids about. He has been for a few years. He is impossible to pitch to -- a patient, calm hitter who has the best opposite-field approach of any power hitter in the game.
- Petco Park is the most extreme park in the majors, the Coors Field of pitchers' parks. And not this new, manageable Coors Field. -- the old Coors Field, where Todd Walker could hit .297/.349/.497 ... for a 99 OPS+. Petco Park is like that, but for pitchers.
In 1998, fantasy players went nuts over Mike Lansing after he went to the Rockies. Jeff Cirillo fostered a similar frenzy. This is how it should be for any pitcher who goes to Petco -- Jon Garland, Aaron Harang, Dustin Moseley. The park is that cavernous.
Everyone already knew that Gonzalez was good. Everyone already knew that Petco Park was a pitchers' park. But I'm not sure that everyone knew just how unique both Gonzalez and Petco are.
Gonzalez will get some MVP votes this year. He'll probably get a lot of them, and if he keeps performing this well, he could win the danged thing. And people are starting to realize what happens when you take a hitter with left-field power out of Petco National Park and put him in Fenway. Adrian Gonzalez is one of the best hitters in baseball. Adrian Gonzalez was one the best hitters in baseball, too. It's about time that he's getting the respect he's deserved for a few years now.