Boston Red Sox: Is Jonny Gomes back to his old self?


Last year, Jonny Gomes was a unique player. He was arguably the most clutch player on the Red Sox, played a key role for a World Series Championship team, and did not follow his regular splits while hitting. The year is now 2014 and the World Series team from last year seems like a distant dream, almost even a fairytale. So far this season, Jonny Gomes seems like a completely different ballplayer, the type of player he was in almost every year of his career except 2013.

In 2013, Jonny Gomes had some odd splits at the plate. The right-handed slugger batted .258 with a .341 OBP in 151 at-bats against right-handed pitching and he batted .236 with a .347 OBP in 161 at-bats against left-handed pitching. Looking at those numbers, it appears as though Gomes does not favor type of pitcher over the other, when in fact it is just the opposite. For instance in 2012, Gomes batted .299 against lefties with a .413 OBP and in 2011, he hit .311 with a .407 OBP against lefties. In that same time frame, Gomes hit .209 in 2012 and .167 in 2011 against righties.  With this being said, Gomes has been somewhat of a career platoon player and that is something which should continue.

This year, Gomes has 40 at-bats against lefties and 44 at-bats against righties. In those at-bats, Gomes fared much better against lefties than righties. In his 40 at-bats against lefties, Gomes is batting .275 with a .383 OBP along with two out of three of his homers.  Against righties, Gomes is batting .205 with a .288 OBP, which less than impressive to say the least. Although this is a small sample size, these numbers are similar to what Gomes has put up in the entirety of his career, making it realistic to think that this type of split production will continue. Given that Grady Sizemore has a history of hitting righties and struggling against lefties, the pair could make a nice platoon for Boston, as long as Boston gets some production out of Sizemore.

Unfortunately for Boston, they are not in a great situation for a platoon. Despite Grady Sizemore favoring right-handed pitching, he is batting just .235 off of them which does not compliment Gomes’ .275 off of lefties well. Together that would not put up a whole lot of production, mostly because of Sizemore. The platoon could hit about .250 the way Sizemore is playing, which one player could easily do on his own. Obviously, the ideal platoon for Boston would be if Daniel Nava were back up with the big league club and he and Jonny Gomes were in a platoon together. Of course, Nava has to prove himself in AAA once again before that can happen which might take some time as his numbers will worsen as he faces left-handed pitching.

As far as being a clutch player, Gomes continues to do so, but likely will not be as clutch as he once was. According to Fangraphs, Gomes has a career -0.76 rating in the clutch factor. The tides have turned for Gomes as he has boasted a positive clutch rating every year since 2011. Although it is tough to buy into some of the more advanced sabermetric stats, it is nice to think that Gomes will somewhat keep up with how clutch he was last year. If Gomes can get one or two big hits like he did last year, then he is doing his job well.

Even though Gomes is somewhat of a different player than he was last year, he is just as valuable. Specializing in hitting left-handed pitching, Gomes gives the Red Sox production on days where some players physically cannot. Even when Gomes starts the day on the bench, he is a valuable bat off the bench and can pinch hit late in a game, giving Boston the platoon advantage. When Boston faces a righty, having Gomes in the starting lineup is not the greatest idea. With this being said, Jonny Gomes has great plate discipline, so putting him up against a righty or lefty that struggles with control could help the team since he will have a great shot at getting on base. Whether he reaches on a walk or a hit, it does not matter since both help the team win.

To recap, Jonny Gomes is not the player he was in 2013; he is the Jonny Gomes of past years, the Jonny Gomes that the Boston Red Sox signed. Both this year and last year, Gomes provides the team with a unique skillset, it is just that this year Gomes is playing more consistently with his career splits. In a proper platoon, Gomes could be great for the Red Sox, but manager John Farrell has to use him properly.