Carlos Gomez kills me. With reckless abandon he has been hacking his way through plate appearances ever since Opening Day. If he somewhere down the line turns into a decent hitter, I will give the Twins' coaching staff full credit, because he simply doesn't seem to be able to adapt to anything by himself.
Yet, a couple of days ago someone on this site (I forgot who it was – sorry) suggested that Gomez might have altered his approach recently and actually patched together some good at bats along the way. This got me thinking a bit, and I decided to investigate the surmise.
To evaluate Gomez' "maturity" at the plate, I look at two stats: pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) and the percentage of plate appearances in which he swings at the first pitch (1PS%). This is obviously a gross simplificiation, but bear with me here. It's impossible to find (free) monthly splits for these numbers anywhere on the web, so I created a so-called spider which downloaded the necessary data from MLB.com's 2008 Gameday data. I then extracted the parts I needed for my research and the final output is a couple of interesting (albeit ugly) graphs.
I think you'll find my findings about Gomez' maturation encouraging, so please take a minute to review them.
Data and graphs
First I broke down Gomez' 2008 season into bins of 10 games (in which he came to bat at least once), meaning I lumped his 1st through 10th game together, then his 11th through 20th game, and so on. This gives us some more meaningful sample sizes to look at.
Here is the evolution of Gomez' "maturity stats":
I created two graphs to help illustrate the development:
Next I decided to trade a more fine-grained view of Gomez' season for smaller sample sizes by narrowing the bins down to 5 games each. Please note that this results in only 21 PA per bin on average, so you may choose to disregard the next graphs completely if you think the samples are too insubstantial. Anyway, here are the same graphs as above, but now with 5 game bins and an added rolling average (unweighted average, unfortunately):
There are a number of interesting insights that can be gleaned from these graphs (and for that I'm very thankful since the data collection took five hours). Most notably, we get our suspicions confirmed that Gomez was indeed pressing and having worse-than-usual at bats during his horrible slump in June and July (around games 50-90). He was seeing approximately 15% fewer pitches per PA than his average line and swinging at the 1st pitch more than 50% of the time.
Since his demotion to the 9th spot in the batting order (somewhere around game 90), however, both maturity indicators have trended dramatically in the right direction. His P/PA during the last couple of weeks has actually been almost at league average and he's done a much better job at laying off the first offering once in a while. Furthermore, the positive development hasn't seemed to slow down, so maybe there's even more to come.
The question now is whether these improvements stem from the fact that he is playing less regularly and therefore is more rested, or because he doesn't feel the same pressure in the 9th hole that he does in the lead-off spot. Or maybe he has actually adjusted his approach and listened to some good ol' reason.
What do you think? Please tell me if there's anything you think needs to be done to improve the reliability of the data.
Note: There seems to be small inconsistencies in my data. I get 3 more PA for Gomez than Baseball Reference has recorded.