The Blue Jays are in the midst of their
best most magical season since 1993, and although the team on the field right now looks good, in just a year from now, it could be a whole different story. Colby Rasmus, the Blue Jays current centre fielder, will be a free agent after the season, and with every passing day it looks as if he will not be back in Toronto come April 2015. It isn’t because of salary restrictions or because he’s been so wildly inconsistent since being traded to the Blue Jays over 4 years ago, it’s because Anthony Gose has looked like the player Blue Jays fans were expecting to show up in 2012, when Gose was named the 39th best prospect in the game by Baseball America. Gose, who turned only 24 years old two days ago, isn’t hitting the cover off the ball, as his 82 wRC+ (which denotes that Anthony is producing offence at a rate 18% worse than the league average batter), but he is getting on base, and with his skillset, that is just fine.
On Sunday, for the first time in his major league career, Gose reached the 200 plate appearance plateau in a major league season. Of those 200 plate appearances, Gose has walked in 10.5% of them, or 21 times this season. Is this just a product of small sample size, or has Gose actually changed his approach at the plate? Well, it isn’t a small sample, as BB% actually stabilizes after just 120 plate appearances, so it must be that Gose has changed something at the plate that has led to him seeing better pitches, taking more walks, and as a byproduct of that, getting on base more. This is great because with Gose’s speed, nobody should care whether he puts up a .450 SLG, but rather, all that is important is that he reaches base. Because, when he reaches base, he can easily take another bag or two with his legs. His value in this game will come from defense and baserunning, and if he can continue to get on base, his offense won’t be so terrible as to make him unplayable.
Take a look at these numbers from Baseball-Reference.
In 2014, the average centre fielder has been getting on base at a .325 mark, while Gose has been reaching .337 percent of the time as you can see from the above table. So, how has Gose refined his approach? Well, look at the following zone charts in GIF form from brooksbaseball.net.
The first image you are seeing is Gose’s swing chart from 2013. As you can probably see, it’s there’s a lot of red, which means he’s swinging at a lot of balls in the strike zone (64.1%). There are also multiple zones outside of the strike zone that are red. Swinging at balls outside of the zone, you guessed it, is bad. According to FanGraphs, Gose swung at 34.3% of the pitches he saw outside of the strike zone in 2013.
The second image you are seeing is the same chart, but from this year. Gose’s swing percentage at pitches in the zone remains largely consistent at 63.7%, and the colour of the tiles inside the strike zone reflect that, remaining red. The big difference lies around the strike zone, where Gose has cut down his swing rate by almost 9% to 25.7%.To give you an image of where that is relative to league average, since 2011, the league average has not dropped below 30.6%. Gose, in 2014, has been incredible at seeing pitches outside of the strike zone, and deciding to lay off of them.
By not swinging at bad pitches, Gose is able to take more balls, which leads to not only more walks, but in time, will also mean better contact on the balls he does swing at. So far only one of those things have happened, the walks, and Gose has been more than adequate enough at the plate that I would feel comfortable making him the left side of a centre field platoon next season to replace Colby Rasmus. Gose has been worth 1.3 wins in just 200 PA’s this year, and that is with little work from the bat, power wise (his .058 ISO is the lowest of his major and minor league career). If given a full workload, there is no question in my mind, that with his new approach at the plate, Gose can be at least a 3 win player, and if he does ever get some power, 4 or 5 wins is not unattainable.
Can we believe in the way Anthony Gose is getting on base this season? Sure. His walk rate matches what he was putting up as a prospect coming up through the minors, and he’s actually been striking out at one of the lowest rates of his professional career. So go ahead. Believe. Anthony Gose has become, with his skillset, more than playable. If he continues this, Alex Anthopolous will be able to sleep easy if/when Colby Rasmus signs with a different team in a few months, and instead of worrying about replacing Colby, he’ll be able to focus on re-signing Melky Cabrera, a player the Blue Jays do not have a replacement for…yet.
All stats as of Monday August 11th.