I’ve mentioned a number of times on here that I like to follow the Pirates as a National League team in addition to the Indians. (Since I’m not really a football fan, I don’t find this to be a contradiction). When a player that I like ends up being traded by the Indians to the Pirates, I feel as if he’s not completely gone since he’s going to my secondary team. That doesn’t mean I have to like these deals, particularly where the Indians are concerned. I always had a soft spot for Jeanmar Gomez as he came up through the Indians’ minor league system. I was disappointed when the Indians gave up on him and traded him to the Pirates in the offseason, but I understood why they made the decision. I said at the time that I hoped the change in scenery (and league) would benefit Gomez.
I guess I pretty much got what I asked for. Gomez has had a pretty solid year with the Pirates so far, and people are taking notice. My friend directed me to this column by Bob Smizik, who asked “What were the Cleveland Indians thinking when they gave up Gomez for Quincy Latimore, a borderline prospect who was last seen playing for the Washington Wild Things in the indeptendent Frontier League?” I know that Gomez gave the Indians many reasons to give up on him, and you can’t hold onto every player hoping against hope that they manage to finally rise to expectations. (See Marte, Andy and LaPorta, Matt) At the same time, it’s frustrating when you think about how the Indians have wanted and needed pitching for much of this year, yet they gave Gomez away for basically nothing. If nothing else, perhaps they could have gotten something of value in return?
With the Indians last year, Gomez was 5-8 with a 5.96 ERA and a 1.423 WHIP in 90.2 innings pitched. This year with the Pirates, he’s 2-0 with a 2.91 ERA and a 1.154 WHIP in 65 innings pitched. The Pirates have used him out of the bullpen for much of the year, but he’s made the occasional start as well. It makes me wonder why the Indians didn’t try using him in long relief, or in some different capacity before essentially giving up on him. There were one or two occasions where they used him like that toward the end of the season, but nothing long term. Perhaps he could have benefited from the new coaching staff, led by Terry Francona? That’s unfortunately something we’ll never learn.
Let’s take a look at Gomez’s final season with the Indians 2012, in which they made the decision to give up on him, and the 2013 season with the Pirates.
With the Indians last season, batters hit .273/.338/.471 (.810 OPS) off of Gomez. Right-handed hitters performed well off of the right-handed Gomez, hitting .285/.344/.456 (.800 OPS), while left-handers hit .258/.331/.490 (.822 OPS). Neither are necessarily obscene totals, but he wasn’t really fooling batters and they took him deep quite often – he gave up 15 home runs in less than 100 innings pitched.
I also decided to look at a heat map with his pitch frequency from last season, to see where most of his pitches ended up in the strike zone:
I’ll discuss this chart in a bit more detail once I outline the one from 2013.
And speaking of 2013, Gomez’s numbers have been better across the board this season. Batters are hitting just .215/.291/.318 (.608 OPS) off of him, while righties are hitting just .215/.283/.315 (.598 OPS) and lefties are hitting .214/.300/.320 (.620 OPS). He managed to knock almost a couple of hundred points off of opposing batters’ OPS when facing him. He’s only given up five home runs so far this season too, in just 25 fewer innings. For a moment, I thought “okay, maybe this is because he’s in the NL,” so I decided to look at his stats against American League teams specifically this season. Even though it’s obviously a limited sample size, Gomez has a 1.19 ERA against the AL this season, and AL batters are hitting just .171/.235/.224 off of him.
Here is the pitch frequency heat map for Gomez this season:
If you compare this map to the map from last year, you can see that Gomez is doing a much better job of keeping the ball down in the zone, and he’s also painting the corners a bit better. He’s also been a bit luckier this season – his BABIP was .271 last season, while it is .233 this season with the Pirates. With less defense behind him, or just less luck, his xFIP would have his ERA closer to 4.00 this season. Still, a marked improvement over last season with the Indians (when his xFIP was 4.95). He also brought his ground ball percentage up this season, which has probably helped him keep more baseballs in the park.
So even though he’s been the beneficiary of luck and good defense this year, he’s still managed to keep the ball down and find success coming out of the bullpen. He could be a nice addition to the Indians’ staff right now, or at least would have brought a better return than the now departed Quincy Latimore.