What about Jonny Gomes?
With regards to the Yankees’ left field situation this season, while the somewhat fragile Reed Johnson seems to lead the list of right-handed candidates that could potentially platoon with the left-handed Brett Gardner come opening day (assuming the Yankees choose to go that route), one name that has recently picked up steam among Yankee fans is former Tampa Bay Ray and current free agent outfielder, Jonny Gomes.
Gomes, a career .241/.330/.471 hitter, has an affinity for cheap shots and power. For instance, he knocked 20 home runs in just 98 games with the Reds this past season (he benefited from an unsustainable home run to fly ball ratio, however, which is notable). As with any glorified right-handed platoon candidate, his numbers against right-handers have been particularly poor as he has posted a .224/.311/.448 line against them throughout his career. However, his productive stats against southpaws — a .274/.369/.517 line over 515 at-bats — have lured Yankee fans to the 29-year old from California.
So, Brett Gardner has a .288/.398/.373 minor league line against right-handers and Gomes has a .274/.369/.517 Major League line against lefties. That’s perfect—let’s tie the two together in an alliterative Gardner-Gomes platoon and call it an offseason, right? Well, no, actually, as Gomes’ defense, which would be an important piece to the Yankees’ left field platoon if the position fails to find offensive consistency, has yet to be examined.
With that said, the data on Gomes’ defense is pretty straightforward. He is simply a bad outfielder. Last season, his 1.0 UZR and 2.2 UZR/150 were average in left, however, his rating, produced after only 37 games, was essentially based on a meaningless sample. Historically, over 86 games in left field, which still isn’t much data, Gomes’ UZR/150 is actually -25.7 and he has been 13.3 runs below average at the position. In right field, over 131 games, Gomes owns a -20.2 UZR/150 and a career UZR of -17. While the statistics may suffer slightly from his sporadic playing time, it is more than reasonable to label Gomes a poor defender rather than a good or even an average defender.
Now, do Gomes’ defensive downfalls outweigh his offensive prowess against left-handers? To be honest, I’m not sure. Brett Gardner’s glove could make up for some of his defensive problems, however, in a platoon, Gomes may actually end up receiving a significant chunk of playing time, which would make things ugly from a run-saving perspective. In the end, Reed Johnson possesses a .313/.378/.463 line against left-handers and, although there is an obvious difference in power when comparing he and Gomes, Johnson’s defense is much better than Gomes’ defense. Given this level of “completeness” offered by Johnson, he still seems like the best platoon fit for the Yankees.
Photo via FanGraphs