The Dodgers try for a fifth straight win on Tuesday night, in the middle game of their three-game series against the Nationals. As the offense starts to heat up, with 35 runs and six wins in their last seven games, thoughts turn to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
Gonzalez on the season is hitting .271/.349/.382 with just six home runs and 10 doubles through 72 team games. That's a pace of 23 doubles and 14 home runs over a full season, after averaging 35 doubles and 26 home runs in the last three years.
Dodger Stadium has been particularly tough on Gonzalez this year. He has four doubles and two home runs in 35 home games in 2016, hitting .190/.272/.273, compared to hitting .346/.419/.485 with six doubles and four home runs in 33 away games.
Gonzalez has battled back issues this season, even missing a nearly unprecedented three straight games in the middle of May. It looked like Gonzalez might be turning a corner on June 11 in San Francisco, when he doubled high off the center field wall then later hit a go-ahead home run to the opposite field in the 10th inning.
But since that game, Gonzalez has just one extra-base hit, a double, in nine games, going 7-for-36 (.194) with two walks.
Gonzalez has a 52.6-percent ground ball rate in 2016, by far the highest of his career and up from his 40.7-percent lifetime mark. His ground ball rate from 2013-2015 was 38 percent.
Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs took a deep dive into Gonzalez's power decline, including analyzing exit velocity and launch angle off the bat throughout the season. The bottom line:
Since Gonzalez took a few days off, he’s gotten back to hitting baseballs in the air, but he hasn’t been hitting them very hard. He did just recently generate his hardest-hit batted ball of the season, but that was just one event. The numbers make it look like he’s still compromised. He’s made some kind of tweak to try to elevate, but without the usual authority, homers are more likely to go for doubles and outs.
The Dodgers' offense was plagued for most of the first third of the season by struggling veterans, but a few have rebounded of late. Justin Turner has rebounded for a fantastic June, and a red-hot fortnight with seven home runs in hia last 13 games. Howie Kendrick has a seven-game hitting streak, and over his last 32 games is hitting .286/.358/.429.
It is reasonable to expect that, if healthy, Gonzalez will eventually hit, and hit for power, like he has done for a decade. It's just a matter of if he is currently healthy, and/or when that will happen.
For what it's worth, Gonzalez has faced Tanner Roark, starting on Tuesday for Nationals, once in hit career, last July 17 in Washington. Gonzalez homered in his only at bat against Roark, a home run to left field.
Time: 7:10 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA