The Real Alex Gonzalez

Alex Gonzalez: power hitter!?

Out of the blue, Alex Gonzalez is hitting baseballs out of the park.

The former Red Sox shortstop has 10 home runs, tied for second in the majors. He nearly hit in the second inning of Toronto’s 7-6 loss to the Sox last night, but umpires used video replay to confirm the shot off John Lackey was a double.

"It doesn’t surprise me - I can hit some balls, you know?" said Gonzalez, who is at or near the top of almost every offensive category among major league shortstops. "Right now, after a good month, I’ve got to keep it going. It’s not like I’m thinking every time I go up to home plate, I’m going to try to hit a homer. I’m just trying to get my pitch and put a good swing on it.

---snip---

Gonzalez is known strictly as a defensive whiz. Jays manager Cito Gaston pointed out that Gonzalez, a .401 career slugger, hit 23 homers for Florida in 2003, but he also conceded the home run swing did not come up during the winter when Toronto discussed signing the free agent.

"I think when his name comes up, you think of his glove more than anything, but he’s certainly stepped up and given us some offense, too.

It's quite remarkable what Gonzalez has been able to do so far for the Blue Jays, but it's doubtful that Gonzalez will be able to maintain this type of production. Right now, Gonzalez's slugging percentage is almost two hundred points higher that his career average and his ISO, which calculates his isolated power, his again almost two hundred points higher than his career average.

The numbers would suggest that Gonzalez is destined to come back down to Earth this season offensively. Even if he finishes with 15-20 home runs, the Jays should be thrilled.

And while the focus has rested solely on Gonzalez's offensive output, his defense needs to improve. Gaston notes in the article that Gonzalez is known primarily for his glove, but up to this point, Gonzalez's defense has been a disappointment. Before this season, Gonzalez's UZR rating was consistently in positive territory, but this season his UZR has dropped to -8.7. That noticeable drop could suggest that Gonzalez, who is already 33 years old, is declining defensively.

If Gonzalez's offensive numbers drop as expected and his defense continues to decline, then the question will be: where does Gonzalez offer the Blue Jays value? It's easy to be blinded by one hot month at the plate, but Blue Jays management should be concerned about Gonzalez's defense and hope that it improves as the season moves forward.

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