Adrian Gonzalez entered 2013 providing hope for the first base position that the Dodgers haven’t had since James Loney‘s strong push to end 2007. After the late-season trade that sent Adrian from the Boston Red Sox to Los Angeles — and a solid but unspectacular end to the season, offensively — there was hope that another off-season away from his shoulder surgery could bring back a bit of the old San Diego A-Gon.
Gonzalez was better in 2013 than he was in his short time here in 2012, but he was basically the same guy this year that he was when you look at his 2012 as a whole. He hit .293/.342/.461/.803 with a .346 wOBA and 124 wRC+. He compiled 54 extra-base hits, whiffed in just 16% of his plate appearances, and played in 157 games while dealing with a sore neck at the beginning of the year and quad issues at the end of the year.
That said, age and the serious shoulder injury he suffered a couple years back are to blame for his seemingly overlooked decline. Yes, Adrian is still more than capable of carrying the offense at any given time, but he’s nowhere near the player he once was. He was just the 13th most valuable first baseman in baseball from an offensive standpoint, behind guys like Brandon Moss, Adam Lind, Brandon Belt, and Eric Hosmer. Gonzalez’s OBP and SLG have dropped each of the last three years as well, but most shocking is the continued lack of free passes Adrian has been drawing. After a pair of campaigns in which he drew walks in over 13% of his trips to the dish (including a 17.5% mark in 2009, aided by the San Diego Padres‘ roster), Adrian has fallen below 7.3% in both 2012 and 2013.
Defensively, Adrian saved roughly five runs with his glove in ’13 and is still a threat to win a Gold Glove in any given year. Unfortunately, he gives a lot of that back by being one of the slowest players in the league, and he’s near the bottom of the MLB in terms of baserunning.
With five years and $106 million remaining on his contract, simply being better than Loney and friends doesn’t make up for the fact that a player who was once a 4.5-6.5 WAR guy is just no longer that dude anymore. Fortunately, the Dodgers can afford to overpay a bit, but the latter years of his contract are looking bleak. He’ll deservedly get a lot of credit for his .833 OPS in the NLDS and 1.091 OPS in the NLCS, and there’s reason to believe he can stave off a steep decline, but I have to acknowledge that the decline exists. Doing otherwise would just be avoiding the facts.
I was torn on what positional review to include Michael Young in, but then it struck me that whichever one I chose would be a position he couldn’t defend to save his life, so I settled on first base. I’m going to keep this short because Young’s Dodger tenure can be described fairly succinctly with a simple tweet from Paul Boyé following Game 1 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals:
Michael Young's -.527 WPA is the 6th lowest ever for a postseason game
— Paul Boyé (@paul_boye) October 12, 2013
Young hit .314/.321/.392/.713 with a wOBA of .309 and a .340 BABIP in the regular season after being traded to Los Angeles, but his defense and baserunning meant he was worth -0.2 WAR during that time. Regardless, he was basically acquired to be a pinch hitter in the postseason. And … well … in 10 postseason plate appearances — while consistently being selected over Scott Van Slyke, even against lefties — that line fell to a gritty and classy .100/.100/.100/.200 with a .089 wOBA. Oh, and that one hit? An infield single in which the pitcher missed the base.
Who started the second-most games at first base for the Blue Crew in 2013, with a grand total of seven?
Jerry Hairston Jr.!