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2016 Season in Review: Alex Gordon

It was a rough year for Lo, Danger Ox.

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

The story of Alex Gordon’s 2016 started last winter, when he signed the largest contract ever given to a Royals player.The deal was a combination oaf luck, patience, and both sides wanting to get a deal done. Many of the Royals faithful were very glad to see the Royals’ front office willing and able to fork over the necessary dough to in order to keep a beloved Royals’ icon with the team for what seems likely to be the remainder of his career. Some felt that the back half of the deal would probably look bad, but assumed it wouldn’t matter since most of the team is infamously only under contract through 2017 anyway. This meant that when people expected Gordon to start being bad the Royals weren’t going to be good anyway - they might as well have him around while he could help push the team back to the playoffs.

Unfortunately, Alex Gordon - a notorious slow-starter - had a particularly bad start to the year. He compounded his poor start with a crushing collison with Mike Moustakas which knocked Moose out for the year and Alex out for a month. Alex hit like his old self again when for the first two games upon his return, but he immediately fell back into his season slump. By August 7, Alex was still under the Mendoza Line. The same people who had praised Dayton Moore for going out and bringing back the face of the franchise were raking him over the coals over this tremendous blunder.

Everyone struggled in the search to find answers as to how this could have gone so wrong, so quickly. Matthew LaMar thought that sliders were destroying our All-Star outfielder. David Lesky at Baseball Prospectus Kansas City noted early in the season that Alex appeared to be struggling with fastballs even before he got hurt. Beyond the Box Score’s Rob Rogacki argued that Alex’s mechanics were just a bit slow.

Sam Mellinger theorized that Alex was playing hurt. Our own J.K. Ward agreed. Nearly everyone seemed to agree that an injury was probably at least partly to blame. Over the course of the final two months of the season, Alex hit a lot more like the guy everyone though the Royals were getting when they signed him in the first place. From August 10 through the end of the season Alex hit .254/.330/.467 with nine home runs and only 56 strikeouts in 46 starts. If you're curious, that’s a pace for nearly 30 home runs over a full season. This hot streak brought his numbers up to .220/.312/.380 for the year.

While many are still very down on him, if one were to compare him to other Aemrican League left fielders - and also his teammates - it makes him look...well not good, but maybe a bit less bad.

Statistic This Year Last Year AL LF Rank Team Rank (Min. 200 PA)
Batting Average .220 .271 Last Last
Walk Percentage 10.3% 11.6% 3 1
Isolated Power .160 .161 5 4
Home Runs 17 13 6 4
Baserunning/Stolen Bases 0.7/8 -0.6/2 4 7
Strikeout Percentage 29.2% 21.8% Last Last
UZR/150 8.7 10.5 1 N/A
fWAR 1.2 2.7 8 6

Given the theories that Alex played the entire season with an injured wrist it is interesting to note a couple things. First, his exit velocities had a noted up-tick after he returned from the disabled list. Second, his ISO was nearly identical this season to last, though it was carried by the hot August and warm September. Alex’s problem appears to be his batting average and strikeout percentages which had huge leaps in the wrong direction. If it is a mechanical issue, hopefully he will be able to fix it during the off-season so he looks more like 2015 Alex or at least August/September 2016 Alex.

It is also worth noting that even while Alex didn’t hit as well as anyone would have liked he did improve his base-running. And although his defensive numbers went down, he was still the best left fielder in the game last year. Even with his hot final two months Gordon still had his worst offensive season since moving to left field full time. The Royals were counting on him to anchor their lineup and help guide them back to the playoffs. He failed on both counts.