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Is Alex Gordon back?

His resurgence is encouraging, will it last?

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MLB: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The last two years have been hard for Alex Gordon fans. It was difficult to understand how a guy who was once one of the most well-rounded players in the game had turned into one of the least productive batters in all of baseball. It wasn’t just the elevated strike outs in 2016 or even the 29.2% hard hit rate last year. It wasn’t even a wRC+ of 62 last year that was tied with teammate Alcides Escobar and only better than Texas’ Rougned Odor for qualified batters in all of baseball.

No, it was just as much Alex fouling off pitches he used to scorch. It was him pulling the ball to the right side when he used to take a pitch to the opposite field. It was him looking lost at the plate and not appearing to have a real plan while he was up there.

Call it what you want. Maybe it was him trying to live up to the massive contract he signed after 2015. Maybe he was in his head too much. Maybe it was a slight tweak in his mechanics or a change in approach at the plate. My theory was the wrist injury he suffered when colliding with Mike Moustakas in 2016 was a big factor in some of the issues he was dealing with. Or maybe it was just the natural regression that occurs to every athlete and had finally taken up residence on his physical doorstep.

Whatever the case may be, after two years of sub-par productivity and a litany of injuries in between it really felt like the Alex Gordon of our past was just that, in the past. But a new year brings new promise and since his return from the disabled list he has looked like the Alex of old.

The numbers so far speak of a revitalized Gordon, as he ended Thursday hitting .303/.352/.439 after going 3-for-4 on the day with his second home run of the year and two runs scored. Since coming off the disabled list on April 24, he has been on fire, hitting .372/.426/.558 in 11 games.

Of course, this is a tiny sample size. He had two similar stretches like this last year. Over June 6-18 last year, he hit .282/.378/.590 with three home runs over 11 games, only to go 2-for-18 right after that. In September, he hit .313/.450/.656 with three home runs in the 11 games from the 15th to the 27th, which lifted his atrocious OPS 38 points up to .617.

But those spurts didn’t have the high number of hits he’s enjoying now. Let’s put it this way, in the past week and a half, Alex has six multi-hit games. He had 16 all of last season. Alex is binging on hits the way Ned Yost binges episodes of Breaking Bad.

When you break down his numbers - and again, these are small sample sizes - but you see a much different Alex Gordon. He is swinging at fewer pitches. He is making a lot more contact. He is making a lot more hard contact. You can also see his exit velocity is up.

Alex Gordon batted ball data

Year Swing% Contact% Hard Hit% Avg. Exit Velo
Year Swing% Contact% Hard Hit% Avg. Exit Velo
2015 42.3% 78.3% 34.1% 88.1
2016 43.7% 71.8% 36.9% 87.8
2017 47.2% 78.3% 31.2% 85.8
2018 41.9% 82.5% 38.0% 89.7

His strikeout rate is down to the lowest rate it has ever been. Despite swinging at fewer pitches however, he is not drawing any walks - just two free passes this year for a career-low 3% walk rate so far. Again, the sample size is small.

Gordon has admitted he has made some tweaks to his swing under the eye of new batting coach Terry Bradshaw. As he told reporter Rustin Dodd of The Athletic, “I feel like my swing is a little bit different than it was at the beginning of the season.” Gordon was a better hitter when hitting to the left side of the diamond while focusing on the gaps in the outfield. At one point he was a guy who could rack up 50 doubles in a full season (51 back in 2012) and make a good living off taking the ball the opposite way. This year, his opposite field batted ball rate is 26%, the highest it has been since 2013 (interestingly, his pull-rate is at an all-time high, it is the balls up the middle that have disappeared).

So should we expect Gordon to return to past glory? I’m pretty sure the Alex we saw in 2011-2015 is probably in the past, the man is 34 years old and his body has taken a beating over the last three seasons. We knew that the aging process would bring regression, but we also figured that the dedication to keeping his body in tip-top shape might slow down the regression a bit. This resurgence may give fans some hope that he can be a useful player once again.

There’s still a long way to go and many peaks and valleys along the way. But for those of us that have cheered and placed him up on a higher mantle, it’s hard not to smile real big when thinking about how he is performing right now. It’s nice to see that the Alex we love hasn’t completely left the building.