MLBPro100 #6: Jose Gonzalez, Statistical Metronome

Jose Gonzalez is something to behold.

What is so breathtaking about the 28-year-old superstar outfielder for the Houston Astros? Is it his swing, considered by many around the league to be the prettiest? Is it the way he glides around the basepaths, seemingly like an ice skater? Is it how he patrols the outfield, where he can make the Play of the Day at any time?

Maybe. But what really grabs the attention of anyone who lays eyes on him is this:

Every day looks the same.

“He ebbs and flows, like anyone else,” said Astros’ manager Adrian Beltre, when asked about the metronome Gonzalez seems to be. “The reason you all see him that way is due to his mindset and effort. Those never change.

“When you have a guy like that in your clubhouse, it makes some things easy for me. I never have to worry about him. Even when he’s scuffling a bit, he isn’t a worry. He doesn’t need extra managing.”

Sure enough, Gonzalez did scuffle at times last year. He hit .265/.339/.369 in April, when the Astros, as a whole, struggled (12-14 record). In July, he hit .242/.339/.516. The fourteen extra-base hits were solid, as was the 14-5 BB-K rate. But the contact wasn’t there.

But then, you look at his yearly stats. Every year he has been in Houston (since 2019), he has hit at least .300–before ending this year at .301, he hit between .312-.323. His OBP has been between .380-.406. He’s slugged between .491-.577. 

He’s had seasons of 26, 41, 29, 27, and 29 homers. He’s had RBI seasons of 72, 97, 102, 106, and 77. His walks? 59-79-64-71-83. His strikeouts: 37-49-45-57-49.

It should be noted that he played in only 113 games with Houston in 2019, as he was acquired by Milwaukee a quarter of the way through the season. He was drafted 9th overall in 2013, out of high school. Four years later, he led the NL in batting average (.331) and hits (199), while hitting 19 homers, driving in 70 runs, stealing 40 bases, and recording a 56-40 BB-K rate.

He did that at 21.

“His eye is legendary,” new St. Louis Cardinal, Gary Copeland, once said about Gonazlez.

The question is begged, then: WHY did the Brewers trade him in the first place? He was in the middle of a five year, $18.8m deal he signed his rookie season, an unusual move at the time. And maybe we could look at that as one reason. He was going to cost a lot. Case in point: He had one year of arbitration left at the end of that contract, for the 2021 season.

He made $19.45m in 2021.

The other, and likely more important reason: He couldn’t stay healthy. He fractured his thumb 5.19.18, and missed six weeks. He returned, then tore his meniscus 7.27.18, missing the rest of the season.

Prior to the 2019 season, he fractured a rib, missing another few weeks. Add in a franchise that was hitting rock bottom–a 66-win ‘19 season–after four seasons of winning play, resulting in two playoff berths–and trading Gonzalez seems more understandable.

Except…well, he was only 23 at the time of the trade.

“He was still growing into his frame,” said Fredi Gonzalez, who was Brewers manager in 2017-18.. “He hadn’t developed his power yet. You could see it in the swing, but he wasn’t what he’s become. He wasn’t even hitting doubles, really. 

“There were conversations in the front office that his ceiling was defined, though. And it wasn’t what we see now.”

What we see now is a metronome of production, one who has 40-40 capability. If he were to achieve that, he would be the second player in MLBPro history to do so; the only player to achieve that, to this point, is Minnesota’s Martin Lopez, back in 2021 (41 HR, 40 SB). 

Heck, they’re the only two players to achieve forty homers and steals in ANY season, let alone the same one.

In many ways, Gonzalez’s rise mirrors Houston’s. The Astros’ first winning season came in 2019. After a dip in 2020, the team has won 94, 99, and 100 games in the last three seasons. And now, with Seattle seemingly needing to sell off pieces, and the Angels dealing with meaningful injuries to their pitching staff, maybe now is Houston’s time.

If it is, you can be assured that Jose Gonzalez will be at the center of it, doing what he does.

You can set it like clockwork.

Some Vote Notes: The first tie in the MLBPro100 goes to Gonzalez, due to his receiving a vote at #1. This does create some uncertainty around #8, according to the Keepers of the Vote.

  • Gonzalez received one vote at #1.
  • Three players who received a vote at #1 remain.
  • Three players received their first votes at #6.
  • That player who received at vote at #2 still has not received a vote since.
  • Ten players received a vote at #6.
  • Five players received multiple votes.

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