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Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes off to a very rough start

Elite defense makes him worthy of a starting job, but offense like this makes it nearly impossible for him to be more than an average player.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With the usual caveats about it still being very early in the season, it's worth pointing out that Yan Gomes is off to a terrible start at the plate for the Indians. In his first 12 games, Gomes is batting an anemic .220/.233/.341, with a wRC+ of 55, which ranks 90th out of 104 qualified hitters in the American League.

One of the first places we often look when a player's production is so low is at their BABIP, because a fair amount of that metric is driven by luck. Gomes' BABIP right now is .267, which is below the current AL average (.290) and his own career figure (.311), but not wildly low. Bumping Gomes' BABIP to .300 would only mean one additional hit right now, and one extra hit wouldn't change the narrative here.

The biggest weakness in Gomes' slash line isn't his batting average (which is bad, but the entire AL is only batting .243 right now), it's his on-base percentage (which is terrible). When there's such a small difference between a player's batting average and his on-base percentage, the explanation is obvious: He's not drawing walks.

In his first 43 plate appearances, Gomes has walked only once, which ties him with a few others for the fewest among those 104 qualified AL hitters. He's also seeing just 3.33 pitchers per plate appearance, which ranks 97th among those 104 players. Granted, if you gave Gomes even one extra walk, his walk rate would double (on account of two times one equaling two), and at 4.6% his 2016 walk rate would be an almost perfect math for his career rate (4.5%), but his career rate is far lower than you'd like to see too, and leaves him with a thin margin for error offensively.

There are 291 players with at least as many plate appearances as Gomes this decade, and among those 291 players, Gomes' walk rate ranks 279th. Adam Jones is among the players with an even lower walk rate than Gomes, but he's the only player with a larger sample size (2500+ PA) during that time whose wRC+ is above average, and the median wRC+, meaning Jones is the only player whose been able to maintain above-average offensive production over 4-5 seasons' worth of playing time and such a low walk rate.

Compounding Gomes' troubles, his power is down too. He has three extra-base hits, and an isolated power (ISO) of just .122, which is below average but not terrible, except that a player with Gomes' walk rate can really only be an effective offensive player if he's got a lot of pop. His career ISO of .178 would play reasonably well, and there's a much better chance of him rebounding in the next few weeks and getting back up to that figure than there is of him boosting his walk rate to something like league-average. Like the BABIP though, this isn't just balls not finding holes; Gomes' hard-hit rate (as tracked by FanGraphs) is just 19.4%, as compared to his career figure of 30.0% and the current AL average of 29.3%.

With another player, I might point these struggles out but not feel much concern, but with Gomes, I am somewhat concerned because his current numbers look an awful lot like the .231/.267/.391 line he put up last year. In 2015 we could tell ourselves that his production was down because of the knee injury he suffered in April, that even after returning, he wasn't fully recovered. If the numbers he's putting up right now don't improve a lot over the next month, we'll have to wonder if the knee injury wasn't to blame, or if it was to blame, and is still effecting him. Neither of those possibilities is encouraging.