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Yan Gomes and the worst offensive seasons in Cleveland Indians history

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The horror. ...The horror.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Three weeks ago I wrote about how Yan Gomes was really struggling at the plate. The next day, Gomes had three hits, including a home run. In his next game after that, he homered again. We had a good laugh about the incredible Lukehart Effect (my knack for writing about players' current trends just before those trends reverse), but the unfortunate truth is, that even including those two big games, Gomes has been even worse since I first wrote about him than he was before.

When I wrote the post, Gomes was hitting .220/.233/.341. Since that post went up, he's hit .111/.158/.259. In 11 games since homering in back-to-back appearances, Gomes is just 2 for 44, with two walks and one extra-base hit (a double). His overall batting line for the season is .158/.190/.295, which hurts just to type. His wRC+ (in my opinion, the single best measure of a player's hitting) is 26, worst in the American League (minimum 100 PA).

Gomes' BABIP is just .179, which is unsustainably low, so it's fair to say he's been somewhat the victim of bad luck, but bad luck isn't the primary explanation for his anemic batting line, bad hitting is. Gomes' walk rate has always been low, and continues to be, sitting at just 4.0% right now. His strikeout rate is 26.0%, very high. The only way to be a positive contributor at the plate with those rates is to hit for a lot of power. Gomes isolated power (ISO) was .326 in 2014, before falling to a still very good .285 last year. SO far this season, it's just .179, more than one hundred points below that season.

The main reason Gomes isn't hitting for better power is that he's making low-quality contact. He's hitting fewer line drives and making less hard contact (31.0% in 2014, 27.9% in 2015, 22.9% in 2016), while making more soft contact (16.4% in 2014, 16.6% in 2015, 21.4% in 2016).

Even with better luck, Gomes would likely have a low BABIP, and even with an average BABIP, Gomes would still have a weak overall batting line.

When I wrote three weeks ago, I said that while his offense was disappointing, his plus defense as a catcher meant he was still a solid starter, as something like a league-average player overall. That is no longer true. At this point, Gomes' defense is not justifying his offense. FanGraphs has him at an even 0 WAR while Baseball-Reference has him at -0.2.

If Roberto Perez were healthy, I'd expect him to start seeing more playing time, getting at least a couple starts a week. I'm not sure if Chris Gimenez will see an increase in playing time quite as quickly as Perez would have, but if Gomes doesn't start hitting better, Francona's going to have to start sitting him more.

As is, Gomes .190 on-base percentage would be the fourth-lowest in Indians history among players with 100+ PA. (The "record" belongs to Ben Egan, who posted a .164 OBP way back in 1915. If you raise the PA minimum to 300, the lowest OBP in Tribe history is .236, by Bill Bradley in 1909. Among qualified players, the lowest wRC+ in franchise history is 45, by a player named John Gochnauer in 1902. The only Indians player to post a wRC+ of 75 or worse in a qualified season during the last thirty years was Felix Fermin (who did it twice). If you drop the PA cutoff to 200, the lowest wRC+ figure is Walter Barbare's 30, from 1915.

Some of it is bad luck, some of it could be lingering injuries, and some of it is probably pitchers having figured ou the holes in Gomes' game. Blame what you like, but the result has been terrible. Gomes almost has to start hitting better, but if he doesn't, this would be in the running for worst offensive seasons in Indians history.