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Yan Gomes is selling out for more power

The Indians catcher has given up everything to be some kind of dinger man.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Yan Gomes is having a pretty good year. It’s not quite the type of season he rather rudely made us expect after his 2013 and ’14 campaigns when he posted a combined 121 wRC+ with 78 total extra-base hits, sterling defense and a Silver Slugger Award. But it’s looking solid, on the numbers.

He’s a positive influence on the offense with a 109 wRC+, he’s still a good defender, and he’s shown some solid pop. Many teams would love to have him as the full-time catcher, and Gomes is splitting time with another very good backstop. Gomes is much the same player he’s always been, and is merely healthy. He’s just sold out for power.

Elite contact has never been Gomes’ strong suit; he’s never going to be Michael Brantley. For his career he’s got a 76.4 percent contact rate, a mark he hasn’t hit in two years. He’s always struck out a good deal too, his 27.1 percent strikeout rate since 2015, the 29th highest in baseball and has climbed every year since he debuted two years prior to that. This year though hes putting up truly elite strikeout numbers, his 31.6 mark coming in at 11th highest in baseball if he were a qualified batter. He’s walking 6.1 percent of the time, above his career rate but also a miserably low number. Gomes has evidently decided he exists to do one thing as a hitter, and that’s club baseballs.

He isn’t that much more aggressive at the plate, though his 52.9 percent swing rate this year is a point above his career number and the second highest of his career. He’s also chasing out of the zone a decent amount at 37 percent, seven points above his career number. But on pitches in the zone he’s in full attack mode at 75.4 percent, his highest since the injury-plagued 2016 (a season you have to throw out a bit) and over five full percentage points above his career number.

This has resulted in the best power numbers in Gomes’ career. His .464 slugging percentage actually his third highest, but his .212 Isolated Slugging percentage is a career high, as is his 16.7 percent HR/FB ratio, and he’s hitting a fly ball a career high 45.8 percent of the time. This is the profile of a man who is on the hunt for dingers and little else. If he were to play a full season like this he’d be winking at about sixty extra-base hits. It’s not exactly a truly elite plateau, but only 49 guys hit that a year ago. That’s something at least. The odd part to it is, he’s seeing 3.97 pitches per plate appearance, far and away a career high. Which seems odd on the surface since he’s walking so little and just trying to knock down the fence. But perhaps he’s simply hunting pitches he can blast and laying off one he can’t do anything with. Though the elevated O-Swing rate throws some doubt on that. It’s an odd, patient aggression perhaps.

Not everyone has to be a complete hitter. In just the last five years fully nineteen hitters have had seasons with an OPS over .770 and an OBP under Gomes’ .311 mark this year. It includes guys like Kris Davis, Manny Machado last year, the fading Albert Pujols, Jay Bruce and Adam Jones a couple times. Gomes brings excellent defense to the table. If he just wants to hit 30 home runs with a .300 OBP, that’s still a valuable player. Power always plays even if it’s just the lightning bolt kind. When it comes with his All-Star level backstopping, it ends up being a flawed but ultimately excellent player. Selling out is underrated anyway. Who doesn’t want to get rich? Just imagine what a star he’d be 30 years ago.