Swing Comparison of Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez

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Here at Rockies Zingers, sometimes we talk about statistics and sometimes we even talk with a bit of silliness. That being said, we know enough about statistics to know we’re not always the sharpest tools in the shed and we know enough about silliness to work that into the introduction of a post. Nonetheless, sometimes we get a topic we think would be fun to write about and try our darndest, despite our failings, to write about it in an informed fashion. One such topic, for me a few weeks ago, had to do with Carlos Gonzalez. It was in the throes of throwing up heat maps and writing Carlos Gonzalez 2.0 while apparently jinxing him that I was wondering if there was some video of his swing that might add to the article. I had hoped I could find something noticeable in a video that showed “Hey CarGo used to do this in 2011, but now he does this in 2014 and hits for more power because of it.” The trick is, since I know I know nothing *(thanks So-Crates), I knew I’d probably have to find someone who knew something about swings. It was while I YouTubed around various swing “analysis” videos where the “analysis” consisted of a split-second swing slow-motioned to a thirty second video that I stumbled across the Hitting Performance Lab and Joey Myers’ video on Barry Bonds.

Oh gee ga-wow. I remember back during his peak there was a TV broadcast which broke down his swing and being intrigued at the things major-leaguers-turned-broadcasters talked about. Whatever you might think of Barry Bonds as a player, I found this analysis exciting. So I reached out to Joey to see if we could do something on the Colorado Rockies.

However, I had a problem. In order to compare Gonzalez from 2011 with 2014 I had to, you know, find suitable video clips to compare. Turns out, I wasn’t smart enough to and wikipedia wasn’t going to help this time. Nonetheless, while I looked for Gonzalez videos, Joey pleasantly went ahead on researching Troy Tulowitzki and came up with this great video on how stride length affects bat speed and overall video fatigue. I geek-schwinged, excited by biomechanics meeting sabermetrics. Not only could I see what was going on, but there was a handly little chart that showed data! Then I, being an aspiring writer, promptly took advantage of Joey’s work by wrapping an article around it. This is why people find experts because it makes the previously mentioned people appear smarter than they are.

Alas, since I’m not as smart as I appear but still resourceful on occasion (since the other senses can compensate for a disability), I thought we could just break down Gonzalez’s 2014 swing. The trick is, with so many hot Rockies players (and Joey getting lots of requests to do Rockies videos), and the aforementioned jinxed Gonzalez not being one of them, we wanted to figure a way to do this in a way where we got this kind of analysis out without doing ten straight Rockies videos. Thankfully, Nolan Arenado was in the midst of his hot streak at the time. Well, Joey thought “thankfully” I thought “leftie versus rightie”? Again, that’s why I’m not an expert. Where I was focusing on different sides of the plate, Joey noticed that Gonzalez and Arenado had similar body types, similar heights and similar weights. And even better…. (Shh… Spoilers… give it a watch.)

Of course, still schwinged, I chatted with him afterwards about the video. Joey says “Arenado’s not going to hit for a lot of power because his spine remains perpendicular to the ground. He’s more upright than Gonzalez, his bat doesn’t stay in the zone long and that means he’s not consistently driving the pitch. He’s more of a handsy guy like Manny Macahado or Derek Jeter who will rack up lots of doubles. Gonzalez, meanwhile, makes contact at an angle less perpendicular with the ground and more in line with his front leg with his back angled towards the catcher. That gets his bat on plane with the path of the ball better.”

That appears to show up in the career numbers. Batting Average (AVG) and Slugging Percentage (SLG), ever popular on the back of baseball cards, show that Gonzalez gets base hits and hits for more power than Arenado. However, we can break that down a little farther. ISO refers to the Isolated Slugging Percentage of a player, basically subtracting the slugging percentage from the batting average. That way, someone with a high batting average doesn’t artificially inflate their slugging percentage. X/H% shows the percentage of all hits that go for extra bases. The stats are through 5/21/14. 5/22/14 won’t be looked at until the rain/hail/wind/tornado-caused suspension is unsuspended.

Name AVG SLG ISO X/H%
Nolan Arenado .298 .425 .228 40%
Carlos Gonzalez .275 .526 .150 35%

Sure, Gonzalez hits the ball a bit more often than Arenado, but not that much more. But when Gonzalez does hit, he drives the ball where Arenado doesn’t. This supports Joey’s discussion on the power potential of both players.

Now, it’d be easy to shout “Hey Nolan, lean back!” The problem is that just because it’s easy to shout something doesn’t mean it’s a smart thing to shout. As much as I might let people picture me blogging from my mother’s basement, I’m smart enough to know that I’m nowhere near a major league baseball player and do not know if having Arenado alter his stance will affect his performance at the plate. Maybe it’ll affect his vision or his hand-eye coordination. If Arenado had made that change at the beginning of the season, we might be talking more about a midseason demotion than a franchise-record hitting streak. Still, thanks to (, yet again, piggybacking off of) the analysis of Joey Myers, I’ll have a better idea what to look for in the future. Hopefully you do too.

About Richard Bergstrom

Originally from Chicago and after an extensive tour of most of the western United States, this is my second stint in Denver. I've lived here since 2004 and go to quite a few Rockies games, especially Rockies fireworks games! When I'm not writing about baseball, I enjoy karaoke downtown, a bit of poker and a bit too much of my iPad.
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