Yan Gomes Has Had a Red-Hot Start to the Year

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Why I Love Yan Gomes (And You Should, Too)

Chicago Cubs

When Yan Gomes stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning last night, the San Diego Padres had a mound meeting to discuss how they were going to attack him. And, with all due respect to Yan Gomes, I thought that was kind of hilarious.

I know, I know. At the time, it was a tight 2-run game, with two outs and two runners on. Maybe they would’ve met at the mound for anybody. But after the game – and season – Gomes was having, it felt like a “respect” meeting. Like a “We can’t let this guy beat us again…” kind of thing.

Spoiler alert, he did beat them again:

That hit came as part of a four-hit, three RBI night for the Chicago Cubs “glove-first” catcher, who also added his FIFTH home run of the season. It also bumped the Cubs win probability up to 97.5% late, providing some MUCH needed insurance for a team that has been struggling to shut the door on close games.

Oh, and the overall performance improved his season-slash line an equally hilarious amount (and he had a perfectly respectable slash line before the game, anyway!).

Before: .255/.264/.490 (99 wRC+); 4 HRs
After: .309/.316/.582 (138 wRC+); 5 HRs

As of today, Gomes is now the 53rd best hitter in MLB (min. 50 PAs), tucked between Marcus Semien and Nick Castellanos. Among catchers, his 138 wRC+ ranks 7th, ahead of the Contreras brothers in Milwaukee (125 wRC+) and St. Louis (124 wRC+). And only Sean Murphy has more homers (6).

“There’s real thump in that bat,” Cubs Manager David Ross said via Cubs.com. “The quality at-bat after quality at-bat here lately has been really impressive.”

Statcast would tell you he’s been relatively lucky, but boy … his batted ball and plate discipline numbers sure look just fine to me:

  • 12.2 Barrel% (career: 6.8%, MLB avg: 7.9%)
  • 38.8 Hard% (career: 35.9%, MLB avg: 39%)
  • .273 BABIP (career: .290)
  • 12.3 K% (career: 23.4%, MLB avg: 22.9%)

The minuscule strikeout (and admittedly walk) rate seems to be related to an increase in pitches in the zone and an increase on contact on pitches in the zone. Indeed, his 20.4% whiff rate is well below his career mark (24.7%). It’s not all good news under the hood — there’s a reason Statcast considers his results on the fortunate side — but my point is he’s not a results only guy this year, fueled by BABIP or some other flukey thing. His numbers *will* come down. But he is actually doing just fine on a performance (i.e. non-results) basis.

And the best part of all this offensive stuff is … that’s not even why the Cubs employ him! Remember? This was supposed to be trade off of an offensive catcher for guys who worked better with the pitching staff.

“A ton of value. I don’t know if you want a dollar figure. That’s not my area,” David Ross said to laughter via Cubs.com, when asked about how much value Gomes brings when performing on both sides of the plate. “He’s very important to us behind the plate. He’s very important to us in the clubhouse. When he hits, it’s a huge bonus for us.”

Justin Steele shared a similar sentiment: “Yan’s awesome,” Steele said. “He’s really, in different situations, helped me out numerous times. It’s awesome having him back there behind the plate, because you know — him and Tucker [Barnhart] both — they’re both putting in the work, more work than I am, on the opposing lineups and stuff.”

He continued: “That’s a really good feeling being out on the bump and knowing that.”

Yeah … I, uh think I may have been under-appreciating the non-measurable catcher skillset for years. But can you blame me? The Cardinals had the king of intangibles behind the plate (Yadi Molina) and the Cubs had the offense-first, fire-throwing Willson Contreras. I was homery. I wanted the Molina stuff to be wrong. Sue me.

The Chicago Cubs are now 12-2 when Yan Gomes has started behind the plate this season. Not that it ALL comes back to him, but the pitcher performance has been stark so far.

When Gomes is behind the plate, opposing batters are slashing just .197/.275/.321 (.596 OPS). He also hasn’t allowed a stolen base yet, catching 3-3 attempts.

So he’s been everything we could’ve hoped for behind the plate and about 40-50% better AT the plate than we would’ve even been happy to see. I love Yan Gomes. He is so good. He deserves a TON of credit for the Cubs solid start to the season.

(And now my anxiety begins about how uniquely important he is to the team and how screwed the Cubs would be without him … let’s just pretend not to think about that.)

Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami