Adrian Gonzalez: What's the Matter with the Red Sox First Baseman?

Shane O'Halloran@@scohalloranContributor IIIJune 13, 2012

BOSTON, MA - MAY 30:  Adrian Gonzalez #28 of the Boston Red Sox doubles to knock in the go-ahead run in the seventh ining against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park May 30, 2012  in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

When Theo Epstein wooed Adrian Gonzalez to Boston in 2011, the Red Sox front office thought it knew what it was getting: a career .291/.371/.508 lefty bat with Gold Glove credentials at first base.

Gonzalez' first year at Fenway didn't disappoint, and he posted an impressive .957 OPS and 6.6 WAR.

But 2012 has been another story for the San Diego native, as he's stumbled to a .260/.313./.411 line through Tuesday's win over the Marlins.

Gonzalez' advanced numbers tell an even more gruesome tale. An abysmal 6.3 percent walk rate ranks as Gonzalez' worst since 2005, his second year in the league.

And even when No. 28 puts the ball in play, he's done so much less effectively than in the past: Gonzalez' .304 BABIP in 2012 is his lowest since 2009's .278 effort in Petco Park's unfriendly confines.

A meticulous hitter like Adrian Gonzalez is bound to figure it out eventually, of course, but that moment of enlightenment has yet to strike and June's numbers have continued the season's downward trend.

May's .742 OPS has given way to .670 in the month of June, one which has seen Gonzalez record only one extra-base hit (a double) and six RBI through 77 at-bats. 

Perhaps Gonzalez' plate appearances have suffered from the extra strain of shagging fly balls in right field (13 games so far this year)—and Boston's $154 million man deserves plenty of credit for accepting a relatively unfamiliar role to help the team.

But excuses aside, David Ortiz' strong start to 2012 should have provided plenty of protection to the third spot in the lineup so far and an injury-plagued Sox squad needs strong contributions from the middle of the order now more than ever.

Bobby Valentine can only hope that rest will cure what ails Gonzalez as the Sox enjoy two off days in the next week. Beyond that, Red Sox Nation will watch with its collective fingers crossed that the team's most significant investment begins to offer a better return—and soon.

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