I would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think Adrian Gonzalez landed in the perfect place for the 2011 season. He moves out of spacious PETCO Park to the friendly confines of Fenway, a ballpark perfectly suited to his inside-out swing.
He also will hit in the middle of a stacked lineup, surrounded by Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz. He’s a lock to hit 40 home runs and drive in 120 runs, right?
I’m not as bullish as most people are on Gonzalez and I expect him to struggle a little bit out of the gate. Hitters typically struggle when they switch leagues, needing to adapt to a whole new set of pitchers. Being in the National League for five seasons meant that Gonzalez rarely faced a pitcher he hadn’t faced before.
He was familiar with pitchers’ tendencies and had a good idea of what a pitcher would throw him in a certain situation. In the American League, Gonzalez no longer has that advantage. Sure, he’ll have scouting reports on AL pitchers, but he won’t have as in-depth a knowledge on them as he did for NL pitchers. It will be take time for him to get a feel as to how they are going to pitch to him.
A great comparison to Gonzalez’s situation is Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera was traded from the Florida Marlins to the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2008 season. Cabrera was moving from a weak lineup to a much stronger one much like Gonzalez and everyone assumed his numbers would improve drastically.
However, that was not the case. It took Cabrera some time to adapt to AL pitching. Entering July of 2008, roughly halfway through the season, Cabrera was batting only .280 with 11 home runs and 48 runs batted in.
Certainly more was expected from him. He finally delivered, batting .304 the rest of the way with 26 home runs and 79 runs batted in. Gonzalez’s owners should take note.
What leads me further to believe that Gonzalez will struggle initially is that he’s coming off of right shoulder surgery in October. Although he’s expected to recover fully from the surgery, he still won’t be able to swing a bat until Spring Training.
I give these warnings not because I think Gonzalez will have a bad year, but because I don’t think he’ll put up monster numbers right away. Don’t be surprised if it takes him awhile to get locked in but know that his early season struggles won’t last long.
.307 BA | 108 R | 34 HR | 112 RBI | 1 SB
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