Red Sox

Should Jonny Gomes Have Caught That Fly Ball?

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Jonny Gomes (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

Jonny Gomes (Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox lost on Tuesday night, thanks to Michael Bourn’s one-out, two-run double to left field in the bottom of the seventh. The hit off Andrew Miller scored Yan Gomes from second and Mike Aviles from first, and the 5-3 score would hold as the final.

But should it have happened?

The short answer is no. Well, sort of.

Let me explain.

LISTEN: Toucher & Rich: What Would Jonny Gomes Do?

Jonny Gomes was stationed in left field, playing shallow against Bourn. A quick glance at Bourn’s career spray chart shows that Gomes was essentially standing exactly where Bourn likes to hit opposite-field line drives.

As you can see, it was clear that Gomes was positioned pretty well:


Source: FanGraphs

However, it’s equally obvious that Bourn is capable of hitting some deep fly balls to left field. So Gomes should have been prepared to break on a deep fly ball if it jumped off the bat of Bourn.

And jump off the bat it did.

Bourn put a charge into a 2-1 fastball over the middle of the plate and sent it high and deep to left field. Gomes saw the contact and turned his back to the infield, running on the track he felt the ball would take.

Here’s the path Gomes took, as he essentially ran directly toward the “O” in the Progressive ad on the wall:

Jonny Gomes (Screen shot via MLB.com)

Jonny Gomes (Screen shot via MLB.com)

That was Gomes’ path despite the left fielder looking up midway to find the ball. He didn’t make an adjustment, and you can see where the ball landed:

Jonny Gomes (Screen shot from MLB.com)

Jonny Gomes (Screen shot from MLB.com)

Advanced baseball statistics have proven that it’s difficult for outfielders to catch baseballs when they are in fact nowhere near said baseballs. It’s science, really.

(Video of the play can be seen here.)

Now, when seeing the terrible route taken by Gomes, it’s worth wondering if he should have caught this ball. Again, the short answer is yes — or at least, he should have made an effort to catch the ball. Instead, he pulled up short of the warning track and waited patiently for the ball to drop before getting it in to the cutoff man. He should have gone hard into the wall in an effort to make the catch, because if he misses it, two runs are going to score anyway. Plus, Jackie Bradley Jr. was right there to back up the play. Gomes’ pulling up and waiting did absolutely nothing to help this play along.

But the real answer of whether Gomes should have caught this ball is no. And the reason is because he’s Jonny Gomes.

It’s no secret that Gomes is not a Gold Glover in the outfield. If anything, he’s more of a Sterling Silver Glover, maybe. It’s typically an adventure whenever Gomes is required to give more than the standard effort to catch a ball, and even then, things can get a bit wild. Remember that leaping attempt on Friday night that bounced off the heel of his glove? That should have been a pretty standard play.

So should Gomes have caught this ball? No, probably not. Should an average everyday big league left fielder make this catch — or at least come closer to catching it? Yes. Absolutely.

In that regard, eyeballs should be more focused on John Farrell than Gomes, as it was the manager who said over the weekend that Gomes had “taken the job” in left field. As in … Jonny Gomes … your everyday left fielder … for the defending world champs.

Hmm.

Obviously, Gomes isn’t the outfield’s only problem. Tom Verducci pointed out yesterday that the Red Sox’ outfield is contending to be the worst hitting unit of all time. All. Time.

Gomes is hitting .231. Bradley is hitting .202. Shane Victorino, when he’s been healthy enough to play, hit .242. Grady Sizemore is hitting .225.

It’s real grisly out there. And it doesn’t appear to be getting better.

So perhaps those eyeballs should once again shift, this time from Farrell to Ben Cherington. The GM pushed all the right buttons a year ago, but this year his plan of Bradley and Sizemore is not working out. If the Sox hope to make the playoffs, let alone win a series, they’re going to need some serious help in the outfield.

On Tuesday, that lack of help — both defensively and at the plate, where Gomes-Bradley-Alex Hassan-Sizemore combined to go 2-for-11 with six strikeouts — in the outfield cost them a chance to win a game. The more that happens, the less realistic it is for the 27-31 Red Sox to have a legitimate chance to make the postseason.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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