COMMENTARY | What's more exciting -- a walk-off, or an un-walk-off?
This warrants an explanation. We all know that a walk-off in baseball is a home run that wins, and subsequently ends a game. But what in the world is an un-walk-off, you ask?
First of all, credit for the term's conception goes to Grantland's Jonah Keri. An un-walk-off is when a would-be game-winning or go-ahead home run is taken away to record the final out of a game.
Maybe we should just call it "Gomezing."
We'll set the scene. With two outs, a runner on first and the Milwaukee Brewers leading the Cincinnati Reds 4-3, Joey Votto, one of baseball's most dangerous hitters, stepped to the plate in the top of the ninth inning.
To end the top of the seventh, Brewers' reliever John Axford struck out Votto swinging with a 96 mile-per-hour fastball on the inside corner. On a 2-2 count, catcher Jonathan Lucroy called for closer Francisco Rodriguez to throw the same pitch, in the same location.
The only problem? K-Rod's was only 90 MPH.
Rodriguez hit his spot, but Votto jumped all over the offering, sending a towering fly ball deep to center field. Votto flipped his bat and K-Rod refused to turn around as the Reds' first baseman trotted towards first base.
Waiting at the wall was Brewers' center fielder Carlos Gomez, who appeared to have a bead on it. He timed his leap perfectly, reached over the fence with his outstretched glove and brought back what would have been a go-ahead home run for perhaps the play of the year to date.
Votto couldn't believe it. K-Rod couldn't believe it. But Gomez sure could, flashing the ball in his glove to Votto, who had run all the way out into center field in disbelief that Go-Go had hauled in his near-round tripper.
For just the 36th time all season, Milwaukee was victorious, and Gomez alone has been worth five of those wins (via Fangraphs). He leads the entire National League in wins above replacement at 5.0, but that alone isn't our argument for why Gomez, a first-time All-Star, might just be the best player on the Senior Circuit.
First, let's take you back to a time when Gomez wasn't an All-Star. When he wasn't even an everyday player. That was in 2011, Gomez's second season with the Crew, which was already his third team despite being just 25 years of age.
He was generally despised by Milwaukee's fan base, really to no fault of his own -- the Brewers had dealt fan-favorite J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins for Gomez's services following a down year for Hardy and because of a rising young shortstop by the name of Alcides Escobar.
Hardy lasted just one year with the Twins, but has flourished with his third team, the Baltimore Orioles. In 2011, Hardy hit .269 with 30 HRs and 80 RBIs. Gomez? Just .225 with 8 HRs and 24 RBIs while in a platoon with another fan-favorite, Nyjer Morgan.
It was Morgan and Gomez who combined for one of the most exhilarating moments in Brewer history when in the bottom of the tenth in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, Gomez singled, then stole second, then scored on a base hit up the middle by Tony Plush to send Milwaukee to the NLCS.
That sequence might have been what propelled Gomez's career. He hit .357 in the 2011 playoffs, and when Morgan got off to a slow start to the 2012 season, the Brewers' eventually ditched the platoon, making Gomez their everyday center fielder. He responded, hitting .260 with 19 HRs, both career highs.
Morgan? He's now playing in Japan.
Milwaukee rewarded Gomez with a 3-year, $24 million extension that would keep him in a Brewer uniform through 2016.
That deal is beginning to look like highway robbery.
With Hardy reaching his first All-Star game since 2007 this season, his trade-partner Gomez will also be heading to the Big Apple and Citi Field on July 16. Through July 8, Gomez has a .308/.349/.552 split with 13 HRs, 41 RBIs, 20 stolen bases and four home run robberies.
No other player in the big leagues has more than two home run takeaways.
The athleticism, speed and defense has always come naturally for Gomez, but it was his plate presence that was lacking. During the offseason, Gomez credited two drills that helped him turn things around.
In one, he simply stands at the plate with his bat on his shoulder and watches 30-40 pitches go by to help his plate discipline and pitch selection. In another, a coach quickly flips a ball towards Gomez's belt, forcing him to pull the baseball. Consider it an extreme version of soft toss -- hard toss, if you will.
Gomez still takes a violent hack at the plate a la his former teammate Prince Fielder, but now, like Fielder, he's hitting for average to go along with his raw power.
While it's the offensive numbers, which are really an added bonus with Gomez, that most people analyze, it's Go-Go's defense that is the reason why he leads the NL in WAR through 88 games. Gomez has just one error, three outfield assists and a defensive WAR of 2.4 (h/t Baseball-Reference).
Baseball isn't just about hitting. That's not even half of the battle, as players also need to be held accountable for running the bases, an area where Gomez wreaks havoc, and their defense, which we've already covered with the now 27-year-old.
Nobody impacts the game like Gomez.
Advanced metrics show that Gomez is one of the top defenders in the National League, and he also ranks in the top ten in average, top 15 in home runs and top 30 in RBIs. Only Paul Goldschmidt, Michael Cuddyer and Buster Posey can say the same.
Joey Votto would also be in this elite company, but, well, you know.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
You can get the discussion going and follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .
- Sports & Recreation
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Joey Votto
- Carlos Gomez