The black magic ritual performed before Jobu was apparently not a failure… the spell must have merely been on a two-year time-delay.
I’m talking, of course, about the seemingly distant past during which longtime Indians catcher Yan Gomes was struggling so badly that his teammates sacrificed a chicken to their clubhouse god, Jobu, in a desperate attempt to help him right the ship in any way possible. That’s not to say that Gomes was in any danger of losing his job; his defense never faltered, and he does one thing in particular incredibly well; something that goes mostly unnoticed by fans (more on that later).
Yan Gomes: Persistence Against Adversity
After beginning his Tribe career with a .284/.325/.476 batting line across 840 plate appearances from 2013-2014 (earning the 2014 Silver Slugger award at catcher in the process), Gomes’ offensive output suddenly collapsed in on itself like a dying star. Once a seemingly untameable force with the bat, the Yanimal suffered through an early-season knee injury in 2015 and limped to a .204/.240/.359 line (55 wRC+) across the next two seasons before ultimately going down with an unlucky shoulder injury that ended his 2016 regular season early and led to fellow backstop Roberto Perez taking the majority share of catcher at-bats in the postseason.
Fascinatingly enough, Gomes began to turn things around in an unexpected way during the 2017 season: he vastly improved his plate discipline. His 8.1% walk rate that season would prove a career high by far, while is 25.8% strikeout rate remained at least manageable. And though he’s seen those numbers tail off a bit in 2018, Gomes has managed to put up an average offensive output (99 wRC+) during a season in which the rest of the AL catchers look… well, bad. Gomes has put up 1.3 fWAR pretty much with his defense alone, with a little help from a power output of 27 extra base hits.
[Related: Yan Gomes 2018 Preview: Reviving The Silver Slugger Within]
Metrics aside, though, Gomes is a player with tremendous work ethic who pays attention to detail and does all the little things right. Gomes is well above-average in terms of throwing out would-be base stealers, he keeps runners honest by constantly proving he’s not afraid to snap throw to first base, and perhaps most importantly, he does an extraordinary job at running the Indians’ pitching staff. The latter is a largely intangible quality that fans certainly don’t often take note of, but Gomes deserves at least a pie slice of credit for the fact that the Indians rotation is putting up some of the best numbers in baseball.
There are a multitude of reasons to root for Gomes. He’s one of the longest-tenured Indians on the roster, he had the drive and persistence to overcome a mountain of adversity, and he’s managed the pitching staff well enough to earn enormous respect from Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, both of whom congratulated him on his All-Star nod via Twitter. Seeing him finally earn recognition on a national stage for doing all the little things right should bring a warm, fuzzy feeling to your gut, if not a tear to your eye.
Photo courtesy of Erik Drost, via Flickr.