This past week, Carlos Gonzalez has sprung into life and become the old “CarGo” that carried the Colorado Rockies. Against the Los Angeles Dodgers last week, he produced a three-hit game which included a big home run to straight away center, and another game in which he scorched an opposite field solo shot on the first pitch he saw. Last night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he hit two monstrous two run home runs and carried the Rockies to a 4-2 victory.
A risky gamble
This is the CarGo that everybody knows and loves: the one that breathes life into the Rockies lineup. The one that hits line drives that get from home plate to over the fence in less than four seconds. The one that creates one of the deadliest lineups in baseball when combined with the arguably best player in baseball in Nolan Arenado and the arguably best leadoff man in baseball in Charlie Blackmon.
But for Cargo, the 2017 season has not turned out this way.
Going into this season, Carlos Gonzalez walked into the Rockies clubhouse in a peculiar position. The Rockies had had just signed Ian Desmond in the offseason, which potentially put his playing time in danger. He turned down a massive contract extension to do exactly what Ian Desmond did the year before; gamble on his performance to get an even bigger contract the next year. The previous season, at the age of 30, he proved he was still a productive hitter as he produced a .361 wOBA and 110 wRC+, while still hitting 25 home runs.
So what did he do with this opportunity? In the first half of this season, he had an appalling .276 wOBA, 51 wRC+, and had only hit six home runs. Not only was he terrible, but he was one of the worst in the league with the likes of Alex Gordon, Alcides Escobar, and Jorge Polanco.
Second half surge
But since the start of the second half, the old, dangerous Cargo roused from a deep slumber. In August, he found his stroke and had a .322 wOBA with an 81 wRC+. Since the start of September, he has become the second best hitter in the league, only behind the piping hot J.D. Martinez, with a .642 wOBA, 278 wRC+, along with four home runs.
And this sort of performance is exactly what the Rockies needed. They have won their last six games, all of which have been on the road, and have lost only one of their last nine. Before this recent run, they had won only four of their previous 15 games. They were an abysmal 20 for 117 with runners in scoring position during that stretch. This inability to string hits together was mostly down to the bottom of the line-up, which simply did not produce. During that run, the Rockies relied heavily on Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon to create some magic to win those games.
But now Gonzalez has returned to his old self. As a leader in the clubhouse who is the only player who played on the last Rockies team that made the playoffs, he can galvanize the rest of the lineup. After scuffling at in late August, the Rockies look like one of the teams to beat in September with Carlos Gonzalez producing at the level the Rockies needed and that CarGo expected.