Earlier this season, it looked like Anthony Gose was yet another shrewd acquisition in a long line of excellent trades for former Detroit Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski. Sure, Devon Travis was going gangbusters as the Toronto Blue Jays' second baseman, but had Dombrowski not traded him for Gose last December, Travis would be going gangbusters in the Tigers' minor league system. Nice to have, yes, but not exactly helpful for the major league club.
During Travis' hot streak, Gose was on a nice little tear of his own. He hit .314/.352/.471 in April, and continued that stretch by hitting .404 with a .451 on-base percentage through the first two weeks of May. There was a high BABIP involved, but even with some regression, Gose looked to be a solid pick-up for the Tigers. Plus, we've seen speedy Tigers center fielders maintain a high BABIP before despite everyone saying "nuh uh." The last one, in fact.
Instead, Gose dropped off a cliff. He saw his OPS drop by over 100 points by the end of May, and has struggled to get himself back in gear. Since May 16, Gose is batting an abysmal .216/.273/.302 with 15 extra base hits in 276 plate appearances. Even with the hot start, he has been worth 0.1 WAR in 104 games this season. Travis is two full wins better despite playing in 42 fewer games.
What changed for Gose? He was striking out a lot both pre- and post-high watermark on May 15, but his swinging strike rate has risen since that date. He is swinging at a few more pitches outside of the strike zone, whiffing on those pitches a lot more, and making less contact overall. However, this has not changed his batted ball profile one iota; Gose still puts the ball on the ground a lot, which makes sense given his skill set.
To truly assess what's going on, we need to look deeper. FanGraphs' Jeff Sullivan looked at Gose's swing during his April hot streak, just after Gose had homered off of Cleveland's Corey Kluber. The entire piece is worth a read, but Sullivan pointed out three minor tweaks in Gose's swing from 2014 to 2015.
- Gose moved his hands lower in his batting stance, allowing for a shorter path to the ball. This hadn't necessarily manifested in fewer whiffs, but it was allowing him to drive through the ball more, as well as potential for a bit more loft in his swing to generate more power.
- Gose shortened his stride, and went from a forward step to a simpler, smoother toe tap. In the GIFs Sullivan provided, Gose looked to be getting his front foot down sooner than in 2014.
- When Gose got his front foot planted, he was not rolling over his right ankle. This firmer front base allows for a bit more power, something Sullivan alludes that Gose may have the potential for given his early production in the minor leagues.
Fast forward to mid-August, where Gose looks as lost as ever at the plate (he's hitting .212 this month). I went back and watched several of his plate appearances from multiple games, and noticed some inconsistencies in his swing that harken back to the errors he was making in 2014.
While the hands appear to be in the lower position Sullivan identified, Gose's stride seems to be out of whack. Here, in his at-bat against Jason Hammel on August 18, Gose appears to be very late in getting his front foot down, leading to a late swing on a 93 mile-per-hour fastball. Gose has trouble with the high heat in general, but a late timing mechanism doesn't help.
We see the same on the very next pitch, where Gose is even later on a fastball at the same velocity. This step also seems a bit higher and slower than the one on the first pitch, similar to the jerky one he utilized in 2014.
Finally, on the fifth pitch of the same at-bat, we see another flaw. Gose appears to slightly roll over his front ankle on this swing, a slider on the inner half of the plate. He doesn't completely roll over, but this isn't the same strong front leg that he showed off earlier this season.
While all is not lost -- everything looks fine in this swing, Gose's home run to left field -- he still appears to be having difficulty with putting together a solid swing on a consistent basis.
Gose's iffy plate discipline doesn't help either. He's swinging at a fair amount of pitches outside the strike zone, and isn't able to foul off the ones he gets fooled on. The Tigers haven't appeared to be the most patient bunch under hitting coach Wally Joyner, but Gose's drop-off in walk rate from 2014 to 2015 is not a good thing for a potential leadoff hitter to have.