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Why Adrian Gonzalez could be primed to put up huge numbers in Boston

12.04.10 at 10:22 am ET
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With a deal that would bring Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres to the Red Sox appearing close — with one source familiar with the situation suggesting that he was cautiously optimistic even as a few roadblocks remain — it is worth considering what kind of slugger the Red Sox are getting. On its own merits, Gonzalez has offered remarkable performance in his time in San Diego. He has hit 30 or more homers in each of the last four seasons, hitting .284/.377/.517/.894 in that time while averaging 34 homers and 105 RBI per season. He has been named an All-Star in each of the last three years, and has won two Gold Gloves.

But that production may simply be the tip of the iceberg in terms of what he is capable of accomplishing if in Fenway Park. Several talent evaluators have noted that playing in San Diego’s home of Petco Park is like playing baseball on a different planet, with balls that appear to be long gone off the bat dying before the warning track in the spacious park.

Indeed, Gonzalez himself remarked on the phenomenon to WEEI.com at the 2009 All-Star game, and suggested that the power-suppressing effects of Petco made him curious about the idea of playing elsewhere.

‘€œYou get there for the first time and everybody talks about it. Nobody really knows until they experience it. You have to play there as the home team to understand,’€ said Gonzalez. ‘€œThis is where I’€™m at, and I’€™ve got to be okay with it. I can’€™t dwell on the fact that I hit there. I would be interested in the future to see what that would be like (to play in another park).’€

(At that time Gonzalez also had this to say about the idea of being traded: ‘€œAs far as the future, all I can say is I have two years left on my contract, and I don’€™t know what’€™s going to happen after that. I signed it with the idea for security ‘€“ for financial security. … I’€™ve always said that I’€™m a guy who can be on a team that contends for a World Series. For me, the most important thing about playing the game is to win. We all play to win the World Series. That’€™s our main goal every year. That’€™s my greatest desire.’€)

Gonzalez is not the only one to remark on the Petco effect. He has an ability to hit for power to all fields, something that was masked at times in his San Diego numbers.

“His numbers would definitely be better [outside of Petco],” former teammate Scott Hairston said in 2009. “You could probably tack on another 10 home runs to his stats, and RBIs, about 20. His average would probably go up 20 points as well. It really plays a difference because Adrian hits a lot of deep flyballs. I think people are starting to realize that.

“I think he’€™d be an MVP candidate if he were in a different park,” he added. “Obviously, if he was in a bit city like New York, Chicago or L.A., he’€™d get a lot more publicity. … He was kind of overshadowed by the ballpark. He’€™d be a superstar in a lot of other cities.”

Over the last four seasons on the road, in fact, Gonzalez has the most homers in the majors (90), while hitting .306/.382/.591/.973. Both his road slugging percentage and OPS rank second in the majors (to Albert Pujols) during that time. In 2010, the splits were similarly pronounced: he hit .279/.383/.438/.821 at home, and .315/.402/.578/.980 on the road.

For that reason, the Red Sox might be on the cusp of acquiring not just a 28-year-old in his prime, but also one who is prepared to make a leap forward in terms of his production once removed from the cavernous parks of the NL West, including his own.

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