When Mat Gamel reached July with an OPS well over 1.000, Brewer fans and prospect fiends alike were ready to hail Gamel as the next Ryan Braun, or at least something close to it. His numbers across the board were eye-popping, and dramatically improved over his previous stat lines in A ball. If he could reproduce those numbers in the majors, Gamel would easily be a 30+ home run guy, with .300+ potential at the plate.
But then the Matt LaPorta trade ruined everything.
Sure, the Brewers have reason to believe they’ll need C.C. Sabathia’s arm more than LaPorta’s bat this year. But without LaPorta, Mat Gamel is like Superman with a vest of Kryptonite strapped to his chest. He’s like Robin without Batman. Like Spiderman without his Spidey senses. Mat Gamel needs Matt LaPorta, and without him, Gamel will never be the same.
Case in point: In 35 plate appearances since the LaPorta trade, Gamel is 10 for 33, with 2 doubles, and 7 strikeouts. His batting average for July is at .284 after 72 plate appearances, compared to .383 in April, May, and June. His July OPS is at .677, a drop of close to .400 points from his season average. His July strike out rate of 19.4% is the highest of the year, while his 2.8% walk rate is 8% lower than his season totals.
Ok, so maybe Gamel’s horrible July numbers and the recent departure of Matt LaPorta are only coincidence. There’s evidence that Gamel was coming back down to earth as early as mid-June. After hitting 13 home runs between April and May, Gamel hit just 2 in 124 plate appearances in June. However, overall his peripheral stats all remained fairly constant, and his production level didn’t take a significant hit until July.
So, the only question left to ask is how did losing Matt LaPorta directly affect Mat Gamel? I can only speculate, but it would seem obvious that any minor league pitcher with half a brain would much rather pitch to Gamel than LaPorta. You don’t need a scouting report and a stat sheet to know that LaPorta is the more dangerous hitter, and grooving a fastball to some guy named Gamel sounds a lot better than watching LaPorta deposit your pitch somewhere in the next county.
I don’t have the numbers yet to back up my theory, but I’m going to do some more research and see if I’m right about this one. Let me know if you have any thoughts on the issue, and we’ll continue to watch Gamel and see if he rebounds some time soon.