Kansas City Royals

Alex Gordon wants to be more selective at the plate after hitting early-June funk

Royals left fielder Alex Gordon continues to make highlight-reel defensive plays as the All-Star break approaches, but his offensive production has dropped off from the opening month of the season — when it appeared the adjustments he’d made last year had carried over and rejuvenated him.

He enjoyed success at the plate in the most recent series against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium. Gordon went 4-for-12 with five RBIs, four doubles, two runs scored, no strikeouts and no walks in his last three games headed into Monday night’s series opener against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field.

But Gordon’s June numbers, through the first 19 games, have dipped quite a bit from the first month of the season.

In March/April, he posted a batting average of .301 with a .395 on-base percentage and a .544 slugging percentage. So far in June, his slash line has been .213/.253/.333.

While the slugging percentage dipped, Gordon’s hard-hit rate has remained almost the same as during his hot start. According to Fangraphs.com, 13.7% of his contact in March/April was soft, 44.4% was medium and 41.9% was hard. By comparison, his rates for June have been 10.7% soft, 50.0% medium and 39.3% hard.

The primary difference has been his tendency to strike out more often and walk less frequently.

He walked a 9.7% clip and struck out 11.3% of the time in March/April. This June, he’s walked 2.5% of the time and his strikeout rate has jumped up to 25%.

The Royals lineup felt the absence of notable hitters in the top half of the batting order, such as Hunter Dozier and Adalberto Mondesi. Gordon also spent time out of the lineup because of a compressed nerve and shoulder pain after having been hit in the back by a pitch on June 12.

That shoulder ailment forced him to miss the Royals’ only nationally televised game of the season in his home state of Nebraska.

Did the changes to the lineup cause pitchers to attack him differently when Dozier came out of the cleanup spot?

“I would say no just because (Jorge) Soler was behind me after that,” Gordon said. “He was as locked-in as anybody could be. Putting Soler and Dozier maybe makes them attack me even more, so with either one of those guys pitchers aren’t going to want to pitch around me.”

Soler has slugged .581 and hit seven home runs this month in 21 games, and his 21 home runs put him on pace to break the franchise single-season record.

Gordon pointed to one simple cause of his early-June funk. He got away from his approach at the plate.

“Minnesota was a tough one for me, I don’t know why,” Gordon said of going 0-for-11 with six strikeouts in a three-game road series June 15-17. “It was just a tough series. I went back and looked at it and I was just swinging at pitches that weren’t even close. I’m trying to get back into look at pitches that I can hit that I can do damage with and maybe not be so aggressive with pitches that are pitcher’s pitches.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.
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