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CarGo relies on analytics to get back on track

MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- In one of the worst offensive ruts in his career, and with his team teetering on postseason contention, Carlos Gonzalez turned to the analytics lab, and believes he's found an answer.

Since Aug. 9, Gonzalez has been the most productive Rockies hitter, outside of National League batting leader Charlie Blackmon, slashing .354/.447/.532 with 16 RBIs and three homers, including two in this weekend's series against the Dodgers.

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LOS ANGELES -- In one of the worst offensive ruts in his career, and with his team teetering on postseason contention, Carlos Gonzalez turned to the analytics lab, and believes he's found an answer.

Since Aug. 9, Gonzalez has been the most productive Rockies hitter, outside of National League batting leader Charlie Blackmon, slashing .354/.447/.532 with 16 RBIs and three homers, including two in this weekend's series against the Dodgers.

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"He's doing some exit-velocity studies," manager Bud Black said of the right fielder. "I have been. He has been."

The data has been revealing. Since Aug. 9, 49.2 percent of Gonzalez's batted balls have had an exit velocity of 95 mph or faster, which Statcast™ classifies as hard-hit. That rate is tied for eighth in MLB of 210 batters with at least 50 batted balls in that stretch.

Gonzalez is also staying more up the middle and spraying to the opposite field. His fluid, left-handed swing has long produced significant pull, but he said his revised plate approach -- more simplistic and patient -- has led to more pure contact. If power is a byproduct, great.

Tweet from @DKramer_: CarGo says more patient approach has shifted him middle-to-oppo.L: Spray heatmap of his hard-hit balls (95+) since Aug. 9R: Before Aug. 9 pic.twitter.com/n7n6GOGUqI

Gonzalez's three homers the last month have been to straightaway center or left, including one in the first inning on Friday against Yu Darvish -- a high-and-away four-seamer at 96 mph; an optimum mistake pitch to exploit.

"Whenever I get a good pitch to hit, don't miss it, that's the key," Gonzalez said. "Just be ready for that pitch that I can drive. [Darvish] put it out there on my first at-bat and I was able to hit it hard. I was not thinking home run. Whenever you have to take that approach, good things happen."

Black attributed improved discipline as the root of Gonzalez's revival. Gonzalez was swinging at 16.4 percent of the total pitches he'd seen outside the zone before Aug. 9, 12th highest in MLB (min. 500 balls seen) at the time, and he has trimmed that to 13.2 percent.

Gonzalez's recent results are more reflective of what he and the Rockies had forecast for him ahead of a season in which Gonzalez has posted a .251 batting average, a career-worst .383 slugging percentage and accounted for just 6.9 percent of the Rockies' RBIs.

Video: COL@LAD: CarGo rocks a solo home run to center field

Gonzalez, 31, is in the final season of a seven-year, $80 million contract. He has had age and fatigue called into question for a his lack of production, but Black is quick to dismiss those suppositions.

"We've seen the defense, so that tells me the legs or jumps are still there," Black said. "And even running down the line on a certain ground balls, I've seen the footspeed. In BP, I've seen raw power."

The Rockies entered Friday with 17 losses in their last 28 games, during which offense has been their most glaring defect. In that stretch, Colorado was hitting an MLB-worst .196 with runners in scoring position and had left 229 runners stranded, fifth-most. They hold a three-game lead on an NL Wild Card, but admittedly need more offensive awakening to retain their postseason standing.

"Hopefully I can continue to keep doing that, especially right now when we need it the most, making a big run for the playoffs," Gonzalez said. "And of course, if we end up playing in the playoffs, you want to have you're A-game going."

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Colorado Rockies, Carlos Gonzalez