Detroit Tigers: What happened to Niko Goodrum during 2020 season?

The Detroit Tigers 2020 season is over, and the question begging to be asked: What happened to Niko Goodrum this year?

While the beginning of the 2020 season seemed to have fans thinking the improbable might happen in a 60-game sprint, water found its level, and the Detroit Tigers are still bad. However, in one particular player’s case, 2020 was extremely unkind; Niko Goodrum struggled immensely.

Looking at the 2020 season, Goodrum took a significant step back after many (including myself) thought Goodrum would settle in nicely at shortstop. To sum it up, by the end of the season, Goodrum struggled to hit his body weight and was stripped of his shortstop role.

It is shocking after Goodrum seemed like he had turned a corner and would flourish into a reliable hitter on this Tigers team. Reality seemed to disagree with this, as he looked like he belonged on the bench and was undeserving of the starting shortstop role by the end of the year.

Given this, take a more in-depth look at Goodrum’s 2020 statistics and some reasons why he may have fallen off in this 60-game sprint season for the Tigers.

First off, Goodrum would play in 43 games during 2020, hitting .184/.263/.335 with five home runs, 20 RBI, seven stolen bases, and 69 strikeouts over 158 at-bats. Being that he is a switch hitter, take a further look into his splits from each side.

As a right-handed hitter, Goodrum had 37 total plate appearances where he hit .333/.378/.697 with two home runs and seven RBI for the Tigers when facing left-handed pitching.

On the flipside, Goodrum had 139 plate appearances as a left-handed hitter, hitting .130/.216/.228 with three home runs and 13 RBI on the season against right-handed pitching.

This shows some severe disparity that Goodrum sees the ball well off left-handed arms but struggles with right-handed pitching, evident by his numbers. This led me to take an even further look into his analytics and see if there were more trends to be found.

Beyond his standard stats with the Detroit Tigers in 2020, here’s a look at some more in-depth numbers from Niko Goodrum’s worrisome season.

Upon initial looks, his analytics are lacking across the board, evident by the metrics shown at the top of his Baseball Savant page. One thing to note would be that Goodrum struggled mightily with hitting anything offspeed. Not that he was any better with the fastball, there was some disparity.

When it came to the strikeouts, a look into the heatmaps for Goodrum show that he struggled to hit anything on the inside of the plate when hitting right-handed. When he was hitting from the left side, Goodrum pitchers were pounding it low all across the board and also getting him to whiff from the outer third and off the plate.

Looking at swing profiles for Goodrum from both sides (also courtesy of Baseball Savant), it becomes easier to see the story of what happened in 2020.

From the looks of it, Goodrum was getting his pitches on the upper and inner third of the plate and driving them when hitting from the right side. On the left side, Goodrum was more sparatic, swinging at those pitches on the upper and inner third and having more chases across the board.

While it could be suggested that Goodrum hit from the right side permanently, that would mean that he would have to hit effectively from the right-side against right-handed pitching, something he is not accustomed too.

It sucks to see Goodrum struggle like this in 2020, but it might just be a product of a 60-game season and heightened expectations on him in a starting shortstop role. Before, he was a filler utility player who moved around, but he would ultimately lose his shortstop role.

Maybe a permanent floating utility role is best for Goodrum, especially if Willi Castro is going to come back in 2021 looking to lock down the shortstop job or at least earn his looks as a starter out of the gates.

It may not be apparent what happened to Goodrum in 2020, but the struggles against right-handed pitching are a large factor. Hopefully, Goodrum can come back in 2021, be the player he was in 2019, and become a reliable player on this rebuilding team.