The difference is miniscule but it’s apparent.
The first-pitch swinging is less frequent and the walks are up. Vanderbilt junior Anthony Gomez is more patient at the plate.
Even if his head coach begs to differ — at first.
“Has he developed more patience? No. That would not be the case,” coach Tim Corbin said laughing before changing his tone. “A little bit more patience. I should give him a little more credit than that. He’s one of those guys that he’s almost like a goaltender: he just doesn’t want the ball to get by him.
“He does have a way about him that when the ball is coming forward he is going to be on go.”
One thing hasn’t changed — Gomez’s production.
Heading into this week's final regular-season series against Ole Miss, which starts on Thursday at Hawkins Field (6:30 p.m., ESPNU), Gomez leads the Commodores (26-25, 13-14 SEC) with a .357 batting average. He hit .379 during a Freshman All-American campaign in 2010 and .336 last year.
Added to that consistency is the ability to drive in runs. Batting primarily second or third, he leads the team with 45 RBIs in 51 games. Ahead of Aaron Westlake, Curt Casali and Jason Esposito last year, Gomez drove in 48 runs in 66 games.
“I know last year I was the table-setter in terms of I just had to get on base,” said Gomez, who earned Vanderbilt’s first 2012 SEC Player of the Week honors on Monday. “They would be hitting balls out of the park left and right. This year I’ve had a more relaxed approach and tried to do what they did and bring a few more guys in instead of being the guy that is getting on base.”
Gomez, however, has learned to accept the free passes.
The Nutley, N.J., native walked just nine times last year and often jumped on the first pitch. This season, he has drawn a career-high 16 walks.
“I guess walking has never really been a thing of my past,” Gomez said. “But, you know, coming into the year I spoke to Corbs and [hitting coach Josh Holliday] and really worked on trying to see pitches better. Getting the pitch I wanted to hit instead of just trying to slap the ball around and get singles.”
He continues to prove his worth at shortstop. The master of the hidden ball trick — he pulled it off against Middle Tennessee State last month — he has committed just 10 errors.
Maybe not the physical threat at just 6-foot and 185 pounds, he compensates with speed and a powerful arm to rob infield hits.
“He might not be blessed with all the tools you’re looking for,” Corbin said, “but he sure plays the game at a higher level than most.”
If that means Gomez causes a few gray hairs in the process, that’s OK as long as the hits keep coming.
“Sometimes you look at him and you say why did you swing at that pitch?’ Corbin said. “Then there’s sometimes where you say why did you … . Oh, wow, that’s a great hit right there. I think it just one of those things you’ve got to live with more than anything else. You hate to temper an aggressive person too much because there is a lot of good that can come from it.
“He’s profitable by his own offensive personality for sure.”