Dee Gordon just scratching the surface
MIAMI — After leading the National League in batting average, stolen bases and hits, what should Dee Gordon aim to do differently in 2016? Nothing. Stay the course.
Nothing is broken, so don’t fix anything. Gordon, 27, is entering his prime. Keep doing what he’s doing, and allowing his game to mature. Of course, everyone is striving to improve. And, of course, there will be the tired argument that Dee needs to walk more. Generally speaking, that is true for many players. Whatever helps your OBP, go for it.
Gordon’s case is different, because if he strives to walk more, that means he will have to change his approach.
Gordon’s approach doesn’t need to change, unless opposing pitchers change their approaches with him. The reason? Only one player in the Majors saw a higher percentage of fastballs than Gordon. Colorado’s D.J. LeMahieu saw 66.9 percent, compared to Gordon’s 66.5 percent.
Simply put, opponents pound the strike zone with Gordon, because they’re rather have him put the ball in play than risk walking him. Aware pitchers are seeking to get ahead, Gordon was aggressive, attacking early in counts instead of falling behind.
Keep Gordon the way he is, and then let Christian Yelich, who bats second, do his thing.
Yelich saw fastballs 60.5 percent of the time, and he had a .366 on-base percentage. Power guys see less fastballs. Giancarlo Stanton, for instance, saw 56.4 percent fastballs.
Gordon was a model of consistency. What he did at home is pretty much what he did on the road. The All-Star second baseman batted .333 with a .366 on-base at home. On the road, he was .333/.351.
Compare Gordon’s splits to, say, LeMahieu, and you see a more consistent hitter. LeMahieu, who had a strong year batting .301 with a .358 on-base percentage, was clearly more productive at hitter-friendly Coors Field. At home, he hit .321/.379, while going .281/.337 on the road.
Gordon finished with 25 walks, and had an on-base percentage of .359.
The .359 OBP was just fine. It ranked 33rd in all of MLB, tied with Manny Machado and Jason Heyward. As long as Gordon stays over .350 on-base, he will give the Marlins exactly what they need from the leadoff spot.
Looking at the metrics, one area of improvement we saw from Gordon this year is how used the entire field better than in 2014 with the Dodgers. In Los Angeles, they encouraged Gordon to slap the ball the other way and try let his speed get him hits. The Marlins didn’t put any restrictions on Gordon. They let him be him. He ended up using the middle of the field much more than in ’14.
According to Fangraphs, Gordon pulled the ball 30.1 percent, used the center of the field 38.5 percent, and went to the opposite field, 31.4 percent. In 2014, he was 29.5 (pull), 31.7 (center), 38.8 (oppo).
Defenses had to play him straight up more, although left fielders were more shallow and shifted towards the line. Otherwise, infields were more traditional, except when third basemen played in for bunts. This helped Gordon because anything not sharply right at someone was a chance for a hit.
— Joe Frisaro