Dee Gordon cooled off after hot start, but still providing value for Dodgers
Dee Gordon may not be hitting like he did in April, but on Wednesday night, he showed why the Dodgers have stuck with him regardless. In the bottom of the second inning with one out and runners on first and second, Gordon raced from what appeared to be straight-up positioning at second base well into shallow rightfield to make a sliding, over-the-shoulder catch of a Brayan Peña pop-up. Not done, Gordon then spun to his feet to double the runner off second base for an inning-ending and rally-killing double-play that, at least for that moment, kept the scoreless tie intact. The Dodgers would end up falling to the Reds, 5-0.
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Gordon, a failed shortstop prospect in his age-26 season, was a revelation at second base for the Dodgers in early April. With Cuban defector Alex Guerrero, whom the team signed to a four-year, $28 milion contract in October, failing to secure the job in camp, Los Angeles effectively opened the season without naming a starting second baseman. But Gordon went 3-for-4 in the team's second regular season game in Australia and ran with the position from there, starting at the keystone in ten of the Dodgers' first 13 games and hitting .400/.457/.525 over that span. Since then, however, he has hit just .262/.306/.366, as his batting average on balls in play has normalized from .441 in his first 46 plate appearances (those first 13 games of the season) to .308 in his last 217.
That .262/.306/.366 line since April 15 jibes with his .256/.301/.312 performance in 669 major league plate appearances prior to this season, but also reveals some sustainable improvement. Specifically, Gordon, who reportedly added 30 pounds to his rail-thin frame this offseason, is finally hitting for some modicum of power. Prior to this year, Gordon had 26 extra-base hits in those 669 career plate appearances. This year, he has 18 extra-base hits in just 263 PA and is leading the National League in triples with six, one more than his previous career total. Gordon has hit all six of his triples and nine of his 11 doubles this season since April 15.
No one is about to mistake Gordon for a power hitter, but with just that modest uptick in power at the plate and his ability to add additional bases via steals, he has enough value on offense to be a viable major league regular at second base even after his BABIP correction. This season, the average major league second baseman has hit .256/.316/.372, which works out to a Gross Production Average* of .235. If we add Gordon's basestealing since April 15 into his batting line over that span (by adding his stolen bases to his total bases and recalculating slugging percentage, and subtracting his times caught stealing from his times on base and recalculating on-base percentage), we get .262/.292/.436 and a GPA of .240.
*An improvement on OPS, GPA combines on-base percentage and slugging but adds appropriate extra weight to OBP, then converts the result to the batting-average scale. The formula is GPA=(OBP*1.8+SLG)/4 Add in Gordon's solid work in the field and capacity for the occasionally outstanding play such as the one above to what remains above-average production at second base, and the Dodgers have no reason to worry about Gordon's regression. That's good, because with Justin Turner filling in for the injured Juan Uribe at third base, Guerrero out through the end of the month after having part of his ear bitten off by former teammate Miguel Olivo, and starting shortstop Hanley Ramirez battling a shoulder issue that forced him to be scratched from Wednesday's starting lineup, the Dodgers lack additional depth in the infield. In other words, Gordon has the job all to himself, regression or not.