Dee Gordon a better batter since he stopped trying to walk
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) Dee Gordon led the majors in hits last year and tied for 229th in bases on balls.
''I don't care about walking,'' he said.
The assertion might seem like a flippant attempt to dismiss a negative statistic, but it's actually an explanation of his hitting philosophy. After several seasons of experimentation, Gordon has settled on an aggressive approach at the plate, which is why he'll be swinging away this year as the Miami Marlins' leadoff hitter and the defending NL batting champion.
Gordon has never walked much - his career high was 31 in 650 plate appearances in 2014 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. And early in his career he was anxious to raise a so-so on-base percentage.
But for the speedy, 5-foot-11, 172-pound Gordon, bases on balls have always been tough to come by.
''Usually when I try to walk, I get out,'' he said. ''You get to 3-2 against me, who is going to throw me a 3-2 breaking ball? They walk the guys who can't run. They make us little guys earn hit.
''I've become a better hitter since I said screw walks.''
The transformation for the left-handed hitter came a year ago, with dramatic results. Gordon batted .333 and totaled 205 hits, both career highs.
He also led the majors with 58 stolen bases, was chosen for the NL All-Star team and won a Gold Glove at second base - a breakthrough season that earned Gordon a $50 million, five-year contract.
A repeat in 2016 would be fine with the Marlins, and with Gordon.
''I'll take more of the same,'' he said. ''You can't be, `All right, now I want to hit .350.'''
He and new Marlins manager Don Mattingly were together with the Dodgers for four years, but Gordon didn't become a regular in Los Angeles until 2014.
''Dee is always a guy we felt could play, but at that point he was 145 pounds soaking wet,'' Mattingly said. ''Now he has turned into a man. He has put some physical strength on him, and he's a different player.''
Last year Gordon hit a career-high four homers and eight triples, a testament to his improved pop.
Still, singles are his thing. He had 169, including 16 bunt hits and 52 infield hits, leading the majors in all three categories. But among leadoff hitters he ranked only fifth with 88 runs, and 13th with an on-base percentage of .360.
Gordon's new hitting coach is Barry Bonds, baseball's home run king and also the leader in career walks with 2,558.
Gordon has 93. But don't look for Bonds and the Marlins to lobby Gordon to walk more.
''It's easy to pick guys apart, but he was a tremendous player last year,'' Mattingly said. ''Maybe it's an area where he gets a little bit of improvement, but I don't want to take away his strengths.''
Sounds good to Gordon. Now that he has settled on a successful approach at the plate, he makes his job sound easy.
''I don't feel pressure at all,'' he said. ''I'm skinny. I don't have to hit 50 home runs. I hit nothing but singles. I'm going to be all right.''