Players can get better at baseball. No matter what the metrics say about their previous season, players can make adjustments and improve. This is where traditional scouting and training has its place in Major League Baseball. While metrics do a great job accounting for players regressing to the mean and other averages, metrics cannot account for a player making mechanical changes or being more comfortable in a certain environment.
In spring training of 2014, Dee Gordon was fighting for a roster spot. In this environment, it is hard to imagine he was particularly comfortable with his situation or confident. Gordon didn’t have a position and he hadn’t shown that he could even hit at the major league level.
Fast forward seven months and through the Dodgers run to an NL West crown, and the biggest knock on Gordon became his miniscule walk rates and on-base percentage. Gordon showed that he could hit major league pitching. His shortcomings in the field and drawing walks were quickly dispelled by his improved ability to hit the ball hard and cause havoc on the bases. Gordon put pressure on every team he faced from the moment he stepped into the batter’s box and at any point he could run.
Here’s a good example on the aforementioned pressure:
Let’s back track. Gordon went from a fringy big league starter to an all-star second baseman with a legitimate future in the league. Gordon, through all of that pressure in LA, won a spring training battle at a new position, improved on his already impressive stolen base percentages, became an above-average fielder, and also proved that he didn’t just have to use his speed to get on base. Gordon absolutely raked for the first half of the season in 2014, and while he did tail off, the production was still there.
Here are his stats from 2014:
64 Stolen Bases
Here are his stats from 2015:
58 Stolen Bases
2015 NL Batting Champion
Wondering how much his skills could takeover a game in 2015? Here’s a nice example of Gordon tormenting the Phillies and starter Cole Hamels:
Entering spring training this year, Gordon had better confidence in himself, job security, and now the ability to focus more on drawing more walks and becoming an elite level defender. While Gordon didn’t improve much on his walk rate, his overall production shot through the roof.
Needless to say, Gordon was the lone bright spot for the Marlins during the first half of the 2015 season. Martin Prado, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and a host of other Marlins had disappointing starts to their season for the fish. While Giancarlo Stanton was able to blast 27 homeruns in 74 games, his overall health was a constant question mark.
Dee Gordon was the main constant for the season. A torrid April lead into a terrific May where Gordon still managed to keep his average close to .400. Then, Gordon became an all-star for the Marlins. The all-star game wasn’t new, as Gordon has been voted in the season before with the Dodgers, but Gordon was proving a point. 2014 wasn’t a fluke, and he was worth much more then Andrew Heaney and change in any trade.
Moving forward, Gordon will be looked at as a top MLB second baseman in extension talks. It’s up to the Marlins to pay him like one and keep Gordon in Miami.