Dee Gordon will be competing for a bench spot this spring. We already know that his defense is utterly atrocious. But what about his offense? We know he’s got the blazing speed, but can Gordon’s offense ever be league average?
There was one season that Gordon’s offense was actually a little better than average. Gordon always had problems with plate discipline, but during his first season with the Dodgers in 2011, Gordon was able to post a batting average of over .300. He batted .304 that season, despite posting a low OBP of just .325. He drew only seven walks that year, which accounted for the low OBP, but he still got 68 hits in 224 at-bats, which is nothing to scoff at.
Still that year he also stole 24 bases in 31 attempts, and as a result, his OWAR was at about a win, if you look at that sort of thing. For a reserve player, that’s not that bad.
Over the next two seasons, Gordon’s averages and on base percentages plummeted. He posted averages of .228, and .234, with OBPs of .280, and .314. He combined for just 30 walks over the course of both seasons, while striking out 83 times.
But if Gordon can improve his patience, and take advantage of his speed by hitting the ball on the ground, (not by bunting), then he could be reasonably decent. When Gordon swings at the first pitch he’s batting .136, and gets on base at a woeful .174 clip. But when he takes the first pitch, he’s hitting .264, with a .352 OBP. When Gordon is patient, he’s a much better hitter.
Look at the counts. When Gordon is ahead in the count, he’s a much better hitter. Of course most are, but even more so with Gordon. On a 2-0 count, Gordon is batting .333, with an OPS of over a 1.000. When Gordon is ahead in the count his OBP is .432. But when Gordon falls behind in the count, he’s hitting just .251, with a .253 OBP. And when Gordon has two strikes on him he’s batting just .196.
The key for Gordon is to stop bunting entirely. Gordon should never ever bunt ever again. Whenever Gordon tries to bunt, his concentration shifts from trying to make contact, which he should be doing, to squaring away a bunt. Gordon is not a good bunter at all, and when that happens, he falls behind in the count, and normally strikes out. The bunting messes with his focus at the plate. It always puts him in a hole. Needless to say, Gordon should not be bunting.
If Gordon is going to be a reserve on the bench, then the Dodgers may have to call upon him to get on base late in a game. The club might have to use him as more than just a pinch-runner. The club only has a few pinch-hitting options per game, and Gordon may be one of the only left-handed bats on the bench. (Provided he makes the roster)
Gordon may not be completely hopeless. In the month of September of 2011, Gordon batted .372 (42 for 113), with a .398 OBP. He won rookie of the month honors for that performance. The days of Gordon ever playing shortstop again are long gone. But if he learns how to work counts, uses his amazing speed, and never bunts again, he could end up at least becoming a league average pinch-hitter. If Gordon wants to stay employed in the major leagues, then he’s going to have to figure it out. I think it’s possible that deep within his error prone body, there might be a respectable hitter somewhere inside.