Miami Marlins Season Review: Dee Gordon Steals Second


The Miami Marlins announced their intention to contend in 2015 by making a series of moves last winter, which should have infused the team with enough talent to make the team a serious contender for the postseason.  The most important one of these moves was the trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers that brought Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to Miami in exchange for Enrique Hernandez, Andrew Heaney, Austin Barnes and Chris Hatcher.

There has been much talk on these pages and around Miami Marlins fans and the media about the wisdom of that move. I have made my views quite clear on the topic. Dee Gordon is a good baseball player and he has a very unique skill set, but unfortunately not one that should be overvalued. As the Marlins would like us to believe speed kills, but it also declines very quickly.

Dee Gordon’s 2015 ultimately outperformed even the wildest expectations anyone could have had him for him. He hit .333/.359/.418, which netted him a 113 wRC+. That .333 batting average was enough for Gordon to win the National League batting title, beating the MVP favorite Bryce Harper.

Ultimately Gordon had a very good season and it’s almost nearly impossible to try to find any logical way to explain it away.

Was it kind of fluky? Is it unsustainable?

Yes and yes. But at this juncture I don’t want to talk about the trade or the future, I want to focus on what the Marlins do have, which seems to be one of the better second baseman in all of baseball, regardless of how unsustainable it may be going forward.

More from Marlins News

To put everything in context, Gordon finished the season with 4.6 fWAR in 653 plate appearances, to lead the Marlins, but that was ultimately only about one win more than Giancarlo Stanton got in half the plate appearances.  A 4.6 fWAR was also enough to make Gordon the second best second baseman in the game, behind Jason Kipnis (5.2 fWAR). It also put him in the same category as other universally recognized second baseman, like Jose Altuve (4.3 fWAR) and Ian Kinsler (4.2 fWAR).

What seems to be particularly exciting in the Miami Marlins view about Gordon is his advanced hitting tool, which combined with an elite speed tool, leads to a player having a .383 BABIP, all while having the second highest GB% in all of baseball. Gordon is successful because he does hit the ball on the ground, as a .316 BABIP on all grounders would suggest.

To take a random example, Yunel Escobar had a .268 BABIP on ground balls and Bryce Harper netted only a.255 BABIP.

Nearly 60% of Gordon’s balls in play were on the ground and he was able to muster a .316/.316/.337 slash line on ground balls. Which looks like this in terms of a spray chart.

There doesn’t seem a way to find a leaderboard for batting averages by batted ball types, but I can only imagine that .316 is probably one of the best averages on ground balls.

There seems to be a consensus around baseball, that one of the best ways to assure offensive production is to have players that hit the ball hard in the air.  Which is to say the exact opposite of what Dee Gordon is doing.

More from Marlin Maniac

Among second baseman with at least 450 plate appearances, Dee Gordon had the second lowest FB% at 18.7% and only produced a 47 wRC+ on fly balls.  Brian Dozier on the hand had a 44.1% FB% and had a wRC+ of 142.  I do understand that the Dozier and Gordon are inherently different players and that power is not something that Gordon will suddenly develop or should look to develop. What I’m saying is that a player that is dependent on hitting ground balls and on speed as his primary form of production will never be an elite offensive player.

Gordon in spite of having a .333 batting average only a had a 113 wRC+, which means that he was only 13 percent better than the league average hitter, and only 20 percent better than the league average second baseman. League average wRC+, according to Fangraphs, was 93 in 2015.

So this begs the question: does Dee Gordon have to become a different player for him to be valuable going forward?

I don’t think so and that is particularly because of the strides he has seemingly made defensively in 2015.

Dee Gordon was the best defensive second baseman in all of baseball in 2015, according to UZR with 6.4, and the second best according to DRS with 13.

Although defensive metrics  still need work  I’m inclined to believe the metrics, because after watching Dan Uggla at second base for as long as I did, I know what bad defense looks like. Gordon seems to have played the exact opposite of Ugglaesque defense.

Dee also seems to have good chemistry with Adeiny Hechavarria. They have quickly become a very slick and entertaining double play combination.

It is unlikely that Gordon will be able to come close to replicating his offensive performance from 2015, which was highly dependent on a .383 BABIP and on hitting ground balls for offensive production.

However, there is some positives to be taken away. Maybe Gordon can come close to his 2014 numbers and find a new realistic BABIP plateau for him, that could probably net him another year where he slashes around .315/.330/.400, and is around a league average offensive player.

Coupled with speed and what is hopefully a legitimate and “sticky” improvement in his defense, he can be a 3 win player until he becomes a free agent.

That is certainly not worth trading as many assets as the Marlins did to get him but it’s certainly not a bad thing to have an above average second baseman.

Follow Marlin Maniac on Twitter @MarlinManiac for all your Miami Marlins news, opinion and analysis!

Next: Season Review: First Base

Next: Season Review: Catcher

More from Marlin Maniac