After a two-month demonstration of why he doesn’t yet have the skills and refinement to bat lead-off in the major leagues, Dee Gordon has taken off since being demoted.
From May 22nd onward, Gordon has gone 8-for-18 with a double, a walk, and no strikeouts, raising his OPS from .499 to .551 in a matter of five games.
While the hits are nice, they were bound to come. Gordon’s BABIP currently sits at .269, but it was .345 last year and he always put up high rates in the minors due to his speed, so he’s been a bit unlucky this year. Rather than the batting average, my primary concern was that his strikeout rate rocketed from 11.6% to 17.0%, and as you well know, he can’t use his speed if he’s stuck in the batter’s box. Therefore, the fact that he has gone 20 straight plate appearances at the bottom of the order without striking out is the most promising turn of events in terms of projection.
Additionally, while there was surely a mental aspect to his woes, as Gordon did appear to be pressing at times, the other main problem was that he struggles to get on first base. While his walk rate has taken a tick up this year (3.0% to 5.7%), his plate discipline is still atrocious, as 39.4% of pitches he swings at are out of the strike zone compared to the 28.3% league average. Until that changes, the Dodgers are better served letting him bat at the bottom of the order and giving him the green light to run wild there.
Now that the team has found Gordon a home in the batting order and he has shown signs of life in it, let’s hope it’s a permanent move. This is the spot he deserved at the start of the year, and it’s where he should stay until he can show an evolution in his skill set, which hopefully ends up taking the Jose Reyes path, albeit without the power.