Can Dee Gordon Continue His Hot Hitting?
After starting the season 3-11, the Miami Marlins have been on a tear, winning nine of their last 12 games for a respectable record of 12-14. The team has been succeeding even without Christian Yelich, who is currently on the DL and was the team’s second best hitter last season as well as a Gold Glove winner. At the top of the lineup is the Marlins’ hottest hitter: Dee Gordon.
Last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Gordon hit .292/.344/.398 in the first half, including .344/.375/.478 in the first month of the season, earning a trip to the All-Star game. It seems that Gordon comes out of the gates hot. Last season, even with the hot start, Gordon ended the year with 64 stolen bases and a slash line of .289/.326/.378, which translates to a 100 OPS+, meaning Gordon was an average hitter last season. When the Marlins traded for Gordon this summer, this is roughly what they expected.
This season, through 26 games with the Fish, Gordon is hitting .433/.460/.500 with 12 stolen bases and an OPS+ of 168; quite an incredible start to the year. What is behind Gordon’s amazing performance so far? Here are some comparisons of hitting categories from last year to this year that show Gordon will regress as the season continues.
The league average Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) is around .300, but as a speedster on the base paths, Gordon will have a BABIP that is higher than normal. Last year’s BABIP of .346 makes sense. However, this season, there is no reason to expect that Gordon will continue to hit .489 on balls in play.
With Los Angeles last season, Gordon registered an 11.3% infield-hit percentage. Now, through 26 games, Gordon is registering an infield-hit percentage of 23.5%. For his career, Gordon has an IFH of 12.5%, so it is likely that his percentage this year will regress back to normal.
The final category is O-Swing%, which measures how often the batter swings at pitches outside the strike zone. Last season, Gordon swung at 32.9% of pitches outside the zone and made contact 79.3% of the time on those swings. This season, Gordon is swinging even more often at pitches outsize the zone, at 39.3% and making contact 81.3% of the time. If Gordon wants to be a consistent hitter, he will have to learn to swing less often at bad pitches.
Now, although there are a few categories that seem to imply Gordon will regress to an average hitter, his strikeout, walk, and line drive percentages are in Gordon’s favor.
So far this season, Gordon is striking out just 12.3% of the time, down from 16.5% last year. With his speed, if Gordon can limit his strikeouts and continue to put the ball in play, he will get on base often. Also, after hitting a line drive 21.3% of the time last season, Gordon has improved in that category this season, up to 25.3%. If Gordon can continue to hit line drives at this clip, the more often he can reach base.
Another important category is walk percentage. Gordon rarely walked last year and has shown a slight improvement in that aspect so far, increasing to 6.1% this season. At the top of the order, Gordon’s primary job is to get on base and any increase in walks is bound to help the Marlins score more runs.
Gordon has been the one of the hottest hitters in baseball and the Marlins are certainly glad to have him at the top of their lineup so far. Of course, no hitter can continue hitting .400 for the entire season, and some numbers such as BABIP hint at Gordon's decline, but a few metrics show his improvement as a hitter at the top of the Marlins' lineup.