Let's give Dee Gordon some love. The man is, after all, hitting .433 entering Tuesday's action and deserves a little attention. Since 2000, the Miami Marlinssecond baseman is just the 14th player with at least 100 plate appearances to be hitting .400 through May 4 and his .433 mark tops the group:
1. Dee Gordon, 2015: .433
2. Chipper Jones, 2008: .425
3. Derrek Lee, 2007: .422
4. Darin Erstad, 2000: .420
5. Matt Holliday, 2011: .413
According to the Baseball Musings day-by-day database, the last player with a higher average with at least 100 plate appearance on this date was Ivan Rodriguez in 1998, when he was hitting .453.
So how is Gordon doing it? The 27-year-old hit .289 last year with the Dodgers -- although he started off hot with a .344 mark in April. I went through our super secret ESPN statistical tool and looked at video of all 45 of Gordon's hits. Here they are (sorry, I can only describe them but can't link to them, not that you want to watch 45 videos). Remember that Gordon bats left-handed and is one of the fastest players in the majors.
1. April 6, vs. Julio Teheran, 0-2 fastball: Soft flare fisted to left-center.
2. April 7, vs. Alex Wood, 0-2 fastball: Fights off pitch for soft blooper to left.
3. April 8, vs. Shelby Miller, 2-2 fastball: Slow chopper over the pitcher's head for infield single.
4. April 10, vs. Steve Geltz, 0-1 changeup: Slow grounder up the middle.
5. April 10, vs. Erasmo Ramirez, 0-0 changeup: Soft liner on low-and-away pitch just over the shortstop's head.
6. April 10, vs. Brad Boxberger, 0-1 changeup: Yanked another low-and-away pitch over first baseman's head for a double.
7. April 12, vs. Nate Karns, 2-0 fastball: Triples to right-center on fastball down the middle. I would describe the ball more as finding the gap than ripped into the gap.
8. April 12, vs. Jeff Beliveau, 0-1 curveball: Pitch was low and well off the plate and Gordon trickled it past the diving first baseman into right field.
9. April 12, vs. Ernesto Frieri, 1-0 changeup: Double off the wall in right field off a belt-high changeup.
10. April 13, vs. Shelby Miller, 0-0 fastball: Line drive single to center.
11. April 14, vs. Trevor Cahill, 1-2 changeup: A little half-swing on a pitch way off the plate that trickles past Cahill toward third base with Gordon just beating the throw.
12. April 14, vs. Sugar Ray Marimon: 0-1 fastball: Fastball up, line drive past third baseman.
13. April 15, vs. Eric Stults, 1-0 fastball: Grounder up the middle with Andrelton Simmons shaded toward third base.
14. April 15, vs. Eric Stults, 1-2 fastball: High fastball lined over drawn-in third baseman for double down the line.
15. April 16, vs. Dillon Gee, 1-2 curveball: Half-swing swinging bunt and low-and-away pitch, beats the throw from the catcher.
16. April 18, vs. Jacob deGrom, 0-1 fastball: Bunt single to third base.
17. April 18, vs. Jacob deGrom, 2-2 changeup: Half-swing roller to shortstop that Gordon beats out.
18. April 18, vs. Jacob deGrom, 2-2 fastball: Line drive to left.
19. April 18, vs. Sean Gilmartin, 2-1 fastball: Line drive double in the left-center gap.
20. April 18, vs. Carlos Torres, 1-2 cutter: Low-and-away, soft liner to right field.
21. April 19, vs. Matt Harvey, 1-1 changeup: Hard grounder up the middle on hanging changeup.
22. April 21, vs. Jerome Williams, 1-2 changeup: Slow squibbler to shortstop, beats throw.
23. April 21, vs. Luis Garcia, 1-2 slider: Pulls the outside pitch to right for a hard grounder base hit.
24. April 22, vs. Luis Garcia, 2-2 fastball: Chopper up the middle, no play forChase Utley.
25. April 24, vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 1-0 fastball: Hard grounder up the middle on high inside fastball.
26. April 24, vs. Jordan Zimmermann, 3-2 slider: Pulls insider slider just over first baseman's head.
27. April 24, vs. Matt Grace, 0-1 fastball: Infield single to second base.
28. April 25, vs. Stephen Strasburg, 3-2 fastball: Grounder to Ian Desmond's right; couldn't come up with it, but wouldn't have thrown Gordon out.
29. April 26, vs. Gio Gonzalez, 1-1 fastball: Pokes a middle-in fastball in the third-shortstop hole.
30. April 26, vs. Gio Gonzalez, 1-1 changeup: Bunt down third-base line, no play.
31. April 26, vs. Gio Gonzalez, 0-0 fastball: Soft liner to right-center on inside fastball.
32. April 26, vs. Drew Storen, 0-2 changeup: Down the middle, lined to right field.
33. April 27, vs. Dillon Gee, 1-2 changeup: Up in the zone, line drive to right.
34. April 27, vs. Dillon Gee, 0-1 fastball: Fastball away, hard grounder to left.
35. April 28, vs. Rafael Montero, 0-1 fastball: Fly ball double in left center gap just short of the warning track.
36. April 28, vs. Rafael Montero, 0-2 fastball: Hard liner to right field -- hardest contact yet -- off a bad 0-2 fastball just above the belt.
37. April 29, vs. Bartolo Colon, 1-1 fastball: Fastball down the middle, hit off fists for infield single to short.
38. April 29, vs. Bartolo Colon, 1-0 fastball: Hard liner to right field.
39. May 1, vs. Jerome Williams, 1-0 changeup: Bunt single down third-base line.
40. May 1, vs. Jerome Williams, 0-0 fastball: Infield single in hole to shortstop.
41. May 1, vs. Ken Giles, 0-0 fastball: Groundball up the middle.
42. May 2, vs. Cole Hamels, 0-1 fastball: Liner up the middle.
43. May 2, vs. Cole Hamels, 1-2 changeup: Low and on the outside corner, pulled softly to right field.
44. May 2, vs. Cole Hamels, 2-2 fastball: Grounded into left past the diving third baseman.
45. May 4, vs. Tanner Roark, 0-2 curveball: Pitch almost in the dirt, bounced up the middle past diving second baseman.
Gordon certainly doesn't hit the ball hard -- really, only two or three of the balls would I describe as really smoked; Gordon just isn't strong enough to have those hits with high exit velocity. In fact, while he's first in the majors in batting average, ESPN keeps track of hard-hit average, which is the percentage of hard-hit balls of total at-bats; Gordon ranks 159th out of 183rd qualified regulars in that category at .104 (meaning about 10 percent of his at-bats result in a hard-hit ball).
I was surprised, however, that there weren't more bloopers and flares here. There were, however, a lot of snake burners hit in the right area, some dribblers and trickles that found a hole. Gordon has been hitting more line drives of late, however, and his line-drive rate of 25 percent (according to FanGraphs) is 4 percent higher than last season. Right now, those line drives are falling for hits much more often -- well, that's why he's hitting .433 after all. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he hit .545 on line drives last year but is hitting .829 on line drives this season.
His overall batting profile isn't really all that different. Similar rate of groundballs, strikeout rate is down about 4 percent, so he's getting more balls in play. He has three bunts hits compared to 20 last season, so that's similar as well. There is some improvement going on here, but we're not looking at a complete makeover.
Anyway, watching 45 hits in a row is kind of fun. I'm not quite buying that Gordon has the bat control and artistry of Ichiro Suzuki in his prime, although he has been similar in his ability to take the low pitch off the plate and a find a hole somewhere on the left side of the diamond. Ichiro could turn on a pitch occasional, which Gordon almost never does, but also had the ability to seemingly place the ball in the infield (he had 50-plus infield hits three times; Gordon had 31 last year).
What will Gordon hit? The ZiPs projection system now projects a .300 average after his hot start. The key will be what happens with his approach at the plate and if he can hold up all season. After his hot start last year, he had just four walks and 47 strikeouts in the second half. The Marlins have sat him just once all year; I expect a day off here and there to help keep him fresh.
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