By: Brian Mangan
I don’t have anything against Dee Gordon. He seems like a nice guy, and I wish him the best. But in the context of the #MarlinsTakeover narrative that’s all over baseball right now, people need to get a grip about what Dee Gordon is. I’ve written a few times about how there is no logical reason to believe the Marlins are better than the Mets (please, read this), but the narrative continues.
Gordon is a fine little player. He had a career-best season last year worth 3.2 WAR, and he’s only turning 27 this month. But last year has been the exception, not the rule, so far in his career, and he’s unlikely to be a big factor in the 2015 season. To put it bluntly, Dee Gordon isn’t that great.
Dee Gordon has a lifetime 658 OPS in 1,319 plate appearances, yet most folks appear to be under the impression that Gordon’s breakout last year was bigger than it was. However, in this “breakout” season, Gordonposted only a 704 OPS, a figure which is just about league average.
Worse for Gordon, is that his leage average numbers were essentially the result of one amazing month, April 2014, whereafter he returned to doing exactly what you might expect of him:
For one magical month, he posted a BABIP of .385, he struck out less, his isolated power was up, and even his SB% was off-the-charts. But for the rest of the year, he returned to posting numbers closer to his career norms and what was expected of him when he was coming up as a prospect. Here’s a graphical look at the one month spike:
In the second half last season, he had a 648 OPS, which is actually below his career average. He walked only 4 times compared to 47 strikeouts. His lifetime on-base percentage is .314, and in the second half last year was .300, finishing at .326 overall. He wasn’t even that good at stealing in the second half last year:
Gordon’s problems aren’t just limited to the bat, as he is not a particularly adept defensive player either. For his career, over 1244 innings at second base, Gordon has a -3.1 UZR/150. Even much-maligned Daniel Murphy puts up a figure close to that, posting -5.3 and -6.2 UZR/150 and over the last two seasons. If you prefer Defensive Runs Saved, Murphy was a -10 last year while Gordon was a -5.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying Dee Gordon is a useless ballplayer. In fact, most teams would love to have Dee Gordon. However it is unlikely that, even entering the prime of his career, he will replicate his success from last season. Fangraphs Steamer projects Gordon to hit .256/.304/.334 next season for 0.9 WAR, while ZiPS is the most optimistic at .281/.326/.357. Even the notoriously optimistic fan projections only have Gordon at .265/.311/.338 and 1.2 WAR.
I think Gordon will finish close to that ZiPS projection (I have him around .280/.330/.365) and be worth around 2 WAR. But is that the player that everyone thinks that he is? I don’t think so. Again, I’m not knocking the guy — but he wouldn’t have a starting job on the Mets.