Monday, July 2, 2012

Dee Gordon's Plate Discipline

2012 has been nothing but trouble for Dee Gordon. Sure, he is leading the majors in stolen bases, but that is about the only bright spot. He is currently sporting an OBP of .278 and a wRC+ of 61. His fielding, in addition, has been atrocious. I usually do not pay much attention to traditional fielding statistics, but at the extremes they usually give you valuable information. In this case, Gordon is at the extreme in a bad way, posting a fielding percentage of just .947. That is 17 errors. I can assume that this will only get better with time as he is still raw with regards to defense. But what about offense?

In his 56 games last season, Gordon put up a respectable 99 wRC+. It's not amazing, but remember that SS is not exactly known for offensive production. So what has caused the tremendous drop in runs created for Gordon? The first target is always BABIP. It is at .282. With a career average BABIP, his wRC+ for this year goes up to 69. It's a nice bump, but he still has problems. As usual, it comes down to plate discipline. Last year, he struck out about 11 percent of the time, but this year it is all the way up to 19 percent. That number can be mitigated with a high walk rate (ala A.J. Ellis), but a 5.7% walk rate is not going to do it. What's interesting is that this walk rate is actually higher than last year.

So how to improve? Gordon needs to focus on strikeouts and BABIP. He should be hitting more balls on the ground, which is where his speed will allow him to get on base where most others would not. He can't take advantage of his speed with a ball hit up in the air. Gordon right now is sporting the 5th highest GB/FB ratio in the majors. It's high, but with his speed, it is not high enough. Next is the problem of K%. Gordon is swinging at just 34% of balls outside of the zone, and 60% of balls inside the zone. His swinging strike percentage is at 6.3%. The average hitter swings at less balls out of the zone, more balls in the zone, but swings and misses much more. If Gordon wants to get his peripherals higher, he needs to swing more. This may sound counter-intuitive, but it seems as though Gordon is allowing to many strikes to go over the plate without being challenged. He could get more balls in play if he's swinging more and this would result in less strikeouts. He may walk a little less, though, but the gain would be worth it. If he strikes out just 15% of the time, but walks 5% of the time, he would have a wRC+ of 75.

What will get Gordon to an average wRC+ is bringing up the BABIP, striking out way less, and with time if he's striking out less, he may end up getting more walks. Gordon needs to be a little more aggressive on balls in the strike zone. His speed will get him on base more often than most if he just gets the ball in play.

ShouldHit predicts that with a BABIP of .330, a BB% of 9, K% of 12, and his current homerun rate, Gordon will be an average hitter. Get at it Gordon, stop letting those balls go over the plate without challenging them.

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