Duane Burleson/Getty Images
First-Half Stats: .292 BA, .742 OPS, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 52 R, 43-of-52 SB
Second-Half ZiPS Projections: .264 BA, .661 OPS, 1 HR, 16 RBI, 31 R, 22 SB
It's taken two years, a handful of trips between Los Angeles and Albuquerque, New Mexico—home of the team's Triple-A affiliate—a visit to the Dominican Republic to play winter ball and a position change, but Dee Gordon finally looks like the player whom I pegged as the Dodgers' biggest breakout candidate heading into 2012.
Better late than never, right?
Dodgers third-base coach Lorenzo Bundy believes that Gordon's defensive switch from shortstop, where he struggled to make throws to first base, to second base has paid huge dividends, both in the field and at the plate. He explained to Samantha Zuba of the Los Angeles Times: "After we made the change [to second base], I think it's relaxed him so much defensively that it's allowed his offensive game to return also."
He's still allergic to drawing walks—though the 27 free passes that he picked up over the season's first half are a new career high for the 26-year-old—but that hasn't stopped Gordon from getting on base frequently enough to swipe an MLB-best 43 bases.
Back in 2012, Gordon told MLB.com's Ken Gurnick, "I'm fine with walking, but it's called hitting, not walking."
That led to the following response from manager Don Mattingly: "Maybe it's just that he didn't chase a bad pitch, so his at-bat lasted long enough for him to hit a better pitch. He might not have walked, but he had a better at-bat. I'm not worried about Dee. It'll come with experience."
Better at-bats are what Gordon is all about these days.
He's making contact 88.8 percent of the time, a career high (and the fourth-highest rate in the National League), and he isn't chasing pitches outside of the strike zone nearly as often as he used to. He's moved closer to the dish, allowing him to feast on pitches that sit on the outside corner of the plate (19-for-56, .339 BA), according to Brooks Baseball.
"I don't miss that," Gordon told Jorge Arangure Jr. of Sports on Earth. "That's my pitch."
But the biggest change for Gordon is that he's keeping the ball on the ground, something that wasn't lost on a scout from a rival team who spoke with Arangure Jr. earlier this year:
For me the biggest thing with Dee's offense has been getting the ball out of the air. When I saw him in the Dominican Winter League last year you could tell he was really focused on getting on top of the ball and keeping it on the ground. He's always had the type of speed that if he hits it on the ground anywhere, he's got a chance for a hit and anything that falls in the outfield always has the potential for extra bases. One of his bigger issues in the past was he was hitting too many fly-balls, which given his lack of power, were usually easy outs.
Some may look at his .344 BABIP and say that it's not sustainable, but speedy players such as Gordon tend to have higher BABIPs than their slower counterparts—and it's only 23 points higher than his career .321 mark.
Gordon's confidence—something that surely was only bolstered by his first All-Star Game appearance—along with his new approach at the plate, has set him up for success not only through the rest of the 2014 season, but also for years to come.
Dee Gordon has finally arrived.
Odds of Gordon Staying Hot: 5-1