Great stuff on Dee Gordon. He is a fun guy who is going to be fun to watch. Made me think of Earl Thomas as a ‘center fielder’ free safety, a human bullet. Scott Servais compared controlling the zone to controlling the line of scrimmage. But did Earl Thomas bring baseball concepts to football?
Travis Sawchik is one of my fave Fangraphs writers, and today he's got one that has earned a place in FG's "most popular" articles. Here's the piece.
Getting a few things out of the way here :- ) Gordon states a belief that we have batted around at SSI:
While Gordon was reluctant to leave the infield — he’s never played anywhere else — he does believe it’s more difficult to stand out at second base defensively. “You don’t get any defensive runs saved [DRS] at second,” Gordon notes. “It’s hard to get a lot of stats at second.”
See the article for more documentation. But Dr. D is firm in his conviction that (1) all the infield shifts, and (2) all the attention to launch angle, hitting the ball over infielders' heads, and (3) other things, mean that you can "hide" a fairly slow 2B like Robinson Cano for quite a while.
Sawchik points out that in 4,500 innings at 2B, Gordon had saved only 13 runs defensively. (?!) But that CF's Hamilton had done much better: in 4,300 innings Hamilton had +47 runs saved and Byron Buxton in 2,200 innings had +31 runs saved.
I think this is true, that in the age of increased K's, BB's and HR's ... and in the age of increased launch angles ... outfield defense will be much more important that infield defense. And because of shifts this will especially be true.
A cute point: Sawchik pointed out -- intending to compliment Gordon, of course, that he is the 4th-fastest player in the game of baseball. Billy Hamilton, a true freak of nature, is measured at 30.1 feet per second while Gordon "struggles along" at 29.7 feet per second. When Sawchik brought this up, Gordon went into a mock rage:
When this reporter notes the speed-related data, Gordon scoffs. “I don’t believe that,” he says. “I don’t believe that Statcast. Someone, for real, made that up. Someone who cannot run made up that stat.”
What? Doesn’t Gordon believe a measure that verifies his speed?
Actually, that’s not his point at all. Gordon clarifies: “I’m faster than everybody.”
Good attitude bro' :- )
And Sawchik follows up, accurately in my view,
In an era defined, in part, by the defensive shift — a strategy that hypothetically renders infields even more efficient — range is likely even less important for players on the right side of the infield. It’s harder to mask athletic deficiencies in the outfield — and speed is important in center field at Safeco Field, backing a pitching staff that ranked 29th in ground-ball rate (40.3%) last season. Gordon was a three-win player last season and nearly a five-win player in 2016. He could be even more valuable in center — if he can make the transition.
One last funny: Gordon will stand in CF with positioning cards in his back pocket. LOL! He will of course start off playing deep, and as his reads get better he will be able to afford moving in a little. But in any case, a deep CF with a 30 ft/sec jet ski under him is going to mow down some gappers.
Yoenis Cespedes makes $29M for the Mets to play CF. Jacoby Ellsbury hauls in $21.1M per year for the Yankees. Adam Jones makes $17M. Dexter Fowler, $16.5M. Andre Ethier is at $15.5M. Charlie Blackmon, $14M. B.J. Upton is at $14M for Tampa. Michael Bourn is at $13.5 for the Phillies.
Dee Gordon will make $11, $13, $14 and $14M the next 4 years to roam CF for the M's. If he bangs out 200 hits a year, steals 60 bases and uses that speed to do far more damage to enemy hitters as a speed-demon OF than he ever could as a shifted 2B, then credit where credit's due. Jerry Dipoto will have pulled a big time rabbit out of his hat.
Here is another Fangraphs article with some juicy Dipoto quotes for yer.
I definitely think the position, which evolved, at one point, to something nearly as valuable as the SS, is now evolving into something less valuable than a third baseman.
I don't think first basemen can play it, because most first basemen aren't nimble enough to handle double play turns or cutting off grounders from the deep shift, but I would rather have a great fielding third baseman at this point.
I had doubts about Gordon defending CF because I thought he has a noodle arm (that turns out not to be the case once he started practicing outfield throwing position) and because I thought his routes would be poor at first. But, his routes are easier for him because he plays deep. He can sprint in on balls better than any CF in the game and playing back cuts off the gaps. He'll give up some singles but he'll also nail some baserunners or stop them from running entirely because charging in puts you in better position to throw.
And he's proved me at least partially wrong offensively, too. I'll need to see how it translates to Safeco and its slow infield, but Ichiro was a slower baserunner than Gordon even in his rookie season and his offensive game played fine at the Safe...so...This may turn out to be even better than Segura/Haniger
That's high praise from a Faniger. I figure you mean all things considered, cost to acquire and contract included. Neidert isn't the type of pitcher you're as likely to be shamed for trading as Luke TaiWalker. There was another A ball deception class starter in Robert Dugger that went out, much more like Neidert than Walker.
But there's also a guy who went to Miami that I had been thinking might be the first useful position player the Ms had pulled from international ranks in forever (ignoring older Japanese and Cuban players). Chris Torres was actually plucked for a song to start after the Yankees apparently backed out of their offer to him.
I only wish he'd made it to Modesto so I could say they gave up a both a Right Nut (RHP Dugger) and Left Nut (Switch hitting but better as lefty Torres) to get Dee. I guess last year Torres hit better from the RH box but previously it had long been the other way.
If defensive impact at SS is also diminished with shifts, I guess there's less need for one with plus defense and speed though. Torres could still change our perception of the deal in hindsight.
Classic line about the Nuts. :)
Haniger and Segura, even if Gordon turns out to be a five win CF, do more for the Mariners than Gordon, even relative to position, but Gordon would generate more marginal value per dollar. And at vastly reduced acquisition cost.
the Diaz conversion, the Haniger/Segura deal, and the Gordon concept, all three of which were Nobel worthy if not parade down 5th waving both arms under confetti.
How you want to separate those three, I dunno. (Seems the Gordon idea was the most inventive if not the most return-worthy.) I just want more of 'em. How about Nealy 35 HR from first, 'Bach doing a Kevin Youkilis from DH, and Nelson Cruz to LF while Haniger stays in? ;- )
Hey, we were gonna move Boom into the field for Ohtani. Why not for somebody who can rake?