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Enjoying (and worrying) about Dee Gordon

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Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon has been awesome thus far this season. Why does that preclude us from considering how he will play in the future?

He's been good...so far.
He's been good...so far.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

Can I just say something really quickly?

I love Dee Gordon's play in 2015 thus far.

Gordon is hitting .437/.461/.527 thus far (.427 wOBA), and he has been worth a little more than two wins thus far according to FanGraphs. This is awesome. This should be commended, and indeed it has been by myself and by many others. Here is what I wrote about Dee Gordon's month of April recently.

Still, with all those caveats, Gordon has raised expectations for his game this season, and even after the stroke of good luck ends, I am expecting solid production going forward in 2015.

Gordon has raised his projections from before the season thanks to his red-hot streak to start the year. As of right now, he is also making a little more contact this year and swinging a lot more often, which may be a key to decreasing his strikeout rates. It would also have an expected effect on Gordon's walk rate, but the balance between those two things has yet to be determined.

All of the above is to say that I am enjoying Dee Gordon's 2015 season. But my enjoyment of his year thus far does not preclude me from thinking about the future. This is why these Twitter comments like this one last week by Miami Herald's Clark Spencer caught my eye.

Gordon bumped his batting average nicely yesterday night against the San Francisco Giants. Somehow, this early performance is making the trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers a "smart" move.

I was having a hard time understanding this concept. Is the move smart because Gordon has been as good as he has been thus far? If that were the case, would it not be a bit early to make that determination, given that we are only a month into the season and you are evaluating a past trade using perfect hindsight?

Is the trade a smart move because Gordon is expected to be a good player based on his early batting average? Because the subsequent argument can be made that this batting average is really inflated by an astronomical BABIP.

Spencer said it is common sense that Gordon will not continue to have a huge batting average. I agree with that entirely; you do not need to know that Gordon is landing hits on half of his balls in play to know that it will not continue.

However, the question is how many of those balls are going to continue to fall for hits? At this point, I have no idea. We are fairly sure that we can expect more of them to be hits than we thought going into the season. We are fairly sure that the tally going forward is going to be lower than his current number.

But my job is to think about this kind of thing, and thinking about this does not prevent me from enjoying the ride thus far. As a Marlins fan, you can both be happy that Gordon has produced real, tangible wins for the team thus far and still be concerned about how many more wins he will make going forward. As Spencer and others have mentioned, just because Gordon is playing this well now, it does not mean that he will continue doing so.

How can we tell what Gordon will do? As mentioned in previous articles, Gordon has had some real changes at plate. At the same time, even if you employ the Ichiro Suzuki school of hitting, it is a difficult tightrope to maintain success in that manner.

The reason Ichiro had so many skeptics was because his game didn’t give him much margin of error. He had to handle himself perfectly in order to make the most of his skills. It doesn’t take much of a slide to go from Ichiro to Ben Revere, who also makes a lot of contact, and who also runs well, and who also puts the ball on the ground. Ichiro routinely ran wRC+ figures in the triple digits. Revere has a career mark of 84. You don’t want to fall too in love with speed, because most of the time, in the past, these runners haven’t been good hitters.

There is a razor-thin difference between great slap-hitting and awful slap-hitting.

Player, 2014-2015 K% BB% GB% LD% BABIP
Dee Gordon 15.7 4.9 59.1 22.5 .373
Ben Revere 8.4 2.7 61.4 22.6 .324
Player, 2014-2015 PA AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
Dee Gordon 783 .314 .349 .404 .332 113
Ben Revere 752 .298 .321 .360 .302 90

That fine line hinges on points of BABIP. It defines the difference between a guy who has been awful for his career and a guy who has been above average for a year and change. So once again, you see why that number does in fact matter for Gordon's future.

Which guy is Gordon from now forward? It is hard to guess that he is exactly the Gordon of the last year or so, but he has obviously shown a better track record than Revere. So again, there is a middle ground, a shade of grey, that is more likely to be the truth. That area is the one I am interested in right now.

So yes, I am enjoying Dee Gordon in 2015. But I am also worried about him in 2015. It is hard to be an excellent hitter as a speedster. Gordon has done it for 783 plate appearances, but can he do it for the next 500-plus this season? I'm very interested to find out.