Luis Cruz is hitting .111/.132/.111 in 39 plate appearances. Justin Sellers is hitting .176/.263/.265 in 38 plate appearances, and neither Juan Uribe nor Jerry Hairston (two hits apiece in a combined 30 plate appearances) are doing much to offer evidence that they’re the answer either. The left side of the Dodger infield in Hanley Ramirez‘ absence is an absolute mess, and while Matt Kemp is hardly absolved of responsibility, it’s pretty clear where the main fault in the leaky Dodger offensive attack lies these days.
Down at Triple-A Albuquerque, Dee Gordon is hitting .319/.385/.468 with eight steals in nine attempts for the Isotopes. I think you can see where this is headed.
Yes, if there’s one constant cry I’m hearing from fans via various forms of social communication these days — perhaps as much or more as “when will Yasiel Puig get recalled?” — it’s “Dee Gordon looks great, they should bring him up! It can’t hurt, right?”
Dodger fans love Gordon. They just flat-out love him, and it’s not hard to see why. When he’s playing well, he’s among the most exciting players in the game thanks to his electric speed. He’s the type of player who “plays the game the right way,” excelling with small-ball skills and outworking much larger and physically gifted players to get where he is. It’s difficult for fans to relate to a specimen who’s 235 pounds of sculpted muscle; at a listed 5’11″, 160 pounds, Gordon looks a whole lot more like the rest of us than do the Kemps of the world.
If you’re thinking that sounds exactly like Juan Pierre, well, it does. In an outfield that often included Kemp, Andre Ethier, & Manny Ramirez, Pierre was without question the least talented, yet for years we heard nothing but emotionally insistent claims that Pierre “deserved” to play because of how he played the game — here’s an entire post on that from February of 2010, for example. It mattered not that Pierre, save for a few short weeks when Ramirez was suspended, was rarely a productive player.
Back to Gordon, fans love the idea of him, and it’s not unfair to be feeling that way, I suppose. Every additional weak Cruz pop-up offers further evidence that he’s the player who struggled for 12 years, rather than the one who succeeded for two months last year, and no one had expectations for Sellers. Something has to be done, and Gordon represents something.
But while part of being a fan is having that kind of emotional response, there’s a lot of logic missing there. Defense, for example. Gordon wasn’t just one of the worst offensive shortstops in the game last year, he was one of the least steady defenders. Despite the offensive struggles, the Dodgers are a game over .500 right now mainly because the run prevention has been so great — only Atlanta has a lower ERA — and while that’s partially because the rotation has been so good, it’s also because the defense has been solid. Only two clubs have a better defensive ranking at third base right now, and (despite Sellers’ hiccup on April 2), only three are better at shortstop.
If you’re just dying to point out that defensive metrics at this early stage in the season are the height of small sample size unreliability, I wouldn’t argue with that — you’d be right. But these rankings more than pass the smell test and merely serve to accompany what our eyes are telling us rather than to make the point themselves. We may be seeing nothing on offense from the left side, but at least the defense has been there. That’s not something I’m prepared to say about Gordon, not after a 2012 that was half atrocious and half on the disabled list, and only 11 games so far in 2013.
The fact that it’s been only 11 games factors in on offense, too. Yes, Gordon hitting .319 looks wonderful. But due to the small samples here, that’s up from .286 yesterday morning and .120 when he woke up on Friday morning. To say, “he’s all fixed now, hitting .319,” well, it’s just not accurate.
I still have confidence in Gordon’s growth as a player; as I’ve long said, I think he was rushed to the bigs in 2011 before he was ready. I don’t consider it at all out of the question that later this summer, he could be sharing the left side with Ramirez. But 11 Triple-A games is hardly enough to tell you anything about anything, and we’ve made this mistake with Gordon before. It might be his time in Los Angeles again one day, but for right now, no matter how bad Sellers & Cruz are scuffling, it’s not.