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Dee Gordon's Fastball Problem

Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon leads the major leagues with 24 stolen bases this season. That's remarkable considering how infrequently he, you know, gets on base. Gordon ranks in the bottom ten among qualified hitters in both OBP (.277) and OPS+ (55) this season. In fact, Flash's son could make some fleet-footed-yet-offensively-futile history this year. Currently on pace for 51 steals, Gordon could "top" Bert Campaneris (.278 OBP in 1972) for the lowest OBP ever among players with 50-plus stolen bases in a season and Willy Taveras (55 OPS+ in 2008) for the lowest OPS+.

While no one expected the 5-foot-11, 160 pound Gordon to hit with authority in the majors, he's trying to avoid historic offensive lows among stolen base kings because he can't hit the fastball. Check out Gordon's slugging percentage against the heat this season, and then the league average:

Gordon's slugging percentage by location vs. fastballs, 2012

Average fastball slugging percentage by location, 2012

Gordon has a .277 slugging percentage versus fastballs this season, nearly 170 points below the big league average and fourth-worst among qualified hitters:

Lowest slugging percentage versus fastballs, 2012

Batter Slugging Pct.
Brendan Ryan .253
Carlos Santana .257
Dustin Ackley .267
Dee Gordon .277
Justin Smoak .280
Jamey Carroll .282
Dayan Viciedo .308
Shane Victorino .311
A. J. Ellis .312
Yunel Escobar .314
MLB Avg. .444


So, Gordon can't hit the fastball. And pitchers are well aware: Dee has seen the 11th-highest percentage of fastballs (four-seamers and two-seamers) among qualified hitters this year:

Highest fastball percentage among hitters, 2012

Batter Fastball Pct.
Jemile Weeks 59.3%
Mike Trout 55.9%
Dexter Fowler 55.9%
Jamey Carroll 55.7%
Derek Jeter 54.6%
Cliff Pennington 53.5%
Orlando Hudson 53.5%
Gregor Blanco 53.1%
Denard Span 52.9%
Adrian Gonzalez 52.9%
Dee Gordon 52.4%
Joe Mauer 52.3%
Josh Reddick 52.3%
Michael Cuddyer 51.8%
Elvis Andrus 51.8%
MLB Avg. 47.3%


Pitchers don't fool around when they throw Gordon a fastball, either. They're placing 56 percent of them within the strike zone, well above the 52 percent MLB average. Why wouldn't they pound the zone, considering the worst that can happen is a slap single the other way?

Gordon is never, ever going to be confused with a power hitter. But he'll need to find a way to stop strumming the banjo so hard against fastballs if he's going to avoid being overmatched right into the history books.  


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