Monday, March 19, 2012

Gordon Inquisitive; Olney Fawning

Buster Olney likes the fact that Dee Gordon asks a lot of questions (link insider only):

Dee Gordon asks a lot of questions, something that Barry Larkin noticed the first time he worked with the Dodgers shortstop in the offseason. Precise questions, about how you hold the glove in making a play at the second base bag, about how you make sure you hit the ball on the ground when you want to, about your mental approach.

This curiosity is part of the reason Larkin came away from his conversations with Gordon believing that the son of former relief pitcher Tom Gordon will become a good player -- a really good player. "He's got the ability to be an All-Star -- and a perennial All-Star," Larkin said over the phone Friday, from Arizona.

As with all young players, there are flaws to be found in Gordon, who turns 24 in April. He hasn't drawn a high volume of walks in the minor leagues -- 40 in 133 games in 2010, for example. He hasn't hit for power, with seven homers in 1,814 plate appearances in the minors.

But what Gordon does have is game-changing speed -- he stole 24 bases in just 54 games with the Dodgers last year, and others in the Dodgers' organization will tell you Gordon has a very strong sense of who he is and what he must do to be successful. Play an efficient shortstop. Put the ball on the ground. Pressure the defense with his speed. Run.

And he asks all those questions, in his effort to get better. "I've always been that way," Gordon said. "I always felt like if I didn't know something, I'll ask. Just ask."

Gordon never had any precise instruction in base-stealing until he signed with the Dodgers, and early in his career, "I was kind of winging it," he said. But Crash McRay, a coach in the L.A. system, began to work with him, and over the last 14 months he's worked under the tutelage of Davey Lopes, who is regarded as arguably the best teacher of baserunning, and base-stealing, in the sport.

Lopes is intense in his manner of coaching -- so intense, Gordon said, "that he kind of scares you a little bit. ... But Davey's been one of the greatest at it."

So Gordon asks questions. A lot of questions. "I'm not perfect at base-stealing," he said. "It's not like I'm never getting caught. I need to get better in every category."

Larkin believes that Gordon's body will fill out and that he'll get stronger. "He's going to develop his man muscles," said Larkin, who is working with Cincinnati minor leaguers this spring. "Dee seems like a sponge -- a workaholic. I love his work ethic and attitude. He's passionate.

"He's really intuitive, and he's got great instincts -- and he's got athletic ability out the wazoo."

We need a big year from you, Dee! Keep asking questions!

More Olney: from the same column, this tidbit that spotlights two Dodgers:

It'll be interesting to see how the Rays handle Carlos Pena, whose OPS against lefties was 298 points lower against left-handers than right-handers. From Mark Simon of ESPN Research, here are the greatest differentials in OPS splits when the hitter's performance was weaker against left-handers in 2011.

Lower OPS vs LHP

  • 1. Andre Ethier -- 315 points
  • 2. Eric Hosmer -- 301
  • 3. Carlos Pena -- 298
  • 4. Ryan Howard -- 287
  • 5. Casey McGehee -- 276
  • 6. Adrian Gonzalez -- 259
  • 7. James Loney -- 255
  • 8. Prince Fielder -- 224
  • 9. Erick Aybar -- 200
  • 10. Nick Markakis -- 181


MeanieBreanie said...

Just saw Dee Gordon in Spring Training. He looked great! If he stays true to form he is going to have an awesome year.