The Miami Marlins were four games out of first place when their best player of 2015, Dee Gordon, was suspended for half of 2016.
You’d think that would be the kind of blow a team in contention with the Nationals and Mets could ill afford, but five weeks later, the Marlins are still there, just four games out of first place.
In some small way, the Marlins have benefited.
Gordon hit .333 last year, led the National League in hits (205) and steals (58) and won a Gold Glove. But in the first month of 2016 his on-base percentage (.289) was 44 points less than last year’s batting average and he was caught stealing one less time than he had walked.
He wasn’t helping. Without Gordon’s suspension, the Marlins wouldn’t have played Derek Dietrich as much as they have and the latter — .310 average, .490 slugging, 13 walks — was a better player in May than Gordon was in April.
Despite Giancarlo Stanton missing 10 games, and being mostly ineffective (.202 average, 68 strikeouts) when he was present, the Marlins are 20-16 since Gordon was suspended.
As the 2013 Red Sox, who had to make Koji Uehara their closer because Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were hurt, can attest, sometimes absences help.
Gordon is the kind of player who almost has to hit .333 to help — because of his lack of power and patience. Leading a league in hits isn’t all good.
Gordon has walked 96 times in 2,069 plate appearances over six seasons for two teams; Stanton walked 94 times in 2014. Gordon also led the NL in caught stealings last year (20), which helped negate his successful attempts; his 74% rate was barely adequate, if that.
There’s no assurances Dietrich will maintain his production — his average is 61 points better in 2016 than it is in his career and his OPS is 120 points better. But for the entirety of his Marlins career Dietrich has been like that piece of clothing that sits in someone’s closet because they don’t know when to wear it. Dietrich has been a Marlin since he was 23 in 2013 but never played more than 90 games because the Marlins could never figure out where he should.
That and because they’re the Marlins.
Dietrich has played in 50 games this year and has a 1.3 WAR; in his first three seasons his 2.9 offensive WAR was mostly undone by a -2.8 defensive one. This year his fielding has improved to 0.0. If he’s not hurting, then he’s helping.
He also leads the NL with nine hit by pitches, another way he’s better at getting on base than Gordon, who’s been hit by 10 in six years.
The Marlins have a little more than half of Gordon’s suspension remaining to figure out what they’re going to do when he returns. But if his return means Dietrich’s departure, it might not help.
Also of note:
- The two best lineups in the American League? The Red Sox and whoever is playing the Red Sox. They scored 29 runs in four games at Baltimore last week and won only two of them because they gave up 29 runs — 25 in the last two games. On Wednesday the Sox hit five home runs and lost to a team that hit none (14 hits, four doubles, nine walks and a wild pitch will do it) and on Thursday they threw seven home runs. Two starting pitchers in the series, one from each team, were back in the minors before the week ended. The Red Sox sent Joe Kelly (ERA 8.46), who flirted with a no-hitter three starts ago, back to Pawtucket by the time his shower ran out of hot water. The Orioles waited a day to tell Mike Wright (5.88), but his demotion didn’t last long. He was back in the rotation after reliever Darren O’Day went on the DL.
- How bad is the Phillies’ lineup? So bad that within 48 hours of acquiring Jimmy Paredes he was batting third and playing out of position in right field. Consider that Parades was waived by one AL East team (Baltimore) and designated for assignment by another (Toronto) this season.
- The Rangers are said to be negotiating a contract extension for Rougned Odor. They might not want to lowball him, given what happened to the last guy who angered Odor.
- True story: the Orioles threw to first base this week with David Ortiz on it. Ortiz has stolen one base and been thrown out trying to steal another in the last three years, which isn’t a lot of activity given that he’s combined for 347 singles and walks over that span. So it’s not clear where Orioles manager Buck Showalter thought Ortiz might be going. Ortiz should have been flattered. Like the 40-year-old who gets carded asking for alcohol, Ortiz probably never thought that would happen again.
- Of Ortiz’s 66 hits this year, 43 have been for extra bases — 16 homers, an AL-best 26 doubles and one triple. So much for not being able to keep up that pace.
- Padres executive Ron Fowler called his team’s performance “embarrassing” and “pathetic” in a radio interview. The Padres then backed him up by blowing a 12-2 lead and losing 16-13 to the Mariners. No word on Fowler’s reaction but many a Padre fan was shocked. The Padres scored 13 runs?
- The White Sox, who have lost nine of their last 11, acquired pitcher James Shields, who gave up 10 runs in 2.2 innings in his last start for the Padres. Perfect timing all around. “In some ways, the Sox seem to be trying to replace what Mat Latos was supposed to be,” wrote the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Rosenbloom, who opposed the deal and argued the team needed a left-handed hitting first baseman more. Since the Sox are 22nd in runs scored and seventh in team ERA, he might have a point.
- The Giants lost outfielder Hunter Pence for two months or more to a hamstring injury. That would seem to be a debilitating injury, except that losing an outfielder has been almost as much a part of the Giants’ every-other-year success as Madison Bumgarner or Bruce Bochy handling the bullpen. The 2012 Giants lost .346-hitting Melky Cabrera to a drug suspension and the 2014 Giants lost .300-hitting centerfielder Angel Pagan to injury. If Gregor Blanco didn’t hamstring the Giants then, he won’t now, either.