During Mark Ellis’s two seasons as the Dodgers everyday second baseman he was good – very good, in fact. He was an excellent defender, was a decent hitter and was the consummate team player. As the number-two hitter in the Dodgers line-up, he frequently gave himself up for the good of the team – something that you will not find on any stat sheet.
While with the Dodgers Ellis appeared in 236 games, had 848 at bats (944 plate appearances), collected 224 hits for a .264 batting average, had a .328 on-base percentage, scored 108 runs, hit 34 doubles, 3 triples, 13 home runs, had 79 RBIs, stole nine bases while being caught only once. He committed only nine errors in 1,021 total chances for a Gold Glove-worthy .991 fielding percentage.
In other words, Mark Ellis was outstanding and Dodger fans had every right to be upset when the Dodgers declined to pick up his $5.75 million option for 2014 and instead bought out of his contract for $1 million. Ellis was immediately picked up by the St. Louis Cardinals on a one-year/$5.25 million deal.
But how has Mark Ellis done with his new team thus far in 2014? The numbers might surprise you. Ellis has appeared in 20 games, is 12 for 63 for a .190 batting average, has a .268 on-base percentage, has scored four runs, has hit two doubles, no triples and no home runs, has seven RBIs and has two stolen bases without being caught. He has committed zero errors in 71 chances, and on Wednesday was delegated to the bench as a platoon second baseman when the Cardinals recalled rookie second baseman Kolten Wong.
Wong had initially been part of a three-man platoon at second base with Ellis and Daniel Descalso, but none of the three showed much offense. Wong was eventually sent back down to Triple-A Memphis for no other reason than he had options whereas Ellis and Descalso did not. The two veterans also have much higher salaries than Wong, who is making the major league minimum of $500,000, but because Ellis and Descalso are hitting so poorly, the Cardinals decided to give the rookie another shot after he had a power surge after returning to Triple-A.
So what does any of this have to do with the Dodgers? That’s simple – enter Dee Gordon.
It is safe to say that no one, absolutely no one predicted what Dee Gordon has done and continues to do as the Dodgers’ everyday second baseman (yes, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has finally bestowed this title on him).
Gordon has appeared in all but three of the Dodgers 42 games thus far. He has had 157 at bats in 2014 (168 plate appearances), has collected 50 hits for a .318 batting average (the second-highest on the team), has a .357 on-base percentage, has scored 24 runs, has hit eight doubles, three triples (which is tied for first in the MLB), one home run, has 11 RBIs, has stolen an MLB-leading 25 bases while being caught only three times. He has committed five errors in 180 chances for a slightly below average .972 fielding percentage.
In other words, Dee Gordon is doing better in nearly every category with the Dodgers than Mark Ellis is doing with the Cardinals – and Gordon just turned 26 years old while Ellis will be 37 next month.
Without question where Gordon stands head and shoulders above Ellis is, of course, his incredible speed – which is an absolute game-changer. Not only is Gordon a threat to steal at any time off of any pitcher, his blazing speed is in the head of every pitcher he encounters, and the more they focus on him the less they focus on the guy in the batter’s box. As a result, the batter will most likely see more fastballs, and when that batter is Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez or Adrian Gonzalez, the mere thought of throwing more fastballs is a pitcher’s worst nightmare.
Now this is most certainly not a knock on Mark Ellis – not at all. Ellis is a great guy and a true professional in every sense of the word; but simply put, Ellis’s best days are behind him and Gordon’s have yet to come – and Dodger fans have to be very excited about this. And much like Mark Ellis, Dee is the epitome of humility and courtesy, and respectful of everyone he meets.
While many of us were critical of Dodgers GM Ned Colletti for letting Mark Ellis get away, it’s looking more and more like this is yet another genius move by Colletti, although even he probably didn’t realize it at the time.