Scott Servais did not scoff when questioned about his decision to continue to plug Dee Gordon in as the Seattle Mariners’ leadoff hitter.
Gordon looks every bit the part of one of the league’s premier leadoff batters – blazing speed, he gets bat on the ball, a two-time All-Star track record, and, again, he’s really fast.
But does he get on base? Not currently at the clip the Mariners need.
“It’s a good question,” the Mariners manager told reporters Tuesday. “It’s real and something we’ve discussed internally here and I’ve spent a lot of time looking at it.”
Specifically he’s been eyeing Gordon’s on-base percentage, which entering Tuesday was at .303 (his lowest since 2012 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he hit .228 with a .280 on-base percentage).
The Mariners need offense. They pulled off an extra-inning win over the Texas Rangers on Monday, when it took the Mariners until the 12th inning to score their fourth run. They are 46-13 when they score four runs or more and are 19-35 when they score three or fewer.
So Servais is looking for any advantage he can get – even if that means not batting Gordon leadoff for the first time since the former National League batting champion hit ninth in 11 games for the Marlins last season.
“You try to look at it and figure out ways to put your guys in the best position to score runs, and that’s one of the things we’re looking at,” Servais said. “When everything is working and the offense is clicking and you’re scoring 4-5 runs every night it’s not a big deal. When you’re not, you have to look at how you can improve and how you can do better.
“But it’s hard to weigh – you have to get on base to create the havoc, so it all starts with on base and you typically have at the top of the lineup guys who get on base at league average or above average. Dee is not because he does it with the hit and he doesn’t do much else to help it.”
Gordon warned Servais of this when they met for the first time over the offseason, telling his new manager he doesn’t walk.
He took that approach from Ichiro. Gordon asked him when they were with the Marlins together how to draw more walks.
Ichiro’s response: “Rake first.”
“It sounded good to me,” Gordon said this offseason with a laugh.
But Gordon hasn’t been raking this season, batting .283. He batted .268 in a suspension-shortened season in 2016 for violating major-league baseball’s joint drug agreement, though this year Gordon has dealt with a fractured toe and recently a sprained ankle.
“Dee is streaky just because of how he does it,” Servais said. “It’s not control-the-strike-zone. It’s hit-it-where-they-ain’t. That’s more of his approach.”
“But the biggest thing is just staying above the ball and keep it on the ground. He’s a unique player. Most of the guys now are trying to get it in the air. He’s the other way. He’s better off when he keeps it on the ground.”
The Mariners’ on-base leaders entering Tuesday were Mitch Haniger (.356), Nelson Cruz (.356), Jean Segura (.334), Denard Span (.332) and Guillermo Heredia (.310), with Gordon (.303) right behind.
Also, Robinson Cano has a .385 on-base percentage in 39 games and Ben Gamel has a .360 on-base in 72 games. Both are currently with Triple-A Tacoma.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Dee Gordon remains <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Mariners?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Mariners</a> leadoff hitter, but Scott Servais didn't scoff at questions about better options. Here's the teams' on-base leaders (with at least 100 PAs): <a href="https://t.co/YOtqFjqOiW">https://t.co/YOtqFjqOiW</a> <a href="https://t.co/Y4BsoiH4x9">pic.twitter.com/Y4BsoiH4x9</a></p>— TJ Cotterill (@TJCotterill) <a href="https://twitter.com/TJCotterill/status/1026990334704680960?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">August 8, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Left-hander Marco Gonzales (12-6, 3.46 ERA) will pitch against Texas right-hander and former Mariner Yovani Gallardo (6-1, 5.24 ERA) in the series finale. The game starts at 11:05 a.m. Wednesday at Glove Life Park in Arlington, Texas. It will broadcast on Facebook Watch and 710-AM radio.