Be Careful What You Wish for With Andre Ethier
By Scott Andes
Haterz keep on hating. Things will never change. People just hating just to hate. I still am not sure why so many Dodger fans and media members complain about Andre as much as they do. One of the primary storylines entering into the 2012 season for the Dodgers, besides the ownership saga, is the story of Andre Ethier. He is entering his walk year, and can hit the free agent market after the season. Unless the Dodgers new ownership locks Dre up, people just might get their wish. Be warned though, if Ethier does walk, his absence would tremendously weaken the Dodger lineup. So don’t say I didn’t warn you….
In late 2005, the Dodgers traded notorious loud- mouth and malcontent Milton Bradley to Oakland for right fielder Andre Ethier. That was a great trade for the Dodgers. In Ethier’s first year in 2006, he batted .308, recorded a .365 OBP, and hit 11 home runs, and finished fifth in the NL rookie of the year voting. The next year in 2007, he batted .284, with a solid .350 OBP, and 13 home runs. He hit .305 in 2008, .272, in his silver slugger year of 2009, and .292 in 2010 and 2011. He has put up on-base percentages of .375, .361, 364, and .368. Those are very good. That’s one of his biggest assets, his ability to get on base. He averages around 60 walks per year, and is generally known for having good plate discipline. If we lose Dre’s on-base skills, things won’t be pretty.
What does everyone complain most about Ethier? If you said that he can’t hit left handers than you win the prize. However if you look at his past numbers, Ethier used to hit lefties quite well in his early days, and those numbers didn’t start declining until around the time he injured his knee. Remember Ethier hyper-extended his knee in spring training a few years ago. He hit .351 with an .846 OPS against southpaws in 2006, so he has hit lefties before. I think now that he is healthy, those numbers should come back up again. Dre does crush righties though. Last year he hit .321 against righties with an .878 OPS.
If you look at Ethier’s OPS over the last five seasons, it has remained relatively around the same except for the drop this year.
Andre Ethier OPS
He generally averages an .843 OPS. That is very solid. When healthy he is good for 20 home runs and 80-90 RBI each season. I will take that kind of production all day long.
Another thing people constantly bag on Ethier for is his defense. This is most bizarre to me. At least when people say Ethier struggles versus lefties, that is grounded in truth. The numbers back that up. Ethier has indeed hit poorly off lefties for the last few years. (I think this will change now that he is healthy). Now his defense is a different story. The hardcore stat heads will tell you that errors and fielding don’t matter that much, but they do. Ethier did not commit a single error in 2011 and only one in 2010. You may say this doesn’t mean anything, but it at least means that Ethier is sure-handed. No matter what anyone says, players that don’t commit many errors are good. It’s pretty simple: errors are bad. Not making errors is good. Since when did going error-less for an entire season become meaningless?
People might claim that Ethier’s defense sucks, but ironically the advanced defensive metrics show the exact opposite. Ethier’s .940 zone rating ranks him as one of the best right fielders in the league. His 5.3 UZR ranks him 15th overall in the National League last year. Ethier’s 5.3 UZR ranks him sixth, SIXTH among all NL outfielders. Hey that is actually pretty good for a guy that plays “sucky” defense. Now his -8 total zone runs below average is a bit weird, but I don’t think that takes into account for balls hit outside his zone like his revised zone rating (RZR) of .940, which is supposed to be more accurate.
Then of course the stat heads will back pedal. They will claim that the defensive metrics are not accurate enough. Are you kidding me? You can’t do that to Ethier. It’s not fair to say the stats don’t count for him because they are flawed, but count for other players. If the advanced fielding metrics are wrong, then you have to throw them out for all players. Which means without the advanced fielding metrics, we are left with traditional stats like errors, assists, and….gasp!…fielding percentage. We are also left with something else way more accurate than stats….your eye. Yes, sometimes you have to watch how a player plays. Your main complaint abut Ethier’s defense should be his poor range. Despite him being a slow runner, he makes up for it by doing other things to get to balls. Ethier is very adept at diving and or sliding for catches. I have seen him make many sliding catches in right field. Not to say that is why he’s a good right fielder, I am just saying that he makes up for his poor range by diving and sliding for balls, and he also has a long reach. He is 6’2, so he has long arms and a bigger reach than other smaller players.
The one thing Ethier needs to work on is getting better jumps on the ball. Sometimes it looks like he misreads the ball, and has to really hustle to track a route to the ball. Remember though, he is a big guy, it is harder for him to run fast because of this. If your main complaint about Ethier is that he doesn’t run fast then that is a little excessive. I mean come on, he’s not going to run like Michael Bourne. Ethier won a gold glove last year because he deserved it. They could have given the gold glove to anyone, so if his defense is so bad, then why did he win it? Another thing that Ethier has in his arsenal is a strong throwing arm. He was one of the league leaders in assists before he left early for knee surgery last year.
People have also complained about his attitude. This was because he had one incident where he made some strange comments about his days in blue being numbered. Everything he said was true though, but it was his timing that was poor. He made the comments right before opening day last season. Yes his comments were inappropriate. I think we can cut him a break though right? How many Dodger players over the years have said stupid things to the press? Heck you could write a book with all the stupid things Manny Ramirez said to the press. Ok, so Dre makes one stupid comment last year. So what? We all know Dre is a highly competitive player.
The fact is when Ethier was cranking out the walk-offs a couple of years ago, everyone was loving him. Now many of those same fans are asking for him to be traded. These are the same people that will jump right back on his bandwagon one he starts cranking out those walk-offs again, and mark my words, he will. Ethier has notoriously been a very fast starter to the season, so I am curious to see how he starts. Remember in 2010, he batted .329 in April, and .453 in May, before that fluke pinky finger injury screwed his timing. His OBP in May of that year was .500! In April of 2011 he hit .380, with a .446 OBP, and an OPS of 1.002. That includes his record 30-game hitting streak last year, which was quite amazing. If he is healthy he will hit, don’t worry.
Ethier has always been a very good player. He is generally well beloved on our end. Stacie loves him, and to tell you the truth, I want him to stay as well. I have always liked Dre. He may not be a superstar, but he is a very solid compliment to Bison in the lineup. I have always thought of him as a Robin to the batman of Matt Kemp. A solid sidekick for the Bison. His 2.9 WAR proves his value. No it isn’t spectacular, but it is solid for having a down year. I hope the new ownership will lock him up. (after Kershaw is locked up of course)
Of all the Dodgers not named Matt Kemp or Clayton Kershaw, I worry about Ethier the least of anyone. Let’s see how he does. Until then can we please stop the Andre Ethier bashing? If he leaves for free agency next year, the offense will be considerably weaker. If that happens don’t say I didn’t warn you. So please put down that glass of hater-ade. So can we give the guy a break ok? Go Dre and Go Blue!