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Entries in Andre Ethier (8)

Tuesday
Jun122012

Dodgers Extend Ethier

The Dodgers are reportedly close to announcing a five-year, $85 million contract extension with outfielder Andre Ethier with a vesting option that could push the deal's total worth to $100 million. Fully healed from a right knee injury that required season-ending surgery last September, Ethier is enjoying a resurgent season at the plate. He sits just one home run shy of his 2011 total (11), and his slugging percentage has climbed from .421 to .509. But while Ethier has bounced back by bashing breaking and off-speed stuff this year, this deal could turn into a boondoggle before long.

Ethier's comeback year has been fueled by a major improvement against "soft" pitches -- curveballs, sliders and changeups. Take a look at his slugging percentage by location against soft stuff during his down 2011, and then this season. Ethier didn't make loud contact against breaking and off-speed pitches last year unless the pitcher left it right down the middle of the plate. This year, he's killing anything in the zone:

Ethier's slugging percentage by location vs. soft stuff, 2011

 

Ethier's slugging percentage by location vs. soft stuff, 2012

Ethier slugged .366 against soft stuff in 2011, well below the .391 average for qualified hitters. In 2012, however, his .560 slugging percentage versus soft stuff ranks in the top 20 among MLB hitters:

Highest slugging percentage against soft stuff, 2012

BatterSlugging Pct.
Josh Hamilton .712
Matt Holliday .643
Mark Trumbo .630
Joey Votto .625
Mike Stanton .620
Ryan Braun .602
Michael Cuddyer .602
Carlos Gonzalez .592
Adam Jones .591
Dayan Viciedo .591
Bryan LaHair .589
Josh Reddick .588
Kyle Seager .576
Prince Fielder .574
A. J. Pierzynski .571
Robinson Cano .570
Andre Ethier .560
Jed Lowrie .553
Mark Teixeira .549
Matt Wieters .547

 

While Ethier's power has returned following a tepid 2011 season, recent history suggests that the Dodgers might end up paying their right fielder superstar money for mediocre offensive production. 

Ethier has a 129 OPS+ in 1,388 plate appearances from age 28 to 30 so far. Per Baseball-Reference, seven other corner outfielders (Shawn Green, Trot Nixon, Brad Hawpe, Pat Burrell, Ryan Ludwick, Jayson Werth, Luke Scott) put up similar lines to Ethier at the same age over the past decade, with an age 28-30 OPS+ between 125 and 135.

Their collective OPS+ at age 31 was 117. It dropped to 103 at age 32 and 99 at age 33. Green, Nixon and Burrell retired before age 35. And while Hawpe, Ludwick, Werth and Scott are still active, Werth looks like the only guy assured a roster spot by his mid-30s.Considering that Ethier derives all of his value from his bat (he has been five runs below average per 150 defensive games played in the outfield, according to Ultimate Zone Rating), that list of comps is troubling.

L.A. has deeper coffers with Magic and company now in the owner's box, but the Dodgers might have been better served by using the cash infusion to chase other free agent outfielders like B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn or Shane Victorino (if not Josh Hamilton), going after an ace like Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke, or locking up their own ace, Clayton Kershaw, for the long term. Ethier's deal might not preclude such spending, but he'll have to buck history to avoid become a drag on the payroll.

Tuesday
Aug232011

Andre Ethier's Power Outage

From 2008-2010, Andre Ethier established himself as one of the better power hitters in the National League. The Dodgers outfielder clubbed an average of about 25 home runs per season, slugging .504 in the process. But as L.A. languishes in 15th place among NL clubs in run scoring this year, Ethier has gone deep just 10 times while slugging .416. The lefty hasn't hit a homer since July 25, a stretch of 88 at-bats.

A major reason for Ethier's power outage is that he's not driving pitches thrown inside and at the knees like he usually does. From '08 to '10, he golfed low-and-inside pitches for extra bases:

Ethier's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, 2008-2010 Ethier slugged .469 against pitches thrown low and inside over that three-year stretch, besting the .343 league average for lefties by a considerable margin. But in 2011, that hot spot has disappeared:

Ethier's in-play slugging percentage by pitch location, 2011He's slugging a paltry .188 against low-and-inside offerings, without a single homer hit on a pitch thrown in that location.  

The Dodgers have a difficult decision to make with Ethier after this season. The 29-year-old is pulling down $9.25 million this year, and he's got one year of arbitration eligibility remaining before he hits free agency after 2012. Even with a tepid season so far, Ethier will easily make eight figures in 2012 should he go to arbitration.

If the Dodgers think his power will recover, then Ethier is likely worth the cash. If not, the cash-strapped club might choose to let someone else pay for a lumbering corner outfielder with mid-range pop.

Saturday
May072011

Andre Ethier's Hit Streak

Andre Ethier's (LAD) hit streak sits at 30.  As David Pinto noted a couple of weeks back, Ethier has been getting hits on balls on the outside of the zone.  This has been a change from his hitting pattern over the previous three years:

Andre Ethier
(Click to enlarge)

Prior to this year, Ethier had been generating a good deal of power on pitches down and in.  That zone has gone cold for him this season, while he's been able to hit pitches low and away much better.

As you would expect from someone riding a 30-game hit streak, Ethier has a very high BABIP of .444 this season, 131 points higher than his previous three year average.  Part of this is due to the increase in line drives he's been hitting during the streak.  Compared to his numbers from 2008-2010, Ethier's LD% is up 7% since his hit streak began.  Even more important, his line drive BABIP is up 192 points. 

Ethier has also been a bit luckier than usual on his groundballs.  Throughout his streak, they have resulted in hits about 36% of the time.  From 2008-2010, he had a groundball batting average of .255.

Ethier faces the New York Mets tonight at Citi Field as he attempts to tie Willie Davis for the Dodgers all-time hit streak honor.  While Ethier's in play average will likely regress at some point this season, the real question is whether it will regress enough over the next 26 or so games to break his hit streak.