’s 2008 In Review: Right Field

Welcome to day 8 of’s 2008 in review.  Today we will review right field, so let’s get to it!
Andre Ethier = A+
(.305/.375/.510, 20 HR’s, 77 RBI’s)
If you’re Andre Ethier, 2008 had to be one of the more topsy turvy years of your career.  Spending portions of the year on the bench while the inferior player took up your playing time, with a manager screwing you around in the process…
Oh wait, silly me.  He went through that in 2007, as well.
O.K., O.K.  We could go through the fact that he completely slaughtered the ball during Spring Training to win the LF job from Juan Pierre, only to get playing time this year… then not get it, then get it back again, etc., before finally becoming the full time starter far later than he should have.  But, shockingly, I’m going to try and let that pass because what deserves the most attention is the following:
One of the best kept secrets of the 2008 season was that Andre Ethier was not just one of the best right fielders in the National League, but also in baseball.
Ethier was very consistent this year.  Unlike both 2007 and 2006, where he would have a couple of really hot months, only to mostly miserably tail off at the end of the year, Ethier only really had one horrific month (June = .195/.253/.390) one “eh” type of month (May = .292/.330/.416) mixed with a good month (July = .281/.346/.490), some really good months (March/April = .315/.400/.461, August = .292/.346/.615) and then just finished off the year with just a sick .462/.557/.692.  Just to show how sick it was, here was Manny’s September: .370/.465/.753.
That’s pretty freaking good.
So I’m not even going to give you stats relative to Ethier’s peers in the NL, but MLB in general.  Amongst ALL right fielders this year, Ethier’s .305 batting average ranked him 5th, while his sweet .375 OBP put him 6th.  His .510 SLG% and .910 OPS rank him 4th.  In terms of our more geeky stats, his 39.7 VORP and 33.9 MLV and .304 EqA also ranked him 4th.  Remember, unlike what we usually do, I’m not comparing him to just the NL, but rather every qualified right fielder in baseball.  He was that good.
So it should be a cakewalk to compare him to the Dodgers.
When ranking him amongst the Dodgers, I’m comparing him to the Dodgers who were actually Dodgers on Opening Day and therefore have enough at-bats to qualify.  Because of this, there are only four Dodgers who qualify (Ethier, Loney, Martin, Kemp), so no Manny.  Amongst his teammates, Ethier ranks 1st in BA (.305), HR’s (20), SLG% (.510), OPS (.885), OPS+ (130), RC (100.6), RC27 (7.11), XBH (63), and 2nd in OBP (.375, second to Martin) and P/PA (4.15, also second to Martin).  But even if we take away peer comparisons, the reason we also give Andre the A+ is because he managed to build greatly on his previous numbers in 2007: we saw a .021 increase in batting average, a .025 increase in OBP, a .057 increase in SLG%, a .083 increase in OPS, and a .027 increase in OPS+, to name a few categories.  That is how you exceed expectations.
Although the one caveat to Ethier’s year is that surprisingly, according to some defensive metrics (which, as we’ll likely continue to say ad-nauseum: they’re not as etched in stone as offensive statistics), we did see somewhat of a decrease in defense.  As a right fielder this year, Ethier’s Rate 2 dropped from 112 last year in RF to 93.  While we did see a slight increase in ZR from .876 to .884, and while he did have a 1.000 fielding percentage this year, we also saw a decrease in range factor from 2.12 to 1.83.
But, in any event, at the end of the day, when it comes to all of our young offensive players, Ethier was the only one who not only managed to step up to the plate, both figuratively and literally, but also exceed our expectations in 2008.  Despite the fact that Ethier is still young, 26, there had been doubts about his potential as a full time starter and last year’s good but slightly above average year didn’t help matters, especially coming off his brilliant rookie season of 2006.  But Ethier stepped up in a big way this year and was, by far, our best offensive player this side of Manny Ramirez.  Hell, for a brief time during the end of the year, he was actually outhitting Manny himself.  2008 would not have been the success it was without the major contributions of Andre Ethier, which brings up the point: remember when the Manny trade went down, how relieved we would have been if it were Ethier going to Pittsburgh?  Well, I probably still would have been O.K. with the deal, but, if hindsight is an indicator, then thank God he’s still here.  For we can talk about the unlimited potential of Matt Kemp and what we hope from him and the other young kids at the plate, but in terms of actual production and what’s been done through 2008, Andre Ethier has been the best hitter out of the bunch since coming up in 2006.  It hasn’t been an easy ride, going through many bumps on the road, but he has shown a fine perseverance.  But the thing is, he’s not only a good hitter, he’s also a smart hitter; he can work the count and take a pitch at least, and maybe better, than anyone on the team.  He can drive the ball to all parts of the field and, as he begins to enter his prime years, I expect him to continue to grow and only get better as he continues to man either LF or RF.
So you can now expect Juan Pierre as the starting outfielder for your 2009 Los Angeles Dodgers…
Delwyn Young = D+
Ah yes, Delwyn Young; Pee Wee.  You remember him?  The guy who has a lifetime stat line of .303/.360/.515 in the minor leagues?  The one who in 2007 broke the PCL record in doubles?  Here’s a little more of a recap from MSTI earlier this year:

Delwyn Young, 6 minor league seasons (5 full seasons)
BA: .303
OBP: .359
SLG: .512
Seasons w/ 10+ HR: 6
Seasons w/ 30+ doubles: 5
Seasons where he broke a 41-year-old PCL record for doubles: 1 (2007)
Look at the line he put up in AAA last year: .337/.384/.571 and a .955 OPS. 54 doubles. He hasn’t gotten much of a shot in the bigs, but in 76 at-bats over three seasons, he’s still got a .316/.366/.474 and a 114 OPS+. Sure, he’s a lousy second baseman – but are we really playing Jeff Kent at the keystone for his defense?

Unfortunately for Panda, he didn’t get too much more of a chance this year, other than the period from around June through July, where he did get 56 AB’s and 36 AB’s respectively.  In June, he put up a respectable .288/.339/.442, but did tank in July (.152/.222/.182) before a trip to the DL later that month kept him from returning to L.A. until early September.  The problem is, if you look at the other months besides June and July, he only received 13 AB’s in April, 15 in May, and 13 in September.  Now I’m not one to argue that his numbers in L.A. were awe inspiring (hence the grade), but you have to keep in mind two factors: 1. it’s hard for any player to be good and produce when the amount of AB’s you’re getting per month is Andy LaRoche-esque, especially for a young kid like Delwyn.  But the most important factor of all: even if his numbers weren’t great, you don’t think he could have, at the very least, been useful as the go to pinch hitter or at least taking some of the at-bats from Pierre or Jones?  He may not be a defensive stalwart, but hit he can and let’s not overlook that or let him completely fall into the shadow of the other kids; he’s a legit hitter.  But you can’t expect him to crush the ball when he’s getting so little playing time.
Going into 2009, hopefully Delwyn can get some more time, but if not, then perhaps he could be a useful trade chip to an AL team where he could be a DH, where he’s probably best suited, anyways.

- Vin vinscully-face.jpg