Andre Ethier Is Still Trying to Hit Lefty Pitching

ethier_contacts_homerAh, spring. That wonderful time of year where every team has hope, every non-roster guy has a chance, and everyone starts talking about whether this is finally going to be the year that Andre Ethier can hit lefties. Just like we heard last week, and in April of 2012, and March of 2012, and January of 2011, and so on and so on.

This time, it’s new hitting coach Mark McGwire who insists he can make things right. Or left. Whatever.

McGwire doesn’t think Ethier is far from being effective against left-handers, pointing to how he hit .351 against them as a rookie in 2006 and a respectable .279 the next season.

The story goes on to explain how Ethier has changed his approach, is going to be more selective, and has been taking lefty curveballs from a pitching machine every morning. That’s all well and good. It’s wonderful, actually, because we all want Ethier to improve, and the fact that he’s putting extra work in at least shows that he’s cognizant of the problem. Good for him. I hope it works.

But let’s get back to reality and dive into that McGwire quote, because it’s full of holes. As many holes, one might say, as Andre Ethier hitting against a lefty pitcher. I wouldn’t say that. But someone might. It’s really, really difficult to put a lot of stock in that .351 batting average being relevant considering that A) it was seven years ago; B) it was a mere 82 plate appearances; C) it came as a rookie, when pitchers were still learning the book on Ethier; D) it came with a lovely .406 BABIP.

With all of that being the case, you’ll excuse me if I’m not really putting a lot of emphasis on the fact that years ago, before anyone had ever even heard of “Twitter” or “Iphone”, when Ethier was still playing for Grady Little and was teammates with guys like Olmedo Saenz, Kenny Lofton, & Giovanni Carrara, he was able to knock a few singles off of pitchers like Chris Michalak, Eric Milton, & Jack Taschner. I know it’s McGwire’s job to pump up his new pupil — what’s he really going to say, “well, that guy is hopeless”? — and so i don’t fault him for saying it. It’s also all but impossible to believe that Ethier’s successful-but-minimal 2006 production is in any way relevant all these years later in the face of more than a thousand plate appearances of evidence.

Year
Total PA
vLH
vRH
LH%
2006
441
82
359
18.5
2007
507
119
388
23.5
2008
596
155
441
26.0
2009
685
187
498
27.2
2010
585
178
407
30.4
2011
551
151
400
27.4
2012
618
239
379
38.6

We’ve talked about this at length, really, both here and elsewhere. As the repurposed table at right shows, a large part of Ethier’s problem is simply that managers finally realized that he’s hopeless against southpaws and began making sure he faced as many as possible. (That number was actually over 40% for much of the season before dropping down late in the year when Don Mattingly began hitting Ethier second against righties and seventh against lefties.)

What’s especially odd — and no, I don’t have a good explanation for this — is that not only does Ethier have trouble hitting lefty pitching, he has a huge home/road split against them. Over his career, Ethier has hit .275/.331/.414 against lefties at home, which is actually not that bad at all. On the road? It’s a cover-your-eyes bad .198/.259/.286. He hits better in Dodger Stadium against righties as well, though not quite to such extremes, and I have no idea how to explain that.

In my eyes, it’s not that Ethier has had a sudden, unexplained downturn against southpaw pitchers, as the article indicates. It’s that he was never really that good against them in the first place, regardless of what a small sample size from over half a decade ago says. If McGwire really wants to earn his keep, he’ll figure out just what it is about playing on the road that has plagued Ethier so much. Mattingly can help too; while ideally he’d just sit Ethier against lefties, I don’t think many of us really expect that he’s actually going to play Alex Castellanos over his expensive star. But he can at least continue his lineup shifting from late last year, getting Ethier more at-bats higher in the lineup against righties and hiding him lower against lefties. It’s not perfect, but anything that gets Ethier away from southpaws is an acceptable compromise.

******

Ethier is not in today’s lineup against the Cubs, in the first Dodger road game of the spring. Per the Dodgers, here’s who is: Hairston RF, Amezaga 2B, Ramirez SS, Gonzalez 1B, Luna 3B, Punto DH, Federowicz C, Puig CF, Herrera LF, Harang RHP.

It’s too bad it won’t be televised (or even broadcast on Dodger radio), because I’d sure like to see Yasiel Puig playing center field.

729 comments
DBrim
DBrim moderator

I really want that 54 year old knuckleballer now.

Kemps Shoe
Kemps Shoe

It's funny to watch Heyward against a lefty, and sad to watch Dre

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

Something is gonna happen today I gawt this feelin. Get ready to say goodbye to some body and hello to somebody new.

Kemps Shoe
Kemps Shoe

Crawford has tightness in the right forearm which isn't his throwing arm nor his arm that had TJ surgery

EephusBlue
EephusBlue moderator

 "@THEREAL_DV: Crawford has left forearm tightness, Mattingly categorized it as a "pause" in his rehab #dodgers"

 

it begins

*VND*
*VND*

Dee with all that swag. *barfs*

TellMyWifeISaidHello
TellMyWifeISaidHello

 @EephusBlue Eh there is what a month till opening day. He really only needs two weeks and maybe less to be ready. If he was a pitcher I would be worried. But for hitters. I would not worry until like March 20th.

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

 @EephusBlue We knew he was questionable for opening day. The end of May is the proper timetable for a non pitcher rehab. So don't sweat it too hard just yet.

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

@Disgruntled Goat @capnsparrow One of Neds bad decisions will be gone by Opening Day. I'm counting on it being Uribe(no 6 man bench with all those pitchers)

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

 @Kemps Shoe i blame the fact that there is no pope. 

 

no fucking pope, people. WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO? 

Tycho Blue
Tycho Blue

 @coffee enemas I'm currently doing my version of text based coffee adventure.  Left, left, straight, pick up stick, look, hit barista, drink coffee.  

 

I think that's how it works in the real world. Questing.

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

@coffee enemas Getting my first dose of the day, actually. Nothing like coffee and Sodomy in the morning.

*VND*
*VND*

I hear someone needs coffee. Also, Goat in glad you got the humor there

Tycho Blue
Tycho Blue

 @Disgruntled Goat   @coffee enemas Oddly my kids do a German "o" making north pole, north pool.  Making Pope, poop.  It's all got this morning.  Questing for coffee, be back professional game day analysis around 12?  

*VND*
*VND*

Kyle. This is your time

Dave! (but probably Justin Turner, maybe)
Dave! (but probably Justin Turner, maybe)

 @Disgruntled Goat   @coffee enemas From what I understand, Beats by Dre have great sound, but they skimped on the housing construction, so they break easy. Brilliant marketing though - let's just give all of the rich famous celebrities and athletes free headphones, then everyone will know how cool they are and buy them.

*VND*
*VND*

@Disgruntled Goat I'll buy some as a gift And borrow them as needed

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

 @coffee enemas this is what i'm told. i don't think they would be handy for exercise though (which seems cool as he is seated). 

*VND*
*VND*

do they at least sound nice?

*VND*
*VND*

no thanks I can't imagine how dumb I'd look going to the gym in those

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

 @coffee enemas actually, i got this one. those are a popular brand of headphone called "beats by dre." they are available at best buy and amazon among other places. the fellow who sits next to me at work here uses them. 

*VND*
*VND*

Well. What's up with the house sized headphones?! Is that the cool.new.thing? Looking like you're from the 80's

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

(pulls hat down all the way, removes headphones, hides food)

*VND*
*VND*

NO. I haven't complained enough about it

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

guy wears his hat wrong and you don't like the looks of his sandwich. noted. 

*VND*
*VND*

Nasty looking food

TellMyWifeISaidHello
TellMyWifeISaidHello

 @EephusBlue It is about getting your timing down. That really only takes a couple weeks. Think of DL trips before you get off the DL you get I think at most a week to go hit in the minors. It really does not take that long to get your timing back once you are healthy.

*VND*
*VND*

@Gilbert_Vengeance you do worry about nerve entrapment among other things with a ucl repair - which can affect the forearm... but as of right now its a non issue

Gilbert_Vengeance
Gilbert_Vengeance

@EephusBlue @BearHunter90 its also his fore arm and not his elbow or wrist... He's probably over compensating and his forearm is sore now

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

 @EephusBlue I for one am more concerned with having everybody hit their full strides in July thru Sptember. We do need wins in April thru June. But the 2nd half is when the race is run