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Getting numbers crazy with the Dodgers' Andre Ethier

March 07, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier has struggled throughout his career against left-handed pitchers.
Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier has struggled throughout his career… (Rob Tringali / Getty Images )

Here’s a real news break for my fellow bloggers: I am not one of you.

Anyway, not exactly. Not at my little journalistic roots. I was borne from the newspaper business and not from fandom or fascination with sabermetrics. I do not worship at the feet of Bill James.

This is not to say I wholly disregard modern baseball statistical analysis. Far from it. It’s just not my alpha and omega. Try to think of me as something of a hybrid, only I’m not getting the mileage I once did.

Yet even if your interest in the new numbers is less than paramount, and you don’t know your WAR from your PECOTA, you had to be taken back a tad by Andre Ethier’s comment to The Times’ Dylan Hernandez on Tuesday about his struggles hitting against left-handed pitching.

Which have been ongoing since his first season, when he hit a stunning .351 against lefties. He’s been in decline every year since. Here’s a homemade chart that all my blogging brethren could do better examining his batting average (which they generally view as an overrated stat) and his OPS, which for you non-sabermetric types, is his combined on-base and slugging percentages.

Year                 BA-LHP            BA-RHP           OPS-LHP          OPS-RHP

2006                .351                 .298                 .846                 .842

2007                .279                 .286                 .716                 .830

2008                .243                 .326                 .692                 .953

2009                .194                 .302                 .629                 .960

2010                .233                 .318                 .625                 .960

2011                .220                 .321                 .563                 .578

His OPS has gone down in each of his succeeding seasons. That qualifies as tad more than a trend. It’s a genuine concern. So when Don Mattingly talks of occasionally sitting Ethier against tough left-handers, it is with historical reason.

Ethier, however, doesn’t appear concerned. Or he’s in midseason form in terms of rationalizing.

Ethier to Hernandez: "Too many people look too much into these split stats. I think I still hit .290 last year. What happened to the whole average? It's the average of the season, not the average of what you hit against guys in day games or night games and submarine guys with the moon up high in the sky."

Not to mention against side-armers in night games under a crescent moon with zero humidity and Scarlett Johansson in the stands. Somehow I don’t think looking at splits between righties and lefties is getting all carried away with numbers.

Approximately one fourth of all pitchers are left-handed, which is a reasonable amount. Ethier catches a slight break because the best left-hander in the National League happens to be a teammate and the National League West is not awash with impressive lefties.

But they’re still out there in the NL, and the Phillies still have two (Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels). They will still emerge at some point. And Ethier will have to prove he can hit them.

Maybe he does. He appears healthy now and the Dodgers are hoping he can rebound from a generally disappointing 2011 season, and that would be including all the numbers.


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