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Daily Dodger in Review: A.J. Ellis, the great late-career find

October 19, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, right, congratulates A.J. Ellis after he hit a two-run home run during the seventh inning of a game against the San Francisco Giants on Oct. 2.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, right, congratulates A.J. Ellis after… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

A.J. ELLIS, 31, catcher

Final 2012 stats: .270 batting average, 13 home runs, 52 RBI, .373 on-base and .414 slugging percentages, threw out 33% of base runners.

Contract status: First year of arbitration eligibility.

The good: Had just a terrific season on the field, behind the plate and in the clubhouse. Exceeded all expectations. Saw more pitches per plate appearance (4.44) than any catcher in baseball. Led regulars in on-base percentage. Went all of 2009 and 2010 without hitting a home run at any level, so his 13 homers were a pleasant surprise. Despite this being his first full season in the majors, emerged as an undisputed team leader.

The bad: Like most things, his performance is relative to expectations. And since to most there was an element of the unknown in turning over full-time catching duties to Ellis for the first time, there was really precious little to fret over his 2012 performance. It appeared he was wearing down in mid-September when he suffered through an 0-for-31 slump, but in his final 10 games finished 11-for-33 with a pair of homers and 10 RBI.

What’s next: The Dodgers have to feel good about his season, and secure in the position for the next several years. He’ll turn 32 in April, so it’s not like he’s going to be their starting catcher for the next 10 years, but he’s entrenched for the immediate future.

The take: Yeah, I campaigned – as did several others – that the Dodgers finally give Ellis an everyday chance. You could sense he was more than ready. The opportunity was partially borne from Frank McCourt taking the team into bankruptcy and the payroll getting squeezed last off-season, so you can’t argue nothing good came from his misdeeds. Of course, Ellis was prepared for the opportunity. His perseverance is to be applauded and used as example about never relinquishing your dream. Because he works so hard and is such a good student of the game, there is little reason to fear a drop-off in 2013.

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